Catteries in capacity crisis – Henley Standard


OWNERS of a Henley cattery fear they will have a hard time serving their repeat customers this summer as people from further afield are taking up all of their spaces.

Carole and Nick Gorvin, who run the Cat’s Whiskers Hotel in Fair Mile, say there is a growing shortage of places nationwide because so many catteries have closed in the past two and a half years.

This is partly due to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but also because inspection standards were tightened in January 2019 and many companies have chosen to shut down instead of making the necessary improvements.

The couple, who started their business in Stoke Row in 1985 and moved to their current location in 2004, say they know at least five catteries in nearby towns have closed.

As a result, customers from these areas flock to where previously trade only came from Henley and the surrounding villages.

The Gorvins say their regulars usually book at the last minute and may therefore find that there is no room in July or August.

They say other catteries are facing similar pressures and this is made worse by the fact that many families have purchased kittens during closings.

They worry that some owners will abandon their pets when they start planning a vacation and find that they have nowhere to stay.

The Cat’s Whiskers has 27 enclosures, or “cabins”, each accommodating up to three cats from a single household, and a total capacity of 60 animals.

It was full during the recent mid-term break, which had never happened before, and most customers were from 20 miles or more including Amersham, Banbury, Oxford, Wantage and Taplow. One family brought their cat from Norfolk, saying it was easier to walk the 260 mile round trip than trying to find a space closer to home.

Ms Gorvin said: “They are in the process of moving to Henley so they are a bit of an exception, but it shows the extent of the problem.”

The Gorvins, who live on-site with their own cat Pansy, noticed the trend when lockdown restrictions began to ease earlier this year.

They say it would have become evident sooner, but the pandemic prevented people from booking vacations last year.

Meanwhile, following the change in the rating system, in which catteries receive between one and five stars for safety, cleanliness and living conditions, many only got one or two stars and therefore received the l order to improve or risk closing.

Additionally, since Britain left the European Union in January, owners face additional checks before they can take pets to the mainland, so more decide not to care. .

Ms Gorvin said: “We were suddenly getting lots and lots of calls from elsewhere, which makes sense as we were aware of several closures outside of Henley. The owners were elderly or simply did not have the means to implement the changes requested of them.

“We’re almost full this week, for example, but only two of these families are regulars and the rest are miles away. The more that happens, the less room we have for families who have used us for years.

“For some reason the people of Henley tend to book their vacations at the last minute and we can usually work around that. Our customers have no reason to assume it will be any different this year, so they might be shocked.

“We have already turned away people, which we have done before, but never on the same scale. With the increase in the number of cat owners and the closing of catteries, this could become a problem across the country.

“Now that life is back to normal, owners think about vacations again and realize they need boarding space. Hopefully there won’t be too many cats left to fend for themselves. I’m concerned that a lot of animals will be placed in shelters or thrown away. “

Ms Gorvin says new catteries probably won’t open soon because it’s more difficult to get a building permit than in the past.

She said: “A lot of those that closed got their permission years ago and the rules are much stricter now – you need onsite parking and ideally no neighbors while the construction costs are higher. This is a larger overall expense.

The Gorvins, who hold a five-star hygiene rating, fear that some catteries are now trading under substandard conditions because they had three stars before their rating was reduced under the new standard.

Due to the pandemic, they say the improvements are not being applied adequately.

Ms Gorvin added: “There are still three star catteries that are not suitable and who knows when the inspectors will take care of them?

“People should check very carefully and not leave their pets anywhere. If they had heard the horror stories that I have heard over the years, they would never go on vacation.

South Oxfordshire District Council, whose environmental health officers carry out inspections, said these had not been affected.

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