How One Crazy Cat Lady Started Her Business

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Ebony Centazzo – a self-confessed “crazy cat lady” has a rather special business operating in Hoppers Crossing, Caroline Springs and Spotswood.

You might have heard of catteries before – they’re places people board their cats when they’re away. But Cat Napping Suburban Retreat or affectionately known as Cat Napping, is a little bit more than just a place to stick your feline friend while you’re out of town.

We spoke to Ebony about how she runs Cat Napping which opened its doors in 2011, as to why it’s different to other catteries and her entrepreneurial desire to succeed.

The Cat’s Out of the Bag: How Ebony Got Started

In 2011, Ebony, a travel agent and pet lover, noticed a gap in the market; existing pet boarding places were cramped and smelly, with no way for owners to contact their pet while they were there. With a loan from her father of $20,000, Ebony started her first cattery in Hoppers Crossing; choosing to focus on cat boarding as cats are much easier to manage, and require less space. At the time her business was very basic, but slowly began to grow and take shape.

Today, Ebony has a trustworthy and cat-loving, team of 13 to help her manage the various sites. Cat Napping has flourished since 2011 through Ebony’s willingness to do things differently – including embracing social media and being unafraid to be the face of the business.

Cat Napping has won multiple awards over the years. In 2015, it won its first Wyndham City Council Services Micro award, and in 2017, it picked up an award for Business of the Year at the City of Melton’s Business Excellence Awards.

To Some, It’s More Than Just a Pet

Ebony instinctively understands that people tend to be very attached to their pets; which is why Cat Napping has a reputation for accommodating the strangest of client requests.

Ebony explained exactly how she caters to and builds her client base, telling us that some of her clients come with very specific requests. “There’s one cat that has to have grated cheese sprinkled on his food. Another must have prawns. But it’s not just food either. Some clients bring an object that smells like them so that the cat has something familiar in the new territory”. She continues, “Some of them need special items, like mats or pillows. And sometimes the owner leaves their photo for the cats to look at!”. Ebony even facilitates calls between cat and owner, making sure both are satisfied with the stay.

“Many of my clients don’t have children”, Ebony explains. The clients’ relationship to their cat is therefore an equally important one. Besides, it certainly can’t hurt to spoil those moggies from time to time. It’s certainly better than giving them the bare minimum, which Ebony is concerned about, as not all catteries are as accommodating as hers. “We have wooden houses for each cat”, she tells us, “and the space they have is four times bigger than what is legally required”.

Ebony and her team of crazy cat lovers monitor the cats around the clock, making sure that they’re eating properly, and not displaying any unusual behaviours that might be symptomatic of an infection or anxiety.

If it isn’t already clear, Ebony is passionate about animal welfare, and Cat Napping strives to make a difference. Cat Napping has been involved in numerous rescue groups, with Ebony herself having fostered a few cats. There have also been fundraising events organised through the business. Ebony’s philosophy is very much to make a difference wherever possible.

The Future is Technology

Ebony’s cattery is revolutionary in more ways than one. She initially managed bookings using the old-school and sometimes frustrating pen-and-paper which proved to be challenging. She even tried using a digital spreadsheet, however that didn’t solve accounting issues either. It was then, Ebony came up with the idea of having a unique and customized online booking system. “There were other online booking systems but they were designed for groomers and daycare. We wanted something that fit our business needs”, explains Ebony. The system has since revolutionized the business over the past two years.

Now, the website has live availability so that clients can book as it suits them, and payments can be made online too. It’s made Cat Napping more efficient in terms of accounting and management. It’s also attracted a newer, younger client base. “Young people love using it. But our older clients still call us up on the phone!” Either way, business is booming, thanks in part to the efficiency of the systems at work.

The Cat That Gets the Cream

From taking unusual client requests, ensuring the satisfaction of both cat and human, to creating her own online system that has helped expand her business, Ebony’s Cat Napping has grown and blossomed. Cat Napping is about more than leaving your cat somewhere while you’re on holiday: it’s a high-quality, luxury care service, determined to do best by your feline friend and by you.

Cat Napping goes above and beyond the role of a traditional cattery by embracing the digital age with her booking system, as well as building a relationship with her clients through social media and facilitating contact between human and cat. With a fourth site coming soon to Tullamarine, Ebony is confident in her growing business. As for us, we can’t wait to get our paws on it!

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BOB – The Best Of Melbourne’s West