A Guide to Starting your own Small Animal Boarding Business from Home
This guide extends to all small animals and not just guinea pigs and rabbits, however the main pets mentioned are guinea pigs and rabbits, this guide can extend to mice, rats, reptiles and really all small animals.
Why start a boarding business?
When it comes to finding a pet sitter for your guinea pigs, it can be more difficult compared to a dog or a cat. Not only do they require specialist care, but also should be housed with someone who is knowledgeable especially if they become ill whilst you are away.
Offering people in your local community with a place where guinea pigs will be safe, secure, and well cared for is not only a great opportunity to meet fellow guinea pig owners, it is also fun and can offer owners an additional household income.
What do I need?
- You should have more than basic knowledge of guinea pigs or rabbits. Enough to spot what may be wrong or if things are out of the ordinary.
- Basic organisation skills
- Be Human and Pet orientated
- Have a love for the pet you are looking after
Where should my enclosure be?
- Indoors of course! Guinea Pigs Australia recommends that any boarders be housed indoors. Indoor housing is safer, secure and it ensures that the guinea pigs will be kept out of any weather extremes such as rain, heat or cold. They are free from insects, pests and predators (animal and human alike) You can also keep a closer eye on them indoors and detect any signs of illness promptly.
- Location Indoors: Choose a location in your house which is not too hot or too cold. A living room works best or even a garage (provided no cars enter this space and it is connected to the main residence). You want a location where the guinea pigs will feel part of the family.
How big should be enclosures be?
- Enclosure Size - Generally we recommend for temporary stays, a minimum of 50cm x 90cm per enclosure. Whilst this is smaller than the recommended minimum size of 2 x 3 C & C enclosure (70cm x 110cm), It can be ideal for short holiday stays with additional floor or grass time. C&C enclosures make excellent indoor housing as they can expand, added to and create a double cage saving floor space.
Most people have between 1 – 3 guinea pigs and the above size is suitable for only temporary stays.
50cm x 90cm enclosure are not ideal for PERMANENT living spaces for any number of guinea pigs.
For permanent enclosures you need something bigger as guinea pigs do like to run around.
Rabbits on the bottom, pigs on the top ! - Need a custom C & C boarding setup - reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can help get get you up and running.
What bedding should I use for boarding?
If you have a busy boarding schedule you are going to need something highly reusable.
Vet Bed or Fleece Liners are ideal when it comes to boarders. They are reusable so you save on costs as opposed to disposable beddings such as Chipsi or Carefresh. They can be washed easily. It is best to buy two sets, one for use in the cage and one spare when the soiled bedding is washed.
All cages should have a hay rack, pellet bowl, water bottle/bowl and a hidey house for each guinea pig. As your business grows you can also invest in softer plush accessories such as donut beds, cuddle cosy lounges and pillow sets.
Ideally you should be providing everything for a comfortable stay from the time they arrive to the time they leave.
First Aid Kit? Yes you need it
In case of emergencies you want to be well prepared. If a guinea pig gets sick overnight or you do not have immediate access to a vet make sure you include:
- Critical Care handfeeding supplement such as Burgess Excel Dual Care
- 1ml feeding syringes
- Betadine liquid for small cuts
- Malaseb Shampoo for fungal infections
- Revolution puppy and kitten for mites and parasites
- Protexin powder for promotion of healthy bacteria in the gut
- Saline for subcutaneous injections for dehydration with 20g needles
The main first aid items which are the most important are the critical care supplement and feeding syringes. Food = Life.
Now that you have your enclosures set up to take boarders, what’s next?
Guinea Pigs Australia has a national map which boarders can register on. This allows potential customers to contact you with their details to organise a booking.
Some owners will want to inspect your home prior to boarding and this should ALWAYS be allowed.
Your customers are people concerned about their guinea pig’s welfare, and you want to always be transparent when it comes to where their guinea pigs will be housed.
Once a booking is confirmed you need to organise:
- Cost of boarding per day
- Drop off time
- Give details of your address and contact number
Our boarding form which the customer completes will provide you with:
- Number of pets
- Vet Details
- Name of contact person
- Phone number
- Dates of boarding
REMEMBER – Even though you may be on our map, you operate separately to Guinea Pigs Australia. Do not use any of our logos or claim to be us in any way
Pick up and Drop off times – How to Organise this
Keep it simple. Contact the customer a few days before via phone or email to organise a mutual drop off or pick up time that is convenient to you both.
Keep in mind your customer is going on holiday. It may not be feasible to organise drop off the morning of the flight away.
As your customer is going on holiday, at times their mode of transport does get delayed, you may need to be caring for their pet for longer than planned if this is the case, so stay flexible.
At Drop off – This is a good time to find out if your customers is staying in Australia or going abroad. If they will be abroad so if you can keep in contact via free apps like “Whatsapp” or “Viber” or facebook messenger.
At Pick up – If pick up is on the same day as they arrive back from holiday, then it will most likely be in the afternoon. Remember to send anything back with the pets that arrived with them on drop off.
Pro Tip – If you have space, keep the carry cage at your home with your client’s name on it. It’s a convenient place to keep the pets when you are cleaning their enclosure and its super convenient for the client to be able to show up without having to bring anything on pick up day.
How much should I charge?
The amount you charge per day should depend on the amount of work, money and time you will spend caring for the pets.
Consider food, accessories, bedding, housing, time to provide to the pet (cleaning, lap time, grass time). The price should always cover your costs and allow a buffer to ensure you are not cutting corners to the care of the pet whilst they are with you.
You should also keep in mind replacement costs such as bedding, accessories and housing, as these will wear out over time.
If it is hard to keep up your costs or find you are cutting corners, then you may need to consider increasing your prices.
Guinea Pigs Australia charges the following for our boarding home in South Sydney:
For 1 guinea pig - $15 per day per enclosure
For 2 – 3 guinea pigs - $20 per day per enclosure
For 1 rabbit - $30 per day ( plus any chewy rabbit damages )
Double rate for public holidays
Busy periods like Christmas may require a deposit
All our enclosures are lined with Vet Bed for bedding and pets receive everything they need for a comfortable stay.
Growing your Business
Customers will become regulars. Generally, they will rebook especially if they also receive updates on their pets. Social media is a fantastic way to provide regular updates whilst growing your business.
Instagram can provide owners with an easy source of images, you can take photos of the guinea pigs having grass time, lap time or enjoying some delicious veggies. Facebook can also provide customers with a way to review your services and recommend you to their friends and family.
As your business grows you can start to purchase more caging, invest in better bedding or a website.
Remember to tag us #guineapigsaustralia
If you have a busy boarding home you can also register to become a stockist of our products for people to purchase our products from you.
What happens if one of the guinea pigs becomes sick? Do I need to pay for the vet bills?
One of the benefits of being on the Guinea Pigs Australia Boarding maps, that the owner will fill out their veterinarian details.
This will provide you with a Veterinarian that you can take them to should the guinea pig become sick.
You may find it better to get the client to organise a payment method with their vet should something happen while they are away. Most owners will contact their vet and advise them that they are going on holidays and some may have an open account at the vets in case you need to take the guinea pig.
You can also take a $100 or $200 extra veterinary deposit which will be returned to the owner on pick up or if you are able to organise credit card details that can be provided to the Vet. This provides you with emergency funds to use if Vet care is needed. It is always advised to have a good cavy savvy vet familiar with guinea pigs as your secondary veterinarian in case of emergencies.
You can also request a Veterinary health check of any pets that board with you prior, to ensure that the owners take them to the veterinarian for a health assessment and give them the tick of approval before they leave on holiday.
We also have a national map for emergency and small animal savvy vets
What if someone tries to abandon their pet ?
A driver’s licence or photo ID can also be photographed or taken to ensure that you have their personal details should they consider abandoning their pets with you. This is a very rare occurrence and most of the time photo ID is not required to be taken.
Do I have to fill complete a tax return or have an A.B.N?
This depends on what your intention behind boarding is.
- For fun, pleasure and leisure
If you are boarding part time, charging money but not reliant on these funds as your main liveable income then no ABN/tax additions are required. You cannot claim any purchases you make for the business as expenses.
- For Profit and income
If you are boarding as your main source of income and have the main function for the business to earn a profit then you will need to lodge this as your taxable income and you may also apply for an ABN. The benefit of an ABN is you can claim purchases as part of your business expenses i.e. bedding, toys, enclosures etc.
Remember to Have fun and make new friends
Remember to have fun! Caring for guinea pigs is an awesome way to learn more about these small animals. Share photos and create happy memories for your customers and yourself.
Becoming a boarding partner is also ideal if you wish to expand more into the small animal community.
Remember if there is a boarding house near you this is a good thing! Often at peak times such as school holidays or Christmas, if you are fully booked you can always refer your customer to the other boarding home and vice versa. You may never know when you also may need to have your guinea pigs boarded so make a cavy savvy friend and reach out to that other boarding home, we are a piggy community after all.
REMEMBER – Should you choose to start a boarding business, you operate separately to Guinea Pigs Australia. Should you have any question or any advice we are here to freely provide that if you are having troubles, but we are only able to provide advice.
Do not use any of our logos or claim to be us in any way.
You are ultimately responsible for the care you provide to the pets in your care and what happens to them so please provide the best care you can.