Meowtel a Cat-sitting Startup Managed to Make Profits from Dog-focused Vcs, Despite Challenges

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Dogs are the most popular pet in the U.S., with 65.1 million households owning one, according to the American Pet Products Association. Cats are not far behind, with 46.5 million households owning one. However, much of the innovation in the pet industry has been focused primarily on dogs. Even when services cater to both species, dogs tend to receive more attention.

Sonya Petcavich, the founder of the cat-sitting app Meowtel, believes that cats and their owners deserve better. When Petcavich’s cat Lily passed away in 2015, she felt she might not have been the best cat mom. Her job in sales for Philip Morris required frequent travel, and she felt her senior cat needed more attention. Although pet-sitting services existed, Petcavich thought they didn’t adequately cater to cats’ unique needs.

“There needs to be a service specifically for cat people; they have very different needs,” Petcavich told TechCrunch. “Rover had been around for a few years, and Wag was picking up steam, but they were so dog-focused. I said, ‘Forget it, I’m going to be the crazy cat person who does this.’”

Using $100,000 of her own money, Petcavich found a developer team and launched Meowtel in 2015. The startup is a marketplace for cat owners to find cat sitters, hiring only those with direct experience in tasks like administering medication to cats (which are prone to chronic illnesses as they age) and caring for cats with special needs. Prospective sitters go through a rigorous six-step vetting process before being allowed on the app, including a 30-minute call with the Meowtel team to verify their identity, a step other sitting sites don’t take. Petcavich joked that it’s easier to get into Harvard than to become a Meowtel sitter.

Meowtel has operated mostly in stealth mode since its founding. Petcavich explained that the company is now emerging from stealth because, over the past nine years, the team has diligently built up its brand and refined its user experience to meet their standards.

Meowtel is profitable, with its gross booking volume revenue growing 50% year over year. The platform has more than 2,200 sitters, some of whom have been with Meowtel for all nine years. The company has completed over 95,000 sitting requests, primarily focusing on major cities like New York and Los Angeles. However, it now plans to expand its reach to smaller cities as well.