SELMA — Named Pet Sitter of the Year by an international organization, Cathy Vaughan knew even in first grade she wanted to work with animals.
The Schertz resident started a pet-sitting business in 1998, Cathy’s Critter Care. Her hard work paid off this year with the honor from Pet Sitters International.
“Cathy’s dedication to her business and clients, her focus on continuing education and her commitment to elevating the professionalism of our industry, make her a shining example of what a professional pet sitter should be,” said PSI President Patti J. Moran.
Vaughan, whose business is based in Selma, has cared for dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, rats, mice, rabbits, chickens, goats, pigs, spiders and even a monitor lizard.
Beth Stultz, PSI vice president, said the award is the industry’s highest honor. It means Vaughan will serve as the “face of the professional pet-sitting industry” during the year.
“I was on the ceiling with happiness and still kind of disbelief, because there’s so many great people out there doing what I do,” Vaughan said.
PSI has 6,000 member-businesses across the globe, and Vaughan — who joined in 2000 — was one of five finalists. The award has been handed out since 1995.
The official announcement came in January, but Vaughan knew since mid-December and had to keep the secret.
“It’s always good to get a pat on the back from the industry that you represent. I definitely appreciate it and do feel validated,” Vaughn said.
She was a former enrichment coordinator at the San Antonio Zoo, working with sea lions and seals, and received a degree in biology from Texas State University.
The 2018 Pet Sitter World Educational Conference & Expo is Sept. 9 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Long-time client and friend Rochele Esper was so ecstatic about the award that she and her husband are taking their vacation there.
“Can’t wait! So excited for her, so proud,” Esper said.
Esper has two sets of three dogs looked after by Vaughan’s company. She has used the service since 2000.
“It’s a fabulous service. My dogs love it,” Esper said. “Cathy is unbelievable.”
Vaughan’s husband, Phillip, first encouraged her to start the business with a pet-sitting book he found online. Today, Cathy’s Critter Care has 12 employees and more than 500 clients.
Her husband made it a family affair, quitting his job to come work for the pet-sitting business.
The in-home service includes a break so the animal can relieve itself, exercise, feeding, freshening of water, administering medications and light grooming.
“For the pets that can’t be boarded or who don’t have family members who can take care of them, it makes me feel like I’m giving something of real value back to the world,” Cathy Vaughan said.
In addition to taking the animals on daily walks and staying overnight, pet sitters also bring in the mail, pick up the newspaper, take out the trash and make the home look lived-in while the owners are away.
Terry Ryan, a client for 20 years, said the pet sitters go above and beyond what they are contracted to do.
“I can’t praise them enough. It’s been really nice to have pets and still be able to do some of things you want to do because you have someone that you have so much confidence in,” Ryan said.
Vaughan and her crew watched over everything from their hermit crabs to hedgehogs, hamsters, cats and dogs, Ryan added. They also administered insulin shots twice a day to her diabetic cat.
The owner said what sets her company apart from similar businesses is having employees who are insured and bonded, giving clients extra peace of mind.
“We really strive for the professional community to make sure that people understand that there is a difference between the neighbor kid down the street and the person that you’re paying to come to your home,” Vaughan said.
The Vaughans also have a sister company called Bluebonnet Bunk’n Biscuit for those who favor boarding over the in-home service. It opened in 2010.
As part of the “Home-Based Business Series,” Vaughan wrote “How to Start a Home-Based Pet-Sitting and Dog-Walking Business,” published in 2011. Copies are available at amazon.com.
She also created the Texas Pet Sitters Conference with colleague Michelle Romano in 2016, held every February.
“It gives us an opportunity to give back to those who are just starting. To help that person who is working their way up,” Vaughan said.
For more on Cathy’s Critter Care, call 210-945-8940 or visit mybunknbiscuit.com/cathys-critter-care.