South Africans pay up to put up their furry babies in luxury pet hotels
Pet hotels are springing up all over to pamper pets when their people can't be there to do it themselves, writes Zola Zingithwa
Forget the horror stories of your neighbour not feeding your cat while they're supposed to be pet sitting - you now have the option of taking your pet with you on holiday, or even leaving him or her at a luxurious pet hotel that will cater to their every need.
One such pet-friendly hotel is the Park Inn by Radisson Foreshore in Cape Town. Not only can you stay with your dog or cat, but staff will make sure to place a mat and two water bowls for the comfort of your pet.
But it is their sister hotel at the Cape Town Waterfront, the Radisson Red, that takes things a little further. On check-in, they will give your furry loved one a registration card and in your room your pet will find its own finely made bed and water along with some treats and toys. Your pet can even bark (or purr) its orders off a menu created for dogs and cats. Radisson Red also has a permanent canine resident called Baxter.
But if the idea of a dog barking around the hotel isn't to your taste, you're not alone. The Foreshore's marketing manager Waleed Taliep says some guests have raised concerns about sharing their space with animals.
"We have had some people ask if the pets are eating out of the same plates and cutlery as the human guests. People are very fussy when it comes to animals, but we do tell them that we are a pet-friendly hotel. So if you don't like that, you don't have to stay here. I say that very lightly, because the guests always come first."
He explains that in most instances, people are just scared of the dogs.
If as a pet-lover you do not like the idea of your pet being restricted or perhaps you want your companion to have a true vacation experience, do not despair. Luxury pet hotels are here for you.
In the city of gold, a whole "luxury emporium" exists to cater to the needs of our furry friends. According to its founder and owner, Ineke Ann Boyle, Must Love Dogs Luxury Emporium pioneered luxury accommodation for dogs in SA when it opened in 2010.
"We are a destination, an experience and only something you would truly understand through visiting us," she says.
Each dog (or a pair) is allocated a shed comfortably furnished with beds, a TV, a couch and other features. Boyle says the dogs are not "packed away from each other" as is seen at "boarding environments".
In Cape Town, atFrits Hotel is anything but a place where pets are packed away. If you are looking for ultra-luxurious accommodation for your beloved pet, the recently relaunched hotel will surely meet your standards.
Named after the owner's late dog Frits, atFrits is seeking to be classified the biggest pet hotel in the world at 2,400m². Owner Yanic Klue says she has applied to the Guinness World Book of Records so it can be made official. The hotel is divided into three, with the top floor for cats, the middle floor for the reception and retail area, and the bottom section for dogs, the day-care centre and spa.
If you are an anxious pet parent, you will have peace of mind knowing that you can keep an eye on your baby whenever you want to, because all the rooms at the hotel are equipped with live cameras that can be monitored 24/7.
Other services include Wellness Wednesdays for the dog clients, in which they can partake in hydrotherapy and physiotherapy using the hotel pool. Then there is the popular Night Care programme, which allows parents to leave their pets at the hotel from 6pm until midnight, so the parentals can have a night out without any babysitting worries.
"You can leave your animal at the hotel while you go out for dinner or a show. It's the comfort of knowing that your dog is in a caring environment," says Klue.
Klue says it wasn't hard selling the concept of a pet hotel to the Cape Town market because there is a big need for an establishment such as atFrits. She says the bulk of customers use the hotel for its day-care services, whether it is pet owners who leave their pets for the day or those who do not have the space or time to give their dogs some form of daily exercise.
One of her clients, KFM and Expresso presenter Zoe Brown, has been so impressed with atFrits that she has become a regular client. She was first taken with the cat hotel manager, Naziemah Roodt, who she believes must be a cat whisperer because of her connection with the feline species.
Brown's cat was announced as the hotel's chief feline officer (CFO) during the relaunch in November and is now an ambassador of the hotel's programme that encourages the adoption of black dogs and cats. Apparently people don't adopt those much.
But Sailor is definitely living his best life, because not only is he an ambassador of the hotel, but on one of his stays he was even allowed to choose his own room as he was the only feline staying at the hotel at the time.
Sailor chose the Cat Middleton room, with a royal décor scheme inspired by the Victorian era.
But of course such lavish living does not come cheap.
Boyle says clients want what is best for their "babies," and it's a given they'll spend money on what they love. In return they have the peace of mind that their "baby" is being well taken care of.
Klue, on the other hand, is adamant that the hotel is not just a luxury spot for people with money. She says that the rooms are affordable, and possibly even more affordable than a pet sitter.
"You would think that a pet hotel would only be for the rich and famous, but it's not. The sleepover at the hotel is R280 a night," she says.
So, if, like Boyle, you believe that there is no difference between your human babies and pets, is there a price you wouldn't pay to ensure that your four-legged baby is given only the best?