IT all started with a big black and white cat named Panda.
When he was hit by a car, his owners nursed him back to health in such a manner he lived until age 16.
Much like Panda the cat, the Panda Cattery in Otatara, near Invercargill — owned by Panda’s humans — has succeeded despite a few challenges.
However, after 56 years, owners Denise and David Chin Poy have decided to move on from the family-owned business and tuck their feline guests in one last time.
Margaret and Ted Knight started the business in 1965, after years of working with the four-legged friends in their home country of England.
They built the cattery as it is today, in 1995.
Their daughter, Mrs Chin Poy, took over in the early 90’s, with her husband.
In the early stages, there were just six pens.
Now, the cattery could host up to 165 cats during the busy season, with plenty of room for them to snooze, mosey and mingle.
While there was no doubt the Chin Poys had an “affinity” for cats, it was the rapport they had built with their clients they cherished the most.
“We have really regular, supportive clients who might put their cats in a few times a year,” Mrs Chin Poy said.
“We’ve even had great-grandchildren of original clients come through.”
Word of mouth had been their most effective form of marketing, and new cats were consistently coming to stay.
In fact, the cattery was so popular, a cat who spent six months at the facility showed up at the front door again, six weeks after it was returned to its owner.At one point, they were transporting cats to and from locations across the South Island.
“I had a cat, a parrot, a goldfish and a guinea pig in the car once,” she joked.
For all the experience was, the Chin Poys were thankful to their clients and their furry friends for their loyalty during the years.
“It’s been such a privilege, the fact they trusted us with their pets.
“We’ve had some wonderful times.”
On February 19, they will hand the reigns over to vet nurse Courtney and her partner Karl Owen, also of Invercargill.
With six cats of their own, they were no strangers to managing handfuls at a time.
The pair said it was always a dream of theirs to own a cattery and they were looking forward to getting to know the community their feline friends.