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(Rover Photo)

Rover, the Seattle startup that built a thriving international business around dog sitting and walking, is barking up a new revenue tree. The company announced Thursday that it is officially expanding services to include cat care.

After testing the feline care offering over a three month beta period, from December through February, Rover saw nearly $4 million in cat specific billings. It took the company, founded in 2011, two years to reach that number as a business overall.

“The company’s philosophy has always been that there’s a lot of opportunity to push the limit on what we could provide, but only if we did the things that we were currently doing well,” Rover CEO Aaron Easterly told GeekWire. “So our belief has been that we wanted to do things best in class, be clear category leaders and then take on a new things. … We’ve been thinking about [cats] for a long time.”

Rover has certainly been doing well when it comes to dogs.

The company raised a massive $155 million a year ago, making it one of the highest-valued privately held startups in the Pacific Northwest. With an eye on supercharging growth in Europe, the company acquired London-based DogBuddy in October. And the company also leased lots of new office space for its Seattle headquarters in another sign that business is booming.

(Rover Photo)

And now they’re going after the reported 47.1 million households in the U.S. that have a cat. Services from trusted care givers will include cat boarding, house sitting and drop-in visits. A landing page on Rover’s website says, “Cat sitting you and your cat will love (for real).” Cat care booking will allow owners to create a profile for their cat, choose from breed specifications, and search for local sitters who offer cat services within their community.

The company believes cats and cat owners are underserved right now because traditional commercial facilities promote the stress and anxiety that cats experience when they leave their home environment.

Rover CEO Aaron Easterly accepts the CEO of the Year award at the 2016 GeekWire Awards. The company is nominated in the Next Tech Titan category this year. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

But beyond the test period — when more than 15,000 cat sitters provided cat services across North America and the U.K. — it was clear that people were already using Rover for cat care.

“We actually found that certain people were having such problems finding cat care that they would actually go to Rover and set up their cat as a dog, before we officially supported cats,” Easterly said. “So we actually had a chunk of cat owners using Rover, where their cat was masquerading as a dog.

“The fact that we don’t force people into exact definitions of services is a benefit,” he added. “We get surprised by how people are actually using the technology. For example, we’ve had horses go through Rover, we’ve had potbelly pigs, we’ve had pet shrimp. I didn’t know that was a thing. Apparently some people really love their pet shrimp.”

A screen shot of the Rover website with a selection of cat care providers. ( Image)

Easterly said there is heavy crossover, especially in the drop-in category, among providers who will care for both dogs and cats. And he touted the platform as a way to get transparency and verification of services that you might not get from the next door neighbor’s kid who is dropping in on your pet.

With just over 500 employees globally (and around 350 in Seattle), Easterly said plans are to get to roughly 600 by the end of the year, with close to $500 million in annual sales. Right now they’re finishing the process of integrating DogBuddy onto the platform and will be pushing hard in Europe once that project’s done.

With “so many new avenues to pursue,” Easterly had nothing new to share on whether Rover would be going public anytime soon. But he did weigh in on whether the company’s dog friendly offices could accommodate more furry friends.

“I think we had a cat in here once or twice,” he said. “I think the cat strutting down the hall would be hilarious to watch.”

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