December 14, 2023

The vet startup betting on bricks

UK company Creature Comforts, founded by Daniel Attia and Dr Russell Welsh, is on a mission to redesign the veterinary care experience

Adam Green

5 min read

Daniel Attia (R) and Russell Welsh, founders of Creature Comforts

It was his own experience of pet ownership that made online estate agency entrepreneur Daniel Attia start looking into the veterinary business. 

“I became a pet owner during Covid and was interacting with five or six clinics, and it was hopeless,” he says. “There was no thought put into how the consumer experience can be improved through technology. There was no live chat function, no digital triage, no telemedicine to give you reassurance. And this is something that’s quite easily rectified.”

Through a mutual friend, Attia met Dr Russell Welsh, a veterinary surgeon with 23 years of experience in the veterinary business. By combining their client and professional perspectives, they were equipped to address the technological shortcomings of veterinary services. 


“There’s a demand that’s not being met, both from a client perspective and a professional perspective,” says Welsh. “People working in the sector want to try something different.” 

UK startup Creature Comforts was born — and now it’s on a mission to redesign the veterinary care experience by making life easier for stressed vets and concerned pet owners through a combination of virtual and in-clinic care. 

Combining physical and virtual 

Creature Comforts recently raised £7m in seed capital co-led by Torch Capital, Hanaco VC and Boost Capital Partners, which they will use to design, open and staff two clinics in London — and to develop an app to support round-the-clock virtual care, allowing vets to work flexibly and clients to have 24/7 access to care for their pets. 

Having only a virtual clinic does not work in this sector

The company says the balance of incorporating telemedicine while maintaining brick-and-mortar clinics as the centre of its business is essential for meeting the needs of both clients and vets.

“Having only a virtual clinic does not work in this sector,” says Attia. “With human health, I'm able to describe very vividly to my doctor what is happening with me, but my pet cannot do that. Animals need to be checked physically by people.” 

Instead, the role of telemedicine in their business is for triage. Virtual care through the app allows pet owners to be reassured about their pet’s condition, or to get advice about whether or not to come into the clinic. 

“Most pet owners on average say they have between 8 and 10 pet-related queries a year, but they only go into the vet for 20% of queries, where the animal is really unwell and needs immediate attention,” says Welsh. “We’re trying to ensure that those other eight queries are captured in our ecosystem so that owners are getting the appropriate veterinary advice.” 

At the moment, there are many traditional veterinary clinics and many telemedicine initiatives, but Attia and Welsh believe their company is unique because of the way it bridges the gap between the two approaches.

The business will operate on a monthly subscription model, offering subscribers unlimited consultations. This payment model will permit vet teams to benefit from a share of their clinic’s profits, above industry-standard pay and compensated overtime.

Beating burnout 

The company also took into consideration the high rates of burnout and mental health struggles among vets, a profession with a suicide rate four times higher than the national average. 

Vets and nurses want to be vets and nurses, not administrators or receptionists

“Vets spend a lot of time doing administrative duties, filling in forms and reporting back on results, and that contributes to burnout,” says Welsh. “Our technology will reduce that burden. Vets and nurses want to be vets and nurses, not administrators or receptionists.” 

Through online triage, flexible hours and a balanced staffing ratio, the business model ensures that clients’ needs are met while vets’ workloads are alleviated so they can apply their skills where they are most needed. 

This model has already had great success in the US, but Creature Comforts are pioneers in the European market. 

“I think we’re very well placed to compete because we’re new entrants in the market,” says Welsh. “A lot of the most successful American models have the same balance of people at the top with veterinary experience and those without.”

A local approach — inspired by America 

In its first two clinics, Creature Comforts is taking a local approach, tailored to the needs of the surrounding communities and local clients. 

“We’re a hyperlocal competitor, and each area is different,” says Attia. “Then, we’re going to want to show that our model is replicable across multiple sites. Once we’ve honed that, we can sort of copy and paste that, and have very fast expansion.” 

Vets are amazing people. Companies need to do more to support them

The company says it aims to be a national player and bring its model to communities across the UK, where there are over 23m pets to reach. 

The company’s investors agree. Sam Jones, partner at Torch Capital, comments that “Creature Comforts’ integrated approach, combining telehealth consultations with aesthetically beautiful and digitally enabled in-person clinics, prioritises both the customer experience and the wellbeing of veterinary staff”.

Tom Profumo, partner at Active Partners, adds: “With the dramatic rise in pet ownership, Creature Comforts is bringing an entirely fresh approach to the veterinary care market, improving the experience for vets and pet owners alike.”

The team at Creature Comforts hope to use digital tools not to replace in-person vet care, but to improve it — and to offer a smoother, more relaxing experience at the clinic for pets, their owners and vets. 

“Vets are amazing people,” says Attia. “They’ve come into this industry to help animals and found themselves in a place which is highly unfair and uncomfortable. Companies need to do more to support them.”

Adam Green

Adam Green is a science and technology writer and editor based in London. He tweets from @AdamPenWord