Tips for Finding Cat-Friendly Hotels
It's not all that hard to find cat-friendly lodging world-wide these days, but all cat-owning travelers do still need to check, in preparation for any trip, if cats will be welcome to avoid bad surprises at the hotel check-in.
The AAA has a pet-friendly travel guide for the United States. If you are a member, this may help you, as will some of the many online pet travel sites. Nevertheless, when planning for cat travel in areas where hotels are dense, if the website does not help you out with a "pets allowed" icon, the best way to find out is to choose a few hotels you like and simply ask, via telephone or internet inquiry.
Never assume that a particular hotel, at home or abroad, will not accept cats. You will be surprised how many hotels can host your cat and by how many nations consider traveling with cats to be a rather common way to travel. On the other hand, without the permission of the hotel, do not assume that a surprise cat will be warmly greeted. You do not want to end up very far from home and without a hotel as night closes in.
Hotel chains do not consistently have blanket policies on cats. Also, chains have various levels of service and accommodations that respond to different price points and to different local trends and needs. When booking, check your chosen chain hotel website to see if the "pets allowed" icon is visible. If so, great. But if you do not see it, call and ask. Pets may not be encouraged, but often individual hotels, especially during the recession, will make concessions to fill rooms.
Cat-friendly motels are fairly common in areas where families vacation. A motel offers easy access in and out to accommodate any needed midnight walks, although be careful about off-leash walks in places where the highway is near the door. And be careful about leaving a cat in a room where a careless service person could accidentally let your cat out.
Resident hotels that can accommodate long-term stay for consultant workers or families on the move often take pets. Many have designated pet walking areas. Even in major urban centers like Las Vegas, places like the Marriott Residence Inn offer a slot machine-free haven with grass lawns for people traveling with pets. Resident hotels often include sitting room areas and kitchenettes that make feeding and relaxing with pets easier.
Hotels that accept cats take various approaches to accommodating your and their needs. Some charge an extra fee to allow your cat. You may try to negotiate this if your cat will not be alone in the room ever or if your cat is small or crated. Some require you to hang a "pet in room tag" on the door. Some offer pet bowls and beds. Some offer a pet menu for in-room dining. Some offer sitting, walking and pet massage services. Some have rules for designated pet walking and playing areas. Some welcome your pet at the pool and on the dining patio. Never be afraid to ask as customs vary.
When booking a hotel room, or at check in, always try to negotiate with the desk clerk to get a room that is not too high up in the building - your elevator ride with a pet that needs a walk should not be uncomfortable or very long. Try to be placed near an exit door.
Some hotels attempt to put pet-owning travelers in rooms that are smoking permitted or need renovations most. If this does not please you because you do not smoke or because you know your pet will not damage the accommodations, you should speak up. Why pay for a bad and undesirable room just because you are on vacation with a good and well-trained pet?
If your hotel will not accept your pet, do not leave your cat in the car overnight. Highly traumatizing for cats and highly lacking in security and accountability, this practice is an unreasonable solution for all concerned.
About the Author: Helen Fazio and her dog Raja blog on pet travel and related topics at www.traveldogbooks.com. In their first book, "The Journey of the Shih Tzu," Raja tells the wolf to woof story of the development of this amazing breed. They are working on forthcoming titles.