10 Red Flags to Heed When Inspecting a Cat Boarding Facility
One of the most important decisions we make about our cats is where to board them. Often the fretful thought of leaving Fluffy behind can influence not only our trip once we're there but also our decision to go. The back and forth of "What if my cat isn't OK while I'm away?" and "I've been planning this trip to the Bahamas for months" is enough to discourage any traveler. But there is a way you can soak up some sun and not worry about your kitty - find a good boarding facility well ahead of time.
Cats actually do very well if a facility is built for their comfort and if the staff is knowledgeable and caring. But If the employees are not enthusiastic about cats, chances are they will not look after their feline charges very well. Here are some flags that a facility isn't right for your pet:
10 Signs That You Should Pass on a Cat Boarding Facility
1. Making an Appointment - If the person you are speaking with about making an appointment is distracted and doesn't ask for pertinent information such as emergency phone numbers, the phone number where you'll be and who your vet is, it's likely the facility is not run well up front or in the back.
2. Taking the Tour - If a place will not let you take a tour at any time, that is suspicious and you should look elsewhere.
3. Smelly Spaces - When you tour a facility, stop in the front office and take a deep whiff. If you can smell anything bad such as cat urine or feces, turn right around and head home. If the area where the cats stay has anything but the lightest smells of litter and food, it's also a bad sign.
4. Emergency Veterinarian - If the facility cannot provide you with the name and number of the vet who handles any illness there, it's a sure bet they do not take good care of the cats. They should also be able to give you their plan for handling sick animals.
5. Sick Animals - When you're touring the place, notice if there are any sick cats in the boarding area. Sick felines should be removed to a separate area or be at the vet.
6. Caged Cats - Your cat should not go to a place that stuffs its guests in small or one-level cages. Enclosures should be multi-level so a cat can climb and, ideally, have windows to look outside.
7. Ventilation - If a facility has poor ventilation, the cats are more likely to become ill. Ask to see their system - the best bet is to have ventilation in every boarding unit.
8. Attention - Each cat staying at a boarding place should get individual attention. If the facility does not include daily brushing and playing, pass it up.
9. Personal Items - If a place you look at does not allow you to bring your cat's toys and bedding to the place, it's likely that they are not concerned about her comfort during her stay.
10. Cats Only - A place that boards cats and dogs is not an ideal solution. Co-pet places mean lots of barking which tends to annoy or frighten cats. If you do choose a boarding place for both, make sure the dogs and cats are in completely different areas and, ideally, each should be cared for separately by cat experts and dog experts.
When looking for a boarding facility, names with words like "inn," "abode," "suites," "condos" or "spa" in them usually bode well. These likely indicate a place with plenty of room for your cat and special attention. They may cost a bit more but your peace of mind is worth it.
To find a good boarding place, word-of-mouth is extremely helpful. If a friend can say that her cat was well-taken care of at the Super Kitty Cat Inn, it's likely yours will be too. But do still go and check out the facilities and the staff. You can also look for reviews of places on websites such as Pet Talks which is associated with findpetcare.com. The most important thing is to schedule in a touring appointment before you commit Fluffy to the facility's care. Then you can rest assured she will be taken care of and may even have a bit of a vacation herself.
Related Advice from Other Cat Owners
Don't Settle For the First Place When Boarding
I spent a long time looking at different places online and visited two in person before making a decision. The first place smelled really bad, was tiny, and the lady that ran it was out running errands more than she was there so I thought I'd better keep looking. Look for a place that strives for a flea-free environment and requires cats to be up to date on their shots. Ask how long the cats will be allowed out and make sure you get a straight answer.
~Carrie A., owner of Bengal
Looking For a Boarding Facility? Ask a Vet!
Vets can be a good place for recommendations, and they can point out ones to stay away from. Our vet mentioned one specifically where they had had people bring their pets in after being boarded, because they were worried about injuries their cats had. They were minor injuries, but they were still injuries, and I was very relieved to find out it was no good before going there.
~Lissa N., owner of Domestic Shorthair
Boarding at Pet Suites
Do you have a Pet Suites near you? I had to board my cats for a few days and it was a really nice facility! The cat room was so quiet and there was no dog noise at all. I was able to relax knowing my cats were in great hands while they were there.
The facility does require certain shots, however. The cages were a pretty good size and you pay full price for one cat and half for the other. You also pay extra for special play time or other services like grooming. And they were always great about giving updates when I called to see how my pets were doing. I made sure to leave a blanket from home and some of their toys too.
~Ellie C., owner of Domestic Shorthair