Choosing the Right Cat Boarding Facility
Like getting married or starting a new job, traveling can be a fun yet stressful time in life. One way to ease stress levels is to take the time to investigate and choose an appropriate boarding facility for your cats well in advance of your trip.
Finding a kennel, pet sitting service, or boarding service isn't something to do last minute. Allow time to network with fellow cat owners. Ask them about their experiences with kennels, kennel services and pet boarding. Talk to friends, neighbors, local animal shelters and rescue groups, dog trainers (they often partner or are in touch with reliable pet sitters and pet boarding services), and area veterinarians for recommendations on where to board your cat.
Once you have several recommendations in place, pay each a visit. Your initial visit may be by appointment to ensure someone there has time to answer your questions, but don't be shy about dropping in unannounced. This won't be a problem at reputable kennels that understand a pet owner's need to research the facility. (Note: Also see our list of 10 red flags to heed when touring a cat boarding facility.)
Options for pet boarding include cat-only kennels, traditional kennel services, and pet sitting services.
Being in a strange environment is enough of a stress for some cats without the added anxiety of unfamiliar dog smells and the sound of barking. Staff at cat-only kennels are typically trained and equipped to deal with the nuances and needs of felines ranging from kittens to senior cats.
A boarding or kennel service may be connected with a veterinary office, run as an outside business or may even be located at or in someone's home. Wherever the location, standard issues to address include:
- Cost: Ask for daily and weekly rates.
- Vaccinations: All animals should be required to have current vaccinations on file. Ask if testing is required for diseases such as feline leukemia (FeLV).
- Penalty Fees: Any additional charges for early or late pick up, taking care of an animal if it becomes sick, etc.?
- What happens if my cat becomes ill while I'm away? With what veterinary practice is the kennel associated? What arrangements can be made to pre-approve emergency care for my cat?
- Contact the Pet Care Services Association (formerly known as the American Boarding Kennel Association) to see if the kennel/boarding service is accredited with them.
- Are cats housed away from dogs?
- Is supervision provided day and night? What's the procedure in case of emergency (fire, tornado, etc.)?
- Meet with the people who actually work with the animals. What's their training and background? Are there vet techs on staff?
- Ask to be walked through the staff (and cat's) daily routine. What is the schedule for feeding/holding/visiting /playing with animals? How often will my pet be left alone?
- Am I allowed/required to bring my own food/litter/toys? (Keeping things as familiar as possible in these three areas will help your cat adjust while you're away.)
- How often are the cages cleaned and litter changed?
Remember to leave the kennel with emergency contact numbers for you and friends or family members who can reach you or are authorized to make decisions involving the care of your pet in your absence.
Cat Sitting Service
Another option is to allow your cat to remain at home and hire a cat sitting service. Pet sitters can either stay in your home or drop by for a certain number of hours each day. Bringing in a pet sitter is often the best option for a cat as it allows them to remain in their own environment. Be warned, however, that many people out there slap the title "Pet Sitter" on a business card with no real qualifications. You'll want to do just as much due diligence if not more (you are giving this person access to your home) when interviewing potential candidates. In addition to the questions above, you'll also want to find out:
- What training the cat sitter has acquired
- Is there a back up plan in case the sitter falls ill or is for any reason unable to care for your pet?
- Is the sitter able to dispense medication to your pet if needed?
- Does he/she have liability insurance and are they bonded (ask to see written proof).
- What services does the sitter provide in terms of grooming, play time, etc.
- Ask for a written contract of services, fees, and an agreed upon schedule of duties, feeding times, litter changing, etc.
You may visit the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) for additional information on locating and hiring cat sitters.
Photo: House of Sims
Related Advice from Other Cat Owners
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
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