This is Part 6 of a series on Fluffy’s Staycation: What to do with cats who stay behind while you travel. In conjunction with this series, PetSmart is sponsoring a giveaway in which the lucky winner will win an overnight stay and TLC at a PetSmart PetsHotel. To enter, just leave a comment on this post, and on every post in this series. Each comment serves as your entry in the giveway; no more than one entry per post per household, please. Winners will be drawn at random on June 15th. Details here.

Sometimes, it’s just not feasible to have a cat sitter look after Fluffy in your absence. If that’s the case, you can either stay home or find a boarding facility. Today we’ll cover how to find a place to board Fluffy, and how what to look for when you evaluate a boarding facility.

HOW TO FIND A CAT BOARDING FACILITY
First, ask for referrals from friends, neighbors, co-workers, family members and your veterinarian. Specifically, make sure they have boarded cats, not dogs, since a great dog kennel might not always be optimized for great cat care. Also, check out Yelp and Catster Local. You can not only find facilities, but read reviews so you can identify any red flags before you visit.

Other sources for finding a boarding facility include:

HOW TO EVALUATE A BOARDING FACILITY

One of the most important factors is whether or not it is a cats-only facility, and if not, how insulated are the cat kennels from the dog kennels. If, from within the cat kennel, you can hear dogs barking, it will likely be a stressful stay for your cat and you should seek another facility. Ideally, the cat kennel should be separate, with its own ventilation system (so the cats cannot smell the dogs.)

The kennel area should be constructed of surfaces that can easily wipe clean–there should be no carpeted surfaces that can harbor fleas, dirt and germs.

The cage itself should provide enough room within which the cat can move, and the litter box should be segregated from the main cage, with separate ventilation, so that your cat is not whiffing litter box odors for the duration of her stay.

If you have cats that will be bunking together they should be accommodated in a space with adequate room for two, not crammed into a space for one. Many newer kennels are constructed with windows or port holes between cages that can be opened to allow multiple cats to move between cages. Make sure that if your cats like to sleep cuddled together that there is space for them to do so.

The facility should provide playtime for the cats each day in an area they can stretch out and run in. Some charge extra for this service.

INSPECTION CHECKLIST
Here’s what you should look for and the questions you should ask when you inspect the boarding facility:

  • If you have a cat on medication, will they administer it?
  • Are there separate boarding areas for cats that are sound-proofed from the dog area? Does the cat area have ventilation separate from the dog area?
  • How big is each kennel?
  • Are the cages clean and free from excrement? Is the kennel area odor free?
  • Are the cages far enough away from each other to avoid close contact between cats?
  • How often are the cages, dishes, (and litter boxes) cleaned, and with what? How are the cages cleaned between boarders?
  • Will they bathe your cat if she becomes soiled with urine or excrement?
  • What is the regular feeding schedule, and can it be adapted if your cat has special needs? Can you bring the cat’s regular food?
  • Who actually works with the animals? Ask to meet them.
  • What are their admit and pick up hours? What if your return is delayed?
  • Which vaccinations are required, and which are recommended? Are vaccinations that you administered acceptable or do they need to be given by a veterinarian?
  • Do they require testing for certain diseases such as feline leukemia (FeLV)? Are there solid partitions between the cats, and are the cages far enough away from each other to avoid close contact between cats?
  • Is there a veterinarian or emergency clinic nearby?
  • Is there a time you can call to check on how your cat is doing?
  • What are their security provisions? Do the cages have good latches?
  • Is the facility accredited by the American Boarding Kennels Association?
  • Are there separate boarding areas for cats?

In addition to accommodations, the facility might offer additional services including pick up and drop off, TV time for pets, Playtime, TLC time, grooming and training. Some even have webcams, or will post photos of their guests online so you can do a virtual check-in while you’re away.

BEFORE YOU DROP OFF YOUR CAT…
Before you drop your cat off, here’s what you need to do:

  • Get a health certification and vaccination records from your vet.
  • If permitted, pack her favorite blanket and toy(s), and an item of apparel with your smell on it. Spritz some Feliway on the bedding.
  • Pack her food and treats, plus a little extra.
  • Prepare a sheet with care and contact information. Most kennels will have you fill one out at check-in, but if you do it beforehand, you’re less likely to leave anything out. Information should include:
    • Medical information
    • Behavior information
    • Playtime info (favorite toys)
    • Mealtime preferences
    • Contact info and itinerary
    • Local Contact (IMPORTANT! If your cat freaks out while boarded and someone needs to come and get her, it’s good to identify someone for this purpose.)

Some cats do great when boarded, some not so much. But if you have a great experience, you’ll have successfully identified a safe place for your cat to enjoy a staycation, freeing you to travel worry-free in the future.

And don’t forget to book early! The good Kitteh Hotels fill up fast!

[PHOTOS: 1) BostonMagazine.com; 2) Mark Rogers Photography for Petcamp.com; 3) PetSmart’s PetsHotel; 4) Westlodge Cattery; 5) Northants Cattery ; 6) icanhascheezburger.com]