Choosing a Boarding Cattery
By Tamsin Stone, Revised: 31 May 2013
Selecting from the wide range of boarding catteries available can be a bit daunting so here are four steps to help you on the way to finding the perfect cattery, so you can go on holiday knowing your cat is well cared for.
1. Find potential catteries in your area
The first step to choosing a cattery is finding potential candidates. Many cats find travel stressful so start by looking for catteries near you; you can expand your search later if there is no one suitable nearby. Our postcode search is a great way to find catteries near you:
2. Create a Short List
Once you have your initial list it's time to narrow down the possibilities with a few key questions:
Can they accommodate your cat for your chosen dates?
If you've got a holiday booked already, then the first criteria to check is whether the cattery has space to accommodate your cat on the dates you need. The perfect luxury cattery is no good if they are fully booked. The more notice you give the wider choice of catteries you will have. The best catteries are often booked up months in advance, particularly for popular holiday periods, so don't leave it until the last minute to start your search.
How much will it cost?
Although we'd all like money to be no object, in reality you probably have a budget. Cattery fees vary and even an individual cattery may have different units at different prices. If you've multiple cats, check how the cattery structures their fees, most charge per cat not per pen, but you may get a 10-20% discount for additional cats. There may be extra fees in winter for heating, or discounts if you are providing your own food.
Are they properly licensed and insured?
All catteries must be licensed by their local authority, we check as many as we can - look for the sign indicating we've confirmed a licence. When you visit you can double check as they should have a current certificate on display. Catteries are inspected annual as part of the license and have to meet set standards for accommodation and care.
Although not a requirement, some catteries may also be members of a professional body that sets further standards such as the Feline Advisory Bureau (FAB). A FAB approved cattery will have been inspected by FAB against their Standard for Construction & Management of Boarding Catteries. You might also come across 'FAB Trained' proprietors.
In addition to a license, catteries should also have insurance - this covers a range of things, including vet fees if your pet is injured whilst at the cattery. Again the cattery will have a certificate/document to show they have it.
Can they accommodate any special needs?
If your cat needs medication, has mobility issues that affect the type of accommodation they need or eats a special diet, then now is the time to check he cattery can accommodate it. Also check whether there are any extra charges associated with providing these services so you aren't surprised by sudden increases in fees later.
3. Visit the Cattery
It's essential you visit the cattery your cat will be staying in before you drop your cat off for its holiday. If possible visit several to give you a good overview of what's on offer. Whilst looking at pictures and talking to the owner can give you a good idea of the care your cat will receive, nothing beats seeing the place in person. You don't want to turn up hours before you are due to jet off on holiday, find the facilities are not what you were expecting and have nowhere to board your cat while you are away.
Any good cattery will be happy to have you visit and view the cattery. Check with the cattery whether they have open hours you can visit unannounced during or need an appointment, but don't let needing an appointment put you off. In most cases it's not because they want to whip around and clean first, just they want to avoid visitors at times when they would interrupt routines like feeding or settling in new arrivals.
In general the cattery should be clean, tidy, light and well ventilated. The pens should be secure, well built and well maintained.
Your cat should have his or her own pen, and not share or come into contact with any cats from other households. Ask to see the pen your cat will be staying in. Some catteries will have a range of units of different styles and sizes so you need to know which one your cat will be in, not just see the most luxurious one. If you have more than one cat, see if there are larger 'family' units available.
The cattery should have a double door system. This means that if your cat slips out of the individual pen door when it is opened it is still contained (usually in a corridor) by a second door. Each pen should be separated by a 'sneeze barrier' usually in the form of Perspex so that cats cannot have contact with each other preventing spread of disease.
A bare pen isn't very relaxing, so look for catteries where the cats have a cosy bed, scratch posts, shelves for napping on and toys to play with or where you are encouraged to bring your cat's own toys.
In verses Out
Some catteries are completely indoors, others outdoors (with a heated cabin) and some half way between (an indoor unit with a cat flap to an outdoor run). Which you choose is entirely up to you. If your cat is used to living inside you may prefer that option, however an outdoor run does increase ventilation and allow your cat to enjoy the fresh air, sunshine and exciting scents of outdoor space. Some catteries will plant up the outside space facing on to the cattery units so your cat can enjoy the view of visiting butterflies and birds.
One thing to keep an ear out for when you visit is the noise level. Some catteries have kennels nearby, and a lot of barking can be very stressful so make sure the buildings are far enough apart this isn't a problem.
It should go without saying the cattery should be clean and well maintained. A properly ventilated and cleaned boarding facility should not have any bad smells. Food bowls and trays should be cleaned regularly and the staff should follow procedures for preventing cross infection by not sharing equipment between pens and washing hands between handling cats from different families.
A big factor in how well your cat settles in is the care and dedication of the staff members that are caring for him. Depending on the size of the cattery it might be the proprietor or a team. Ask to be introduced to the staff member(s) that will be looking after your cat and have a chat with them - do you feel comfortable with their attitude towards their work and the cats in their care?
Finally, look at the cats currently staying in the cattery. Do they appear happy and relaxed? Are they in good condition? How do they react to the staff members?
Quick Cattery Check List
A good cattery will answer yes to the following questions:
- Are the staff friendly, caring and experienced?
- Is the accommodation secure and in good repair?
- Is there adequate ventilation, light and heating?
- Do they insist cats are vaccinated?
- Are you asked for written details about your cat and its needs?
- Do they have a vet on call 24/7?
- Can they cope with any special diet, medical or grooming requirements?
- If relevant, are other types of pets kept out of sight/hearing (to minimise stress)?
- Do they have a licence?
If you are 100% satisfied with the cattery you have visited then it's time to book. If not, go back to your short list and try somewhere else. If there is no where locally you think is suitable then expand your search further afield, a little extra time in the car there and back makes less difference than a week or two spent in an unsatisfactory cattery.
When you book, the boarding cattery should take a written record of your contact details, your regular vet's contact details, someone to contact in an emergency if you are unreachable and your cat's needs including any special diet or medical conditions.
You will need a certificate from your vet showing your cat's vaccinations are up to date. Do not forget to take it with you! If you do not show your certificate, your pet will not be allowed to stay. Click here for more information on vaccination requirements. Keep in mind if you are not asked for proof of vaccination then other clients may not have been either.
Check with the boarding staff what other items you will need to provide. These may include your cat's favourite toys, scratch post, treats or bedding to help your pet feel more at home. Find out whether the cattery stocks the type/brand of cat food your cat prefers or whether you need to bring your own.
Finally, I hope you and your cat have a lovely holiday!
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