How To Choose The Right Cat Boarding Facility
When you're heading out of town and need someone to mind your cat, a cat boarding facility is an obvious choice. But with so many facilities to choose from, each promising to care for your cat as if they were a member of their own family, how can you choose the right cat boarding facility?
More importantly, once you've chosen a boarding facility for your cat, how can you ensure that your cat is being well treated? Unfortunately, cats haven't (yet) evolved to the stage where they can tell their owners exactly what a boarding facility was like. Until that happens, read on for some simple ways to know if your cat is being well-treated at a cat boarding facility.
How To Choose The Right Cat Boarding Facility
Open for Tours
Your first criteria for any cat boarding facility is that the staff welcome prospective clients to visit and tour the facilities on any day. If a boarding facility does not allow tours or restricts access beyond the front office, take that as a clear warning sign. What is it that they don't want you to see? A reputable, well-run facility will have nothing to hide and will welcome new visitors and allow them to take a tour at their convenience.
Happy, Relaxed Cats
When you tour the facility, you should see happy, relaxed cats in every enclosure. Look for cats relaxing, snoozing in the sun, playing with toys, or calmly resting. If the cats currently boarding in the facility seem happy and unstressed, there is a good chance your cat will be as well.
Be alert for any stressed behaviors shown by the cats currently in the facility, including cats hiding behind bedding or in the back corner of their enclosures, cats obsessively grooming, or cats displaying any signs of aggression.
Photo Updates and Webcams
Some boarding facilities will be more high-tech than others, but all facilities should be happy to provide regular updates to concerned pet owners during their cat's stay. Whether it be photo updates by text or email, a private Facebook group with photos and videos, or even a 24/7 webcam so you can watch your cat at any time, you'll know your cat is being treated well if you can receive regular updates and photos.
At the very least, the staff at the facility should encourage you to phone or email at any time with questions or for a simple update on your cat's wellbeing.
Change can be difficult for anybody, and many cats find it hard to settle into a new environment for the first few days. The cat boarding facility you choose should have specific procedures in place to help new cats settle in, including more personalized attention during those first few days. If you get a blank look when you ask about their settling-in procedures, you may like to look elsewhere.
Clean and Pleasant Smelling
The first thing you should notice when you tour a cat boarding facility is the smell - or lack thereof. Boarding facilities should have clear procedures in place to keep the premises looking clean and smelling fresh, no matter how busy they are or how many cats they're currently caring for.
If you notice a strong smell of urine or feces - or an unusual number of flies - take that as a clear sign that hygiene is clearly lacking.
No matter how large the facility or how many cats are boarding at any time, every cat in the facility should receive personalized attention every day. The staff should ask you what kind of daily grooming or playing your cat enjoys, and should be happy to brush, stroke, or play with your cat every day.
You'll know whether this is occurring by asking questions when you phone to check your cat, or when you pick them up at the end of your trip. The staff member you speak to should be able to tell you about specific interactions they've had with your cat that you can verify from experience - such as your cat enjoying being brushed on a certain area of their body, or enjoying playing with a toy in a specific way.
You also may be able to tell by the state of your cat and their possessions when you collect them. If the brush you sent clearly hasn't been used, or the toy obviously hasn't been played with, or your cat's hair looks matted and ungroomed, that's a good sign that your cat hasn't been receiving any personal attention.
No matter how beautiful the facilities are, the success of a cat boarding facility ultimately comes down to the staff. These are the people who will be caring for your cat day and night and ensuring the health, safety, and happiness of every cat within the facility.
All staff at the facility should be well trained and have a clear love for cats. If you find yourself speaking to someone who sounds bored, distracted, or disinterested, it's time to look elsewhere.
Every reputable cat boarding facility will have an emergency veterinarian on-call 24 hours a day, ready to handle emergencies, injuries, and illnesses. Staff should ask you to sign a form consenting to emergency treatment being administered at any time, even if they can't get hold of you. The last thing you want is for treatment to be withheld from your cat in an emergency simply because you were unable to be contacted at the time.
It's also a good idea to ask where any sick cats are kept within the facility. Sick cats should never be housed with well cats and should either stay at the veterinarian's office or be quarantined in a completely separate area of the facility.
If your cat is on medication for any reason, the staff at the boarding facility should be perfectly happy to administer the medication to your exact requirements. The staff should also ask you for the contact details of your local veterinarian in case they have any questions about your cat's specific condition or medication. If these questions are routinely asked without any prompting by you, you'll know you've made a good choice.
When choosing a cat boarding facility, never made a booking without visiting the facility yourself first. A company's website may look amazing, but that is more of a testament to the web designer and copywriter they hired to create the website - not to the facilities themselves.
The only way to truly know how your cat will be treated at a boarding facility is to visit the facility personally. While you're there, take in everything around you and make special note of the specific points mentioned above.
Finally, go with your instincts. If you feel your cat would be happy and treated well at a particular facility, make the booking. More importantly, if alarm bells are ringing and you have reservations about a place - even if you can't put your finger on why - go elsewhere.