Choosing a cattery
There are two main options for your cats if you go away on holiday and cannot take them with you: pet-sitters and catteries. Ideally, it would be more comfortable for our pets to have cat sitters; enabling them to remain in their home environment when we go away or are on holiday and have to leave them in the care of another. The majority of cat owners, however, have to rely on boarding catteries for the care of their animals while they are away. The experience is always going to involve some stress for your cat, but by taking care in choosing a cattery, this can be minimised, ensuring that your pet returns to you fit, happy and healthy after its stay.
Are catteries inspected by any regulating body?
Catteries should comply with 'The Model Conditions and Guidance for Cat Boarding Establishments' and be licensed by the local council. To maintain their license, they should be inspected by the Environmental Health Department once a year. A veterinary inspection may also be required. They have to comply with regulations relating to pen size, hygiene, feeding and standards of care as well as environmental issues. However, this license relates only to a minimum standard of care and aims to maintain basic welfare and prevent disease transmission. It should not be used as the sole basis on which to select a cattery.
How do I know if the cattery is a good one?
The best way of finding out about a cattery is by personal recommendation from a previous user or from your vet. Local groups online may be able to help with personal recommendations from cat owners in your area. There are some publications which might help you in making your choice, such as The Good Cattery Guide or the Yellow Pages, but the advertisements in these are compiled by cattery owners themselves and there is no official rating procedure. The International Cat Care charity advise cattery owners on standards of care and also have some information for owners on what to look for in a cattery on their website.
Can I visit the cattery before I book my pet in to stay?
All good catteries should encourage visits from prospective clients before they book in their animals. A visit provides an opportunity for you to meet the cattery owner, discuss your cat's requirements and to gauge for yourself the standards of care and the welfare of the residents. It's a good idea to visit the cattery during normal opening hours without an appointment. Good cattery owners should be happy to show you around and let you see the cats they have staying in their pens or outdoor areas.
What should I look for in a cattery?
There are general things to look for such as the overall cleanliness of the premises. The enclosures should be secure (to stop your cat from escaping) and large enough to provide an indoor sleeping area and an outdoor exercise area. The walls of the exercise area should have barriers (preferably full height) between each enclosure to prevent the spread of disease and should never be communal. Ask if there is any temperature control for the sleeping area: heating is essential; air conditioning might be useful in summer. Also check the cleanliness of the food and water bowls. Finally, ask about the litter trays - are they regularly checked for droppings and cleaned? It is also a good idea to check that the cats are monitored frequently rather than just being left to their own devices – do they keep records of whether they have eaten and toileted, and do they have a daily check for any signs of ill-health?
Could my cat catch diseases from the other cats?
There is some increased risk to your cat by being near other cats, but this can be minimised by ensuring that your cat is up-to-date with her vaccinations and she goes into the cattery in the best of health. Good catteries will have their own vaccination requirements. Usually, all residents must be fully vaccinated against feline panleukopenia (enteritis) and cat flu. It is also advisable to make sure that your cat is protected by some form of flea protection. Solid partition walls between cats, avoiding any communal cat areas and good hygiene in the environment and amongst staff are all important in disease prevention. All catteries should be registered with a local veterinary practice in case cats become unwell during their stay. If you prefer, you can provide the cattery with details of your own vet if it is local.
My pet needs medication, can they still go into a cattery?
Many catteries will be happy to care for your pet if they are in general good health but require regular routine medication, such as pain killers for arthritis or even insulin injections for diabetes. Catteries are much less able to take on pets with potentially contagious diseases. Any medication requirements should be discussed in detail beforehand with your vet and the cattery. For high-dependency animals, your vet may be able to make boarding arrangements within the veterinary clinic or hospital to reduce worries about serious problems developing while you are away.
Will my two cats be housed separately?
Many catteries will let cats from the same household who are bonded share a pen/run so that they do not have to be separated.
How can I make my cats stay as enjoyable as possible?
Try to choose a cattery that is close to your home to avoid a long journey for your cat. Take your cats own bed/bedding so that there is something familiar for her to sleep on. Your cat's favourite toy from home provides something for her to play with whilst she is confined. Most cats are very adaptable and settle very readily into the change of environment. If you go away frequently, try to use the same cattery so that your pet becomes more familiar with the environment. Remember to book early especially for popular holiday periods – popular catteries will get their spaces reserved far in advance.
Boarding catteries are usually run by cat-loving people who are committed to keeping your pet safe and happy whilst you are away. Taking some time to find a cattery which suits you and your cat will ease the stress of separation for both of you and ensure your cat is in the best hands to remain healthy and happy.