Do your research
Finding someone to look after your cat whilst you’re away is worrying. Whilst you might be excited and looking forward to going away, you probably don’t want to leave your furbaby behind. Most people prefer to use a cattery or a cat hotel rather than rely on neighbours or strangers to visit their home while they’re away because they know their cat will be safe.
Boarding facilities vary considerably so you may wish to visit a selection of catteries and cat hotels to get a better feel for them and a feel for what you really want for your cat. Seeing a cattery or cat hotel in person will answer any questions you may have. It can give you a ‘feel’ for the staff and how they will be with your cat. If you’re not happy with a place it’s very likely that your cat won’t be either. All boarding facilities are inspected and licensed by the Local Authority and considered fit for purpose against a set of standards. However, there can be big differences in the standards and doing your research, reading reviews, getting recommendations and seeing somewhere for yourself will give you a good understanding of what you and your cat really need.
Prices vary between catteries and cat hotels. It’s important that you fully understand what’s on offer for the price so that you can choose the most suitable establishment for your cat’s welfare and comfort and budget accordingly.
Some catteries only allow cats to arrive and depart at specific times. Smaller catteries and cat hotels are often more flexible, offering appointments and times to suit both the customer and them.
Your relationship with your cat
Most owners worry that their cat will resent them for leaving him or her behind. Make sure you choose a cattery or cat hotel that understands your fears and worries and puts your mind at rest when you ask this question. You will get a sense for the passionate cat lovers running establishments for the benefit and comfort of the cats and those who are just running a business.
What you need to bring
Every licensed cattery or cat hotel will need to see a copy of a recent vaccination certificate before your cat will be allowed to board with them. They will also need to know when your cat was last treated for worms and fleas. Some catteries may not provide scratch posts, beds or toys whilst others will have all of these and more besides. Another great reason to visit is so that you can see the facilities on offer. All establishments will require your cat to be transported to and from the cattery or cat hotel in a secure carrier.
Most establishments offer a choice of wet and dry food and will try and feed your cats the same as they have at home. Some don’t provide food and it’s for you to take sufficient for their stay. Make sure you check thoroughly what your chosen cattery or cat hotel does regarding food and nutrition. Don’t be tempted to choose a different brand because you think it’s more expensive. The last thing you want is for your cat to have an upset stomach while you’re away. Minimising stress is key to a successful stay for your cat so keeping as much as possible the same as at home is imperative. Some catteries and cat hotels offer a choice of succulent fresh morsels of fish or meat at an additional cost. If your cat is used to these things in their normal diet at home then it’s nice to include one or two of these meals. If your cat doesn’t eat these things on a regular basis think carefully or you may end up with your cat having very bad diarrhoea.
Most boarding facilities don’t provide vet prescribed food or special diets and you may be asked to provide enough for the duration of their stay.
If your cat is not used to staying away then a trial stay may be a great help for both you and your cat. Cats do take a while to adjust to changes in their routines and their environment. Therefore, a trial stay really ought to be for a minimum of 4 days to give your cat the best opportunity to adjust. Nervous and anxious cats take a while to settle and are often reluctant to eat. If they are only booked in for a day or two it is unlikely that they will have time to adjust. The more time they have the better for your cat because they will be able to get back into their usual feeding and toileting routine and get to know their carers.
Prepare your cat and avoid stress
Getting yourself ready for your trip normally means suitcases are out and there are changes to your cat’s usual home environment. Your cat probably thinks your suitcase is a great new place to sleep and doesn’t yet have their scent on it. We think our cat either wants us to pack them or that they are just determined on getting fur all over our clothes. If you are packing whilst your cat is still at home, try to do so in a separate room or, if possible, pack after your cat has started their holiday. That way they will leave the house when everything is calm and normal and they won’t suspect a thing!
Use a suitable cat carrier
Cat carriers are a little bit like suitcases – we only get them out when something is happening. To help minimise your cat’s stress, get their carrier out a few weeks before you’re going away. Check to make sure it is safe and secure and ready to be used. Then leave the carrier somewhere your cat can sniff at it and use it for a bed if they choose. If your cat is familiar with the carrier, they will be much happier and far less stressed when it comes to using it. If your cat is still wary of the carrier and stressed it’s a good idea to spray the inside with a pheromone spray such as Feliway or Pet Remedy to help them relax.