As a pet owner, at some point you are likely to face a situation where you will be unable to care for your cat or dog personally. This can be anything from holidays abroad, to travelling for work, to hospital stays. Using a kennel or cattery can be a good way to manage your pet’s care in a safe and secure way. This guide aims to help you with choosing a kennel or cattery, how to prepare and what to expect.
Choosing a Kennel or Cattery
1. Find potential kennels/catteries in your area
Some pets, especially cats, can find travelling tough. Start by looking for options near you; you can expand your search later if need be.
2. Create a short list with a few key questions:
Can they accommodate your cat or dog for your chosen dates? The more notice you give the better, as the best kennels and catteries are often booked up months in advance.
How much will it cost? Check the pricing for each one as costs can vary. There may be extra fees in winter for heating, or discounts if you are providing your own food.
Are they properly licensed and insured? Ask them! You can also check when you visit as their current certificates should be on display, including their Local Authority licence and premises insurance.
Can they accommodate any special needs? If your cat or dog needs medication, has mobility issues or needs a special diet, now is the time to check the kennel or cattery is happy to help.
3. Visit your short list. Always visit the kennel or cattery before you book - whilst websites and brochures can give you an idea, nothing beats actually seeing the place in person. Any good kennel or cattery will be happy to have you visit, but check the opening hours in advance in case there are times blocked off for routines such as feeding or settling new arrivals. When looking around, check:
The pens are well-built, well-maintained and escape-proof. Ideally, they also have lots of natural light with good ventilation.
The sleeping quarters have room to stretch. For a dog you are looking for 6ft wide or more.
Cats do not have to share a pen unless you specifically request it for strongly bonded cats.
The cat pens have a cosy bed, scratch posts and a shelf for napping on and toys to play with, or the cattery allows you to bring your own.
The kennel or cattery has heaters which allow the pens to be safely heated. Environment
There are places for exercise and freedom, whether it is an indoor or outdoor kennel or cattery.
The kennel or cattery isn’t too noisy: lots of barking can be hard for both dogs and cats.
It is extremely clean with no bad smells.
The animals already there look happy and relaxed.
The staff make you feel welcome and are happy to chat to you about your cat or dog’s specific needs.
There are enough staff members to cope with the kennel or cattery being full and have a high level of interaction with the animals in their care.
They insist all pets are vaccinated – if they don’t ask about your pet, they may not have asked other owners either.
They have a vet on call.
Once you are 100% happy, then it’s time to book! When you book, the boarding kennel or 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 pet’s needs including any special diet or medical conditions.
Preparing your pet
A Few Weeks Before
Trial stay - if your pet has never stayed at a kennel/cattery before, consider a trial stay for a day or overnight several weeks before you go. This will help your pet to get used to the kennel/cattery environment and realise that you are coming back.
Familiarise your cat or dog with their basket/ carrier - leave the carrier out at home, and consider either feeding your pet inside it, or put some treats in it to create positive associations.
Scenting the pet carrier - scenting the carrier can help provide reassurance for cats. Gently rub their cheeks with a soft cloth when they are relaxed then rub the carrier with this cloth at cat face height. This puts the scent from the facial glands around the carrier. For a dog put in an old blanket or used clothes to create a sense of familiarity.
Check the food type provided at the kennel/ cattery - if it is not one you use, consider providing some of your own for the first few days.
Give them Zylkene - a calming supplement like Zylkene can help them cope with changes. Ensure you’ve started administration several days before they go. Bear in mind many dogs and cats will learn to associate signs such as appearance of suitcases or pet carriers with these events, and this should be considered when deciding when it’s best to start.
On the Day
Allow plenty of time to take your pet to the kennels or cattery. If you are in a last minute panic and pushed for time, this will be communicated to your pet which can worry them.
Take familiar things. If the kennel/cattery allows it, take your pet’s bed and/or toys with them or consider providing a worn item of your clothing to reassure your pet with familiar scents. However, be warned it may be chewed during the stay.
Remember your paperwork, supplements and medications. Take your pet’s up to date vaccination certificates (you may not be allowed to leave your pet without it), as well as a written or typed list of your pet’s ailments, medications, food intake and food, and other special requirements. Include your vet’s details as well. If you are using Zylkene to keep your pet calm, make sure you include the capsule with your pet’s belongings. Have it continued daily during the stay, and stop when your pet is settled back into their normal routine at home.
Scent the pen. It can help a cat to relax if you scent the pen once you reach the cattery. In a similar way to the cat carrier, gently rub their cheeks with a soft cloth when they are relaxed then rub the new pen with this cloth at cat face height. This puts the scent from the facial glands around pen. You could also consider using a pheromone collar on a dog.
Be relaxed. When you leave, be cheerful and matter-of-fact rather than consoling to avoid worrying your pet.
Bringing Your Pet Home
Check the pickup time. To reduce the changes in routine from comings and goings, kennel and cattery owners often limit the time owners collect and drop off their pets to specific times.
Get back into a routine as soon as possible. This will help your pet to feel secure and act normally. Do not change your behaviour or overcompensate, as this can cause them to react differently to you.
Continue with Zylkene. If you are using Zylkene to keep them calm, keep going until they are more settled.
Don’t worry. Your pet might act a little differently for a few days after coming home. Remember, they have been in an unfamiliar environment without you and that can be challenging. Just give them a little time and they will be back to their normal selves in no time. If their behaviour persists, contact your vet for advice.