All boarding facilities once took both dogs and cats, but more feline-only facilities are now springing up. Here’s what to consider when boarding your cat.

If you’re going away for the holidays (or any other time) and can’t find someone to care for your cat, you may consider boarding him at a facility or veterinary clinic. But what if your kitty is scared of dogs? Isn’t the stress of being in a strange place high enough without the bedlam of barking dogs adding to his anxiety?

When you board your cat, you expect her to be cared for properly. At the most basic level, this means food, water, shelter and monitoring. But there are now many places that go far beyond a sterile room lined with metal cages where both cats and dogs are kept in close proximity. Nowadays, you can find cats-only boarding facilities that are often more like feline resorts, with music, picture windows, comfortable bedding and plenty of attention.

Gwen Sparling of Camp Kitty in Atlanta, Georgia, says that cats appreciate having their own place to stay that’s centered around a healthy feline’s needs. “They may be around sick animals in a vet’s clinic, and they can smell what is going on,” Gwen says. “They understand a lot more than some people give them credit for.”

If you opt for a traditional kennel rather than a veterinary clinic, your cat may still be surrounded by dogs. But cats-only boarding facilities offer a homelike atmosphere that’s totally canine free, minimizing stress for feline guests. Owners of these facilities agree that having a dedicated place for cats makes for a calmer environment. “With an all-cats boarding facility there is no stress of barking dogs or even the scent of dogs,” says Bonnie Anthony, owner of the Cat’s Cottage Inn in New Richland, Minnesota. “Even when dogs are in another area, the cats can sense them. Many of my customers remark on how peaceful it is here.”

Bonnie further promotes a tranquil environment with music. “We play classical music on the stereo system, and at night I have a special CD of soothing music just for bedtime,” she says.

Dedicated feline facilities have sprung up all around the United States and Canada as more cat lovers recognize their advantages, and more business owners realize it’s a sizeable market to tap. When seeking one in your area, there are several things to look for. “You can do your initial search on the internet, but always follow up with an on-site inspection,” says Josie, manager of A Country Cat House in Miami, Florida. “The website may look good, but you need to check it out thoroughly in person before entrusting your cat to their care.”

What to look for

  • Cleanliness: There should be no noticeable odors, and the entire facility should be scrupulously clean. The best facilities clean litter boxes as soon as they are used and maintain a spotless atmosphere.
  • Living areas: Make sure your cat will have his own living area. If you have two or more cats, are there larger enclosures in which they can be kept together? Camp Kitty, for example, has some enclosures with connecting doors so “family cats” can have access to each other. “Another big selling point is the height of our enclosures,” Gwen says. “They are 6½’ tall so cats can jump up and stay high if they prefer.”
  • Climate control: The facility should be kept at a comfortable temperature. It’s a bonus if the level in individual living areas can be controlled.
  • Dietary accommodations: The facility should be willing to accommodate any special dietary needs your cat may have. If necessary, you should be able to bring your own food. A growing number of facilities offer healthy natural foods made by premium manufacturers.

Owners of these facilities agree that having a dedicated place for cats makes for a calmer environment.

  • Individual attention: Your cat should get individual playtime and affection every day. “Some places charge extra,” Gwen says, adding that activity time is included in the cost at Camp Kitty. “But each cat is an individual, and some may decide they just don’t want to be touched. Then the owner is paying for a service that isn’t really needed. We go by each cat’s personality and what he is comfortable with.” Many cats-only boarding facilities will customize their services for a cat’s particular needs. For example, a “Snuggle Safe” warmer can be used in a cat’s bedding at Cat’s Cottage Inn. Bonnie says this is especially helpful for older cats. When Bonnie has long-term boarders for a month or more, she makes every effort to help them feel at home. “We give them extra attention every day. We often have them come out into the office area. They can hang out in the rocking chair or just lie on the desk and get a lot of extra chin scratches and attention. The long-term boarders become just like family to us.”
  • Veterinary care: The facility should have a veterinarian on call 24 hours a day to handle emergencies. Some facilities will perform procedures such as administering fluids, while others will only do basic care like giving pills. If your cat has special medication or supplement needs, make sure you choose a place that can accommodate them.
  • Licenses and professional affiliations: Cat boarding facilities should be properly licensed to do business in their county or city, says Josie, depending on local requirements. She adds that potential clients should ask about any professional affiliations. For example, A Country Cat House is accredited by the Pet Care Association. “Find out if they work with any local rescue groups or other animal-related organizations,” Josie says. “That will give you an idea of the type of people running the business and their commitment to cats.” She also recommends talking to the workers. “Meet the people who will be taking care of your cat. Cats are sensitive animals, so you should be sure you’re comfortable with the people who will be providing your cat’s care. Find out how long the caretakers have worked there. The best facilities have long-term employees who are truly committed to their jobs.”Josie also recommends asking for references, searching for online reviews, and checking for complaints with the local Better Business Bureau. “With the internet, word spreads fast,” she says. “Use Google to see what people are saying about a particular place before you use it.”

Many facilities offer special amenities such as on-site grooming, all-natural foods and products, deluxe window views and spa treatments.

  • The vaccination issue: On the down side, many boarding facilities for both cats and dogs still require up-to-date vaccines, and will not accept a titer test in lieu of them. However, some will accept a veterinarian’s note if there is a medical reason not to vaccinate a cat, such as age or chronic illness. You may have to do some extra searching to find a facility that will accept cats that haven’t been annually vaccinated.Many cat boarding facilities offer special amenities such as on-site grooming, all-natural foods and products, deluxe window views and spa treatments. Cat’s Cottage Inn even has a “cat taxi” pick-up and drop-off service to transport felines within a 30-mile radius of the facility. Special perks are nice, but the main consideration is finding a safe, comfortable, low-stress environment for your cat. When making your final choice, Gwen advises going through your checklist and then paying attention to your gut feelings. “Look at the cats that are being boarded there,” she says. “How are they acting? Do they look nervous or relaxed? You can tell a lot by what you see, so follow your instinct and you’ll pick the right place.”