The Classic Comprehensive Handbook of Cat Care


Although many owners would prefer to travel with their pets, cats unaccustomed to travel when young are best left at home. Should you anticipate frequent trips to places where your cat would be welcome, be sure to start taking your cat with you when he or she is a kitten to avoid adaptation problems later. It is often said that cats are very place oriented and resist change in environment. However, cats who are accustomed to being left for a few hours at the veterinary hospital or grooming parlor when young will soon learn to adapt to this situation without exhibiting signs of fear. Likewise, if you leave your cat overnight at the veterinary hospital or a boarding kennel while he or she is still young, the boarding situation becomes familiar. Adult cats will also usually learn to adapt, although the process may take longer.

Should you anticipate frequent trips that will prevent you from leaving your cat at home, it is wise to arrange for a few overnight stays before boarding your cat for long periods of time. Once your cat is fully vaccinated many veterinarians are happy to provide this service, and it is a good way to help your pet learn that a night in the veterinary hospital need not be frightening. Should you anticipate frequent, long (five days or more) separations, be sure the veterinary hospital provides facilities separate from sick animals appropriate for healthy, active pets or select a boarding kennel that will provide adequate supervision and exercise for long stays.

Avoid any boarding operation (including veterinary hospitals) whose proprietors will not allow you to visit the animals’ quarters at an appropriate time. Unscheduled visits are often disruptive to the kennel’s schedule, but it is entirely reasonable to expect a request for a scheduled visit to be honored. Kennel employees should have good rapport with the animals.

Good kennels look clean, smell fresh, are regularly disinfected, and provide safe and secure individual housing for each animal that prevents nose-to-nose contact with other boarders. Cats carry many infectious diseases that are easily transmitted from one cat to another unless the most strict procedures are followed. For health reasons it is often best to mix both cats and dogs in a kennel—a situation many cats unfamiliar with dogs find distressing at first. However, most adapt well if they cannot see or be seen by a dog. Proper housing is also adequately lighted, well ventilated, heated or cooled to avoid temperature extremes, and designed to protect boarders from exposure to the elements.

Owners of reputable boarding kennels will require certificates of vaccination against infectious diseases. They should also inquire about the pet’s usual diet and be willing to feed your pet familiar foods. Drinking water, of course, should be provided at all times. It is also customary to administer medications normally given at home. Kennel policy about toys and bedding brought from home varies; so inquire about it should your cat need some comfort from home.

Another good sign is inspection of your pet for fleas before admission and the requirement that flea-infested pets be defleaed before entry to the kennel. This is an indication that the kennel makes every effort to keep the facility free from parasites.

Finally, the kennel operator should take note of your pet’s veterinarian’s name and telephone number, your instructions for care in case of an emergency, and where you or your legal representative can be reached should a problem arise.

Members of the American Boarding Kennels Association (ABKA), a nonprofit trade organization, pledge to operate their kennels in a manner that meets high standards. If the kennel you select is not only a member but accredited as well, it has had to pass an inspection.

Professional pet-sitting services have developed in many areas as an alternative to boarding kennels. Also many veterinary clinics have staff members who pet-sit part-time. When the cost is not prohibitive, use of these services is an excellent way to leave a pet at home when you must be away. Even if well adapted to boarding, many pets are happier in the familiar surroundings of home. Also, home stays avoid the ever-present danger of acquiring infection or parasites in a boarding kennel, even a well-run one. Ask your veterinarian for names of reputable pet-sitting services in your area.