Choosing a boarding kennel or cattery – what you need to know

Despite the existence of the Pets Travel Scheme, it is only a minority of owners who take their pets with them on holiday. For most people, leaving them at home is the only practical option if they plan to travel. As a result, there are now a whole multitude of boarding kennels and catteries available, as well as Pet Sitting services. In this blog, we’re going to look at how to choose the best hotel for your pet, so when you get a holiday, so do they!

So, what should I look for? 

There are three key questions you need to know the answer to before you commit to a kennels or cattery:

1) Will my pet be safe?

There is always a risk for any cat or dog in an unfamiliar area – physical safety. While at home they probably navigate uneven steps, wobbly paving slabs and unsecure fences without thinking, in a new environment any dangerous features pose a higher risk, because they are less familiar with the environment. Other than avoiding injury, it’s important to make sure that the place is secure – you do not want your pet to be able to make a bid for freedom and get lost in an unfamiliar part of Greater London! Fortunately, our in-house kennels were completely refurbished in 2009, so they’re as safe as houses (literally!).

The second major risk is that of disease. Any reputable kennels (including ours) will require all guests to be fully vaccinated against the killer diseases (Parvovirus, Distemper and Infectious Hepatitis), and most will need evidence of Leptospirosis and Kennel Cough vaccines as well. Likewise, catteries should ask for evidence of Cat Flu and Panleukopenia vaccination, and some will ask for Feline Leukaemia jabs too. There should also be suitable measures taken to prevent the spread of any other disease that might accidentally come in – for instance, solid barriers between animals to minimise the spread of infections, and good hygiene standards.

Of course, however excellent the facilities, the staff and the management, accidents and illnesses do happen. It is really important that any cattery or kennels has a working relationship with a good local vets to make sure that in the event of an unexpected medical issue, they can get their guests seen to whenever necessary. Our Chingford site, for example, has the unique benefit of having a vet on site, which means in an extremely rare event of a medical emergency, your pet can be treated without delay.

2) Will my pet be relaxed?

To be honest, most pets do not like being away from home – but there are many things that the kennel or cattery can do to make it less stressful. For instance, cats should usually be housed individually or in their family or friendship groups, and not able to see any other guests. While cats often prefer to be left to themselves in a cattery, dogs are very social animals and need human contact, so the relationship the staff have with their guests is paramount.

A toy or blanket from home can also help dogs and cats to relax in a new environment. If all the guests in a boarding establishment have exactly the same fittings and blankets in their kennels or pens, it suggests that they aren’t allowed to keep anything from home. While there may be good reasons for this, it is a cause for concern in most situations.

Although we provide all of our pet guests with their own warm, soft bedding and baskets, owners are more than welcome to bring along their pet’s favourite toys and treats if they wish.

3) Will my pet be comfortable?

All animals need food, water, space to display normal behaviour and shelter from inclement weather. This applies just as much (if not more) in a kennel or cattery as it does at home. While you would obviously expect every animal to be fed properly, it’s important to make sure that water bowls are kept topped up, and that dogs have access to an outside space to run and play. If the weather is hot, there should be cool shady places provided (or air conditioning); in cold weather, there should be warm spots to snuggle up in.

Our Chingford kennels offer spacious, heated and comfortable accommodation, each with its own integral covered, outdoor run; while the cats are housed in the comfort of their own split-level chalets, providing a cosy upper sleeping area with individual heat lamps, a lower level play area and a cat flap leading to a covered outdoor run. Glass panels allow the cats to view their surroundings and help create a very relaxed atmosphere in the building. We stock a wide range of dog and cat foods to cater to every taste, too!

If the answer to any of these three questions is “no” – don’t take them there!

How do I find this all out?

The most important thing you can do is to visit and ask questions. If a boarding kennels or cattery won’t let you visit, be suspicious! Even a casual glance will often tell you that there is loose fencing, or doors that don’t shut, or other physical hazards. You can also question the staff about their vaccination and veterinary policies.

If when you visit, the dogs are all howling; or the cats are hissing and snarling, you can take it as read that they aren’t relaxed – and that it is likely (although not of course certain) that your pet wouldn’t be happy either. Likewise, if the cats are shivering in a draught, or the dogs panting in the heat with no way to escape, comfort obviously isn’t on the top of the staff’s list of concerns.

It’s also vital to make sure that you check the premises’ license – all boarding kennels and catteries must have a license from the local authority. If it is not on display, they are breaking the law – and if they break that law, don’t trust them.

You can also learn a lot about how good somewhere is by asking other people who’ve left their pets there – are there any reviews of the place? If so, make sure that they are operated by an independent body (e.g. Trustpilot or VetHelpDirect), meaning that the owners can’t just delete any negative ones.

What about Pet Sitting?

This has become increasingly popular in recent years – the idea is that even as you jet off into the sunset (or whatever!) your pets can stay at home and be looked after there. However, when looking into pet sitters, exercise caution – especially around hygiene, as many infectious agents can be carried from one house to another on the sitter’s clothing. The main advantages of pet sitters is that your dog or cat can stay at home in their own familiar environment; however, the disadvantages include more limited human contact (our staff, for example, love to go in and play with our guests through the day), and the fact that you have to allow a stranger into your home. Make doubly sure you check, and follow up any references before giving anyone your house keys, let alone your beloved pets!

This may seem a daunting list, but there are many excellent establishments that will give your pets a pampered holiday of their own – of course, we’d like to push our Chingford kennels and cattery here, but there are others (almost) as good. Not forgetting your small animals and exotics, they need a holiday too! Our Chingford premises also cater for rabbits, guinea pigs, tortoises and birds.

One last piece of advice though – when you find your dog’s Dorchester or your cat’s Claridges, make sure you book early, because they rapidly fill up!