Choosing a cattery

It would probably be less traumatic for our pets to have ‘cat sitters’; enabling them to remain in their home environment when we go away or are on holiday and have to leave them in the care of another. The majority of cat owners, however, have to rely on boarding catteries for the care of their animals while they are away. The experience is always going to be variably traumatic for your cat but by taking care in choosing a cattery, the stress can be minimised, ensuring that your pet returns to you fit, happy and healthy after its stay.

Catteries should comply with ‘The Model Conditions and Guidance for Cat Boarding Establishments’ and be licensed by the Local Authority. To maintain their license they should be inspected by the Environmental Health Department once a year. A veterinary inspection may also be required. They have to comply with regulations relating to pen size, hygiene, feeding and standards of care as well as environmental issues.

There are some publications which might help you in making your choice, e.g. The Good Cattery Guide or the Yellow Pages, but the advertisements in these are compiled by cattery owners themselves and there is no official rating procedure. The best way of finding out about a cattery is by personal recommendation from a previous user or from your vet. The Feline Advisory Bureau (FAB) advise cattery owners on standards of care and produce a list of establishments they approve of. A guide called ‘Choosing a good cattery’ is also available from the FAB.

All good catteries should encourage visits from prospective clients before they book in their animals. A visit provides an opportunity for you to meet the cattery owner, discuss your cat’s requirements and to gauge for yourself the standards of care and the welfare of the residents. It’s a good idea to visit the cattery during normal opening hours without an appointment.

There are general things to look for such as the overall cleanliness of the premises:

  • The enclosures should be secure (to stop your cat from escaping) and large enough to provide an indoor sleeping area and an outdoor exercise area.
  • The walls of the exercise area should have barriers (preferably full height) between each enclosure to prevent the spread of disease.
  • Ask if there is any temperature control for the sleeping area: heating is essential; air conditioning might be useful in summer.
  • Also check the cleanliness of the food and water bowls.
  • Finally, ask about the litter trays – are they regularly checked for droppings and cleaned?

There is some increased risk to your cat by being near other cats, but this can be minimised by ensuring that your cat is up-to-date with her vaccinations and she goes into the cattery in the best of health. Good catteries will have their own vaccination requirements. Usually, all residents must be fully vaccinated against feline panleukopenia (enteritis) and cat flu. It is also advisable to make sure that your cat is protected by some form of flea protection.

All catteries should be registered with a local veterinary practice in case cats become unwell during their stay. If you prefer, you can provide the cattery with details of your own vet (including your cat’s reference number, if appropriate).

Try to choose a cattery that is close to your home to avoid a long journey for your cat. Take your cat’s own bed/bedding so that there is something familiar for her to sleep on. Your cat’s favourite toy from home provides something for her to play with whilst she is confined. Most cats are very adaptable and settle very readily into the change of environment.

Many catteries will let cats from the same household share a pen/run so that they do not have to be separated.