Cats are animals of routine – they get used to life at home and like things to stay that way. Disturbing the ‘norm’ by taking them to a cattery will inevitably cause some stress for them, so to stop your holidays being ruined by worrying about your fluffy friends back in England, it is important to be sure that your cat will be as happy as possible on his or her ‘holiday’.
Choosing a cattery can be quite daunting. There are often several in the area and adverts in the Yellow Pages don’t give much indication of quality. Friends can often recommend a place, but really the best idea is to visit the cattery yourself, have a good look around and ask lots of questions. If the proprietor won’t let you see the premises, go elsewhere. Make sure the place seems clean and tidy, and that the cats in residence are content and relaxed.
At an outdoor cattery, the cages have an outdoor run (usually covered) with an insulated enclosed sleeping area. Indoor catteries may seem more cosy, but there tends to be an increased risk of viruses and bacteria spreading from cat to cat in an enclosed area. As most cats also like some access to the outside, outdoor catteries are generally preferable. However, check for noise in the area – barking dogs at an adjacent kennels can cause a lot of stress to a cat in a strange environment.
The sleeping area should be insulated, water proofed and have some means of heating – heat pads under the bed, which can be adjusted according to the outside temperature and the individual cat’s needs, work very well. The run should be large enough to exercise in, have an interesting view, toys to play with and a shelf for resting or sunbathing on. If there are ramps and ladders between the sleeping and exercise areas, be aware that old or disabled cats may struggle to get around.
The individual cages must be separated by a gap of at least 2 feet or have a solid barrier (often clear glass or plastic) between them to act as a ‘sneeze barrier’ to prevent disease spread. There must not be a common run used for exercise by different cats, even at different times. The cages should also open onto an enclosed ‘safety passage’, so that there is no risk of cats escaping when the cage door is opened.
Every cattery should have a license from the local authority and up to date vaccinations against cat flu and enteritis should be compulsory. A good cattery owner will ask for lots of information about your cat – its eating habits, likes and dislikes, any particular foibles it might have, and whether it will need grooming (which may cost extra). They should also ask about any medical problems and take the name and telephone number of your regular vet. If your cat requires any medication or special diet you will need to bring that with you – make sure you check that the cattery knows what is required and is happy to do it.
It is important to leave either a contact name and number for your destination, or the details of a friend or relative who can make decisions on your behalf if your cat becomes unwell. If your cat is very elderly or suffering from a terminal disease, it may be wise to discuss your wishes with the cattery, in the unhappy event of your cat becoming very ill or even dying whilst you are away.
Good catteries get booked up very quickly – especially around school holidays – so it is important to arrange things well in advance. Vaccinations should be given at least 3 weeks before entering the cattery. When it comes to the time to take your cat along, take a piece of bedding with the smells of home on it for comfort, use a sturdy plastic or wire carrier (not card board!!) and remember any special food or medications.
In summary, it cannot be emphasised enough how important it is to visit a cattery before you book it, checking that the cages are well designed, clean, dry, well separated and quiet, and that the staff are friendly, caring and well informed about how to look after your treasured puss. If you do all that, then hopefully your cat will enjoy its holiday as much as you enjoy yours.