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Tips for Boarding Your Cats

Updated on February 24, 2008

Cat lovers face a difficult choice whenever they travel: What do you do with your pets while you are out of town?

If you will only be gone for a day or two, you can leave your cats home alone—as long as you can trust them not to throw any wild parties. But, seriously, I don’t mind leaving my cats home alone for one or two days every once in a while. Any longer than that, and I have to find another option.

First of all, your cats need fresh food and water. Second, there is the whole litter box issue. Unless there is a way for the cats to get in out of the house to use the backyard as their toilet while you are gone, you don’t want to leave them with a litter box that hasn’t been cleaned out. If your cats are strictly indoor cats, then you have even more restrictions when it comes to the litterbox. You might consider purchasing one of the self-cleaning boxes, but this still doesn’t mean you can leave your cats with the run of the house for more than a few days. Third, your cats will miss you while you are gone. A cat who feels abandoned is worse than a woman scorned. You have no idea what surprises you will come home to if you leave your cats home alone for too long.

Freya likes to sleep underneath things...
Freya likes to sleep underneath things...
...while Benny likes to let it all hang out.
...while Benny likes to let it all hang out.
Don't let that face fool you, she loves the attention.
Don't let that face fool you, she loves the attention.

If you are going to be out of town for more than a couple of days, you have three options:

1. Hire a pet-sitter;

2. Enlist a friend, neighbor, or family member to stop by everyday; or,

3. Leave your cats at a pet boarding facility.

Hiring a Pet-Sitter

First of all, I think this is a fabulous idea if you can find a reliable, trustworthy pet-sitter who won’t charge you a fortune. I’ve personally never hired a pet-sitter, but I have worked as a house-sitter where taking care of the pets was part of the deal. If you choose to go this route, make sure to check references or use someone highly recommended by a friend. You don’t want to give just anyone access to your home and your cats.

Enlisting a Friend, Neighbor, or Family Member

This is another fabulous option for those who can get someone to do this favor. Not only do your cats get to remain comfortably at home, but they have someone they are already familiar with taking care of them. My aunt and uncle have a neighbor who always watches their pets when they go out of town, and the favor is reciprocated when the neighbor goes out of town. The key to this, however, is finding someone whose schedule is flexible enough for this to be convenient them. If your friend lives across town, works full time, and has a busy social schedule, it probably won’t be easy for her to work your cats into her agenda. For the sanity of everyone involved, including your cats, make sure the situation will work.

Boarding Your Cats

Taking your cats to a boarding facility isn’t an easy decision to make. Not only can it be pricey, but you also have to take your kitties out of their comfort zone and leave them in a weird place with strange people. As well, boarding facilities aren’t cheap. Still, there are many advantages to boarding your cats.

The first time my husband and I left our cats for longer than two days, we decided to board them. We had just moved to a new part of the city, so we didn’t know any of our neighbors. Plus, it was over the holidays, so all of our friends and family were busy. Neither of us felt comfortable hiring someone we didn’t know to come into our home and care for our cats. We were planning on spending a week in California, so there was no way we could safely leave our cats home alone that long. Even if it would be possible to leave them with enough food, water, and litter box arrangements, you still have to worry about other situations, like a fire or your cat getting sick/injured.

Once we made the decision to board them we still had to figure out where to board them. When you are choosing a cat boarding facility, there are some factors you should include in your decision:

  • Price: You definitely need to find something you can afford. Call, visit, or check prices online for all of the different facilities you are considering. Be sure to ask about any extra fees. Some places offer discounts if you board more than one cat together.
  • Security & Location: You want to make sure that your cats will remain safe while they are boarding. Choosing between a small place on a dark street or a well-established place in a lit shopping complex can make all the difference. Before we boarded our cats, I had narrowed the choices down to two places. One was smaller, but I really liked the owner and how she treated all of the cats in her shop (they board animals, but also have a small pet store and pet rescue shelter). The other option was located inside of huge pet store. I chose the huge pet store because I felt like my cats would be safer there during non-business hours. The smaller place had a storefront located on the street, and had been broken into the year before.
  • Staff: Be sure to visit the boarding facility before you make your choice so you can meet the staff. If they are friendly and willing to answer all of your questions, you will feel more comfortable leaving your cats there. If the staff seems impatient answering your questions, chances are that they don’t understand just how valuable and important your pets are to you. As well, check to see if the facility is staffed 24 hours a day, or not. The place we chose didn’t stay open to the public 24 hours a day, but they were fully staffed at all times.
  • Air Ventilation: If you are considering taking your cats to a facility that boards other pets too, like dogs, than you will want to find out whether they offer separate air ventilation for the cat boarding areas. Your cats will already be nervous about being left at the facility, but smelling a bunch of strange dogs can really agitate them.
  • Food: Find out what kind of food the boarding facility has available. If it isn’t something your cat will eat, or if your cat is on a special diet, the facility should be able to accommodate you. If they don’t seem willing to do so, then you should choose a place that will.
  • Veterinary/Emergency Care: If your cat becomes sick or injured, you want to be sure that the facility either has a veterinarian on-site, or access to a local clinic. Be sure to provide the facility with your cats most recent records, as well as the name of your veterinarian. In fact, if the facility doesn’t require these things from you (especially proof of vaccinations), I would seriously recommend finding a different place.

It shouldn’t be difficult to find a boarding facility that meets all of your needs and alleviates your worries. In fact, pet boarding has become very popular—you can find them almost anywhere. From pet hotels to cat resorts to doggy daycares, your options are always growing. Just be sure to make your reservations well in advance, so you can be assured that your cats will have a spot.

Pet Hotels, Kitty Resorts, It's Like A Vacation!

When the day came for us to take our cats to the pet hotel, I was nervous. I was afraid they would be miserable for their entire stay. I made sure to take their favorite toys along, as well as a blanket they like to sleep on (it stays on our bed, so it also smells like us)—I hoped that these things would make the cats’ stay more comfortable. The staff was very friendly and kind when dropped our cats off. They allowed me to watch as the cats were introduced to their new surroundings, and I was impressed with how well they handled our pets.

My husband and I were able to enjoy our week in California, knowing that our cats were being taken care of. I have to admit that I was tempted to call and check on them at times, but knew the staff would call me if there were any problems. When we went to pick our cats up, I was happy to find out that they had adjusted well (and both ate a ton of food). As we were leaving, a man came in with his two daughters, two cats, and one dog. I overheard him say that he had boarded all of his pets with this place before. The next time we head out of town, I will feel comfortable leaving my cats there.

Honestly, feeling comfortable is the most important thing. If anything about a facility turns you off, you shouldn’t dismiss that instinct. A lot of people consider their pets as a part of their family, so definitely make the best choices for them.


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      L. B. 8 years ago

      Thanks so much for the different option, it is good to know there are good options out there to ease your mind about the safety care of your pets. I have always had the help of people to care for my pets while I am away. I no longer do. Again thaks so very much for this site.