Pick the right boarding kennel for your pet

When planning a holiday or short break away, consider your options for a suitable kennel or cattery for your pet.

While you are away skiing down the slopes or enjoying the summer sun, you want to know your pets are safe at home. If you don’t have a friend who is happy to house sit and look after your furry friend, then a kennel or cattery is the way to go. Finding the right facility for the first time can be overwhelming. Here are some tips on what you need to look out for and questions to ask on your first visit.

Visit the facility

Visiting the facility for an inspection and meeting the staff gives you a great opportunity to check out what the company has to offer. Keep an eye out for how clean and spacious the facilities are. If staff refuse to show you the premises, you should take your pet elsewhere. Your pet is a member of your family, so you need to go with a company that holds a comfortable level of hygiene and care for your pet. It is in these cases where you need to trust your gut, especially if something doesn’t feel right. If you don't like the look of it, it is best to speak up or walk away.

Emergencies and treatment

One of the most crucial questions to ask the management is what is their process when it comes to medical emergencies and treatment. Enquire about the protocols and procedures they have in place to help manage emergencies. Often kennels and catteries will be located near a vet or may even have a veterinarian on site. The key factor here is availability. Is 24/7 vet car available? It is often ideal for the staff to have the training to administer pet first aid. This will give you the peace of mind knowing that if something goes wrong, your furry friend will be in safe hands. Ask for a breakdown of costs in the case of a medical emergency.

Staff

While you are chatting to staff, ask what level of training each member of their team has undertaken. You may also ask how many staff will be on duty and how many pets are in the facility at any one time. Typically there should be at least one staff member for every 10 dogs or cats. Ideally, there should also be someone at the facility 24 hours a day in case of emergencies outside business hours.

Inspecting enclosures

When inspecting the enclosures, cages and kennels, keep the following safety and cleaning measures in mind:

  1. When are the enclosures cleaned and are they disinfected?
  2. Do you notice any unpleasant or abnormal smells?
  3. What bedding is provided and what state is it in? You may prefer to bring your pet’s own bedding and toys — ask the kennel owners about their policy.
  4. Are the enclosures sheltered from the weather, such as extreme rain or uncomfortable temperatures?
  5. Is the enclosure safe and can you foresee your pet being able to escape?
  6. Do the areas have enough space for your pet to move, stretch and rest comfortably? Remember dogs need more room than cats.
  7. For cat owners: is there ample space between their food bowls and litter box?

Look for animal identification practices, as is can be easy for staff to accidentally misidentify the animals.

Food

You want your pet’s diet and food hygiene maintained. Most boarding facilities have their own food and nutritional plan. If you are unhappy with what they provide, enquire if you can provide your pet’s own food with feeding instructions. This will cost you extra. Check how the food is stored and ensure the food storage facilities and kitchen are clean and hygienic. Enquire about meal times, when and how often they are fed. Check for fresh water bowls in both the enclosures and play areas. Ask how often they clean the food bowls — ideally this should be after every meal.

Daily routine

Look into what your pet’s daily schedule will look like. Pay close attention to exercise breaks and toileting. Additionally, remember while cats do not require as much social interaction, dogs are highly social animals. Do the staff have a current process they implement when it comes to managing your pet’s stress (separation anxiety)?

When examining the play area, look at how secure the fencing is, ensure no dog or cat will be able to break through. The equipment available should be in a good condition and safe. Meanwhile, the surrounding area should be clean and a decent size. Ask if the play area is shared amongst the animals at one time, and if so how many will be in there.

Some kennels will charge extra for play and activity time, so consider this when booking.

Finally, ask the staff to give you a cost breakdown, including surcharges if you are booking in peak season. You want to know all the inclusions you are paying for as well as any fees for additional services.