You took in your pet, maybe as a pup or a wee little kitten. Maybe you found him as a stray or rescued him from a shelter. Since then, you have given him nourishment, a home and love. He has easily become a member of your family and you have a hard time remembering what life was like before him.
Now your family is going on vacation and your new addition, for one reason or another, can’t go with you. Maybe your hotel doesn’t allow dogs. Maybe your Aunt Mae already has a dozen cats in the house and can’t take in yours, too. Maybe a pet-sitter is out of the question because your chocolate lab is too energetic to stay indoors alone most of the day and there is 3 feet of snow outside covering his doghouse. Whatever the reason, you need to find a place to board your pet.
For many pet owners, choosing a boarding facility can be one of the hardest and most difficult decisions to make. Leaving your dog or cat at a kennel is not very different from leaving your child at a daycare. You know you’re coming back for them and you try to reassure them in everyway possible, but you still feel a huge amount of guilt knotted up in your chest. I’ll let you in on a little secret — just like children in a daycare, your “baby” will stop her crying almost as soon as you walk out the door. The key is to carefully select your boarding facility just as you would you child’s daycare. I’ll share several tips in this 2-part series to help you make your selection.
Remember this is not a decision to make in a week. Sometimes things come up suddenly and unexpectedly, but as soon as you know your plans, you should start looking for a kennel. Better yet, before you look into getting a pet, you should have a good idea about the services your animal will need and have a vet, a groomer and a kennel lined up.
The happiness of your pet will depend on any number of things. Some of the following tips may or may not apply to your pet. Just find the ones that do apply and go from there. Decide which ones are the most important and start whittling down your list of options until you reach the one that will make both you and your pet happy.
The number one, most important thing you can do is to ask for referrals. Pull out a notepad and ask other family members where they board their pets. Ask your friends, your co-workers, and your veterinarian. If you have your pet groomed, ask your groomer. Oftentimes, a groomer or veterinarian has boarding facilities within the same building. While you’re asking around, don’t just get a company name. Ask your friends “why” they board their pets there. Another good question to ask is where they would NOT go and why. This doesn’t mean you need to immediately cross that facility off your list. It just means to take the information and use it for future reference. Maybe one person can do nothing but sing high praises about “Xyz Company” while someone else refuses to do business there. You may also want to check with the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against any kennels on your list.
Next, make a list of attributes concerning to your pet. The ones listed below pertain to their relevance to the boarding facility itself and it’s available accommodations. In “Part Two” of this article, I cover everything that goes on inside the boarding facility such as certifications, staffing, medications, etc.
Is he usually an indoor or an outdoor animal? Cats are usually kept indoors. However, if you have a dog, consider the area he would be most happy in. Some facilities have either indoor or outdoor small fenced areas for individual dogs, otherwise called a “run”. Some facilities have both. If you don’t mind an outdoor run, see if it is covered. If not, is there shelter of some kind. Consider the conditions during different times of the year and in all types of weather. Ask yourself, “Would (Fido) be happy here if it was (hot, cold, snowing, raining, windy)?” If the runs are all indoors, is the area climate controlled? A lot of dogs in one large room in the middle of summer can get very hot. Does the facility offer air conditioning?
Is she active? Let’s say you chose a facility that has only indoor accommodations. If you have a playful cat, She is not going to be happy cooped up in a cage all day. Consider a larger cat “condo” instead of a standard cat cage. Cat “condos” are usually used if two or more cats are boarding together. Check to see if there a “play” area she can run about to stretch her legs. This “playtime” may involve an additional fee so be sure to ask about it when you call around.
If you have an active dog, a cage would be out of the question. Even a small dog would be miserable in a cage if she suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and is constantly pacing all the time. Be sure your kennel has indoor runs available. They are much larger than a cage and allow for freedom of movement. Some standard run sizes are 3’x8′ and 4’x8′.
How big is your dog? Does he need a lot of space? This goes along with the previous question. If your dog is large, he is not going to be happy in a cage. Many cages are equipped with removable sections allowing for two cages to be made into one larger cage. While some larger breeds, like greyhounds, might be content in those snug surroundings, this situation does not allow for a larger dog to stand up comfortably, if he can stand up at all. Check on the availability of runs. If your dog is very large, or, if you have 2 dogs boarding together, you may want to opt for a larger 4’x8′ run. A Great Pyrenees cannot easily turn around in a 3’x8′ section.
Is she a social animal around people? How about with other pets? Some facilities, especially those that board animals together, require “auditions” or “interviews” with your pet before accepting them for boarding. This is to judge your pet’s temperament. Some facilities will not accept aggressive animals for boarding. If your dog or cat does not do well with people, find out up front if a kennel will board them. Please do not withhold the information. Someone could get severely hurt by tending to your aggressive pet unprepared. If your pet is only agitated when someone touches her head or feet or tail, share the information. Maybe she is only cage aggressive or food aggressive. Maybe she just doesn’t like for people to move her bed. The more information you can share about your animal, the happier everyone will be.
If your pet is a dog, can she be around cats? Can your cat be around dogs? This is especially important if the kennel does not have devoted “cat space” and “dog space”. Cats get a bit ruffled if all they’re hearing and seeing is dogs. Sometimes cats don’t like seeing other cats! Once in a while you’ll find dogs and cats that get along. But just to be on the safe side…look for a kennel with separate dog and cat areas.
Now that we’ve reviewed several topics to consider when researching boarding kennels and their accommodations, please take a moment to read the second part to this article, “Choosing The Right Boarding Facility For Your Pet (Part 2 of 2)” which covers staffing, certifications and services offered by kennels. Also included is a list of questions to ask the facilities themselves and conditions to look for while visiting a facility.