The aim of this article is to help you:
- Make a well informed cat or dog boarding choice for the security, health and happiness of your pet and,
- Feel confident that you've found a pet accommodation solution that your dog or catwill thrive on.
Pet dogs and cats: two thirds of Australian households
Australia is a nation of pet lovers, with dogs and cats our preferred animal companions. According to statistics published by the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA), almost two thirds of households share their homes with pets. Of these, more than a third have dogs and just under a third,cats.That is why we're focusing on your canine and feline best friends, in this article.
Quality pet care: we owe it to our dogs and cats
While the phrase pet owner doesn't sit comfortably with all animal lovers, 'owner' gives weight to the critical responsibilities that come with giving your pet good quality of life.
Responsible pet owners prioritise the needs of their animal companions, along with their own. Pets are family members. Studies have highlighted the physiological and psychological health benefits of animal companionship to people, families and communities. In return, we owe it to our dog and cat companions, to provide safety, comfort and affection.
Leave your pet in safe, professional hands while you're away
Regardless of how much you adore your pet, it is not always possible to take them with you. A much anticipated holiday, or work or family commitment or emergency may leave you wondering how to go about finding and leaving your pet in excellent care while you're away.If you genuinely care about the welfare of your dog or cat in someone else's care, keep reading!
Why choosing a quality boarding kennel experience is important
Your pet is an important part of your life - they're a confidante, a best friend. You want them to be safe, happy, and to have their physical and social needs met, or exceeded.
Family or friends may be willing to mind your pets.Unfortunately, asking for a favour may not be so favourable for your dog or cat.
Here are just a sample of reasons why an informal pet minding arrangement may not be in your best interests, or those of your pet:
- Obligation doesn't mean good pet care: A sense of obligation may leave your pet in a situation where animal care is not a priority, and may even feel like a chore. Your pet will absorb tension, particularly in a less familiar environment.
- Security isn't tailored for your pet: The physical environment may not be secure, or comfortable for your pet. A fretting animal will try to find a way home, if there is one to be found.
- Relationship risk: if something were to go wrong, the pet minding favour may become a lifelong regret, one that impacts your relationship.
Dogs and cats thrive in consistent environments where their physical, social and psychological needs are met. A change in environment is a key trigger of stress for dogs and cats. As with humans, stress can have negative impacts on their immunity, and in turn their health.
Minimise pet stress while you're away
Your pet will experience stress in a new environment, initially. If that new environment is safe, comfortable, clean, and easy to understand (has routine) and provides opportunity for social interaction, a healthy companion animal will adapt positively.
Stress will diminish quickly in the right environment.
Finding a good quality boarding kennel or pet minding facility will reduce stress for you, and your pet. It may even be fun!
What is a boarding kennel or pet minding facility?
A boarding kennel, cattery or pet minding facility is a purpose built accommodation or minding service for dogs, cats or both. The facility may provide a range of services from pet minding, overnight or extended pet boarding, grooming, training, exercise and feeding. Depending on State and Local Government regulations, at a minimum, a boarding kennel is required to provide:
- Public liability insurance cover
- Management of the welfare and wellbeing of animals – including feeding; supply of fresh, clean water and hygiene management
- Veterinarian services by agreement with a provider
- Animal attendants trained and experienced in animal welfare
- Monitoring of animal health
- Exercise, based on the duration of the pet's stay
As with any business, the quality of care and facilities will vary immensely. A search of your local business directory, or online,will return pages of choices.
The purpose of this article is to help you find and shortlist, choose, prepare for and experience the best boarding or pet minding options.
Choosing a quality pet accommodation option is also about you. If you feel confident that your pet is in caring and experienced hands, you can then refocus. That could mean focusing on enjoying your holiday, or attending to the needs of the situation that has taken you away from home.
So, how do you find a quality cat or dog boarding service? Let's start with how to locate boarding kennels or pet minding services.
1: How to find quality pet minding services
Reputation built from customer experiences, is by far the safest way to make a decision about finding quality pet minding.
There are a number of sources that can help you determine a shortlist:
- Ask a fellow animal lover: Happy customers are a good indication of a quality pet care provider. Ask a fellow pet owner for their recommendations.
- Speak to your trusted veterinarian or pet or animal association: In Australia, an association such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), or your pet's vet may offer recommendations.
- Contact a local animal trainer: A reputable trainer or animal handler will have contact with many local pet owners and may be well placed to share their, or their customers' experiences.
- Customer testimonials: Customer testimonials – both online and offline –are worth exploring. Consider calling the kennel or cattery to ask if you can speak to one of their customers directly. Social media commentary may be worth reviewing too.
- Live video: Transparency in a pet minding services' operations is a sure way to gain the trust of pet owners. Some of the more prestigious boarding kennels and pet minding services are offering live video camera viewing online.That means you can see exactly how pets in their care spend their day.
Never make a choice based on marketing images and content alone. Many of us may be all too familiar with choosing holiday resorts based on promises via glossy images (taken a decade ago), only to turn up and feel bitterly disappointed.
Unlike a holiday destination, you will most likely be looking at pet minding or pet accommodation services that are commutable. Invest time in planning to visit your shortlisted options, with the checklists below in mind.
2: How to decide which pet accommodation is best for you and your pet
Below are a couple of handy checklists to guide you in making a considered decision for the welfare of your pet,outside of your care. Keep these in mind when you plan your visit.
- Designed for animal comfort
Appears clean and calm: A quality boarding kennel will have a daily schedule for cleaning and sanitisation. On visiting the kennel, the odour shouldn't be offensive. Visual evidence of pet faeces and urine should be absent or 'fresh', not old. While putting animals together will naturally create excitement and activity, it should still feel calm and ordered.
Bedding appears clean and comfortable: Raised bedding allows for ventilation, easy cleaning and is kind on pets' joints. Bedding should be clean and comfortable.
Climate control: The energy, wellbeing and hydration levels of pets - like humans - are impacted by temperature and humidity. Climate control tailored for cats and dogs of varying ages and needs is ideal. Air purification systems are an added bonus.
Easy access to fresh, clean water: This is a non-negotiable.If not evident, strike the pet accommodation off your short list immediately.
Feeding choices and schedule is clear: Meal schedules and options should be made clear from your initial enquiry. Some pet accommodation services will let you bring food. Check that any special dietary requirements can be accommodated.
Flooring is clean, non-toxic, designed for drainage and easy to disinfect: Ideal flooring for dogs and cats is an impermeable material (for example durable, epoxy coated flooring) with minimal joins and designed with drainage in mind for easy and quick cleaning. Flooring that is easily hosed down, and then able to be dried quickly, is hygienic animal flooring.
Lighting is close to natural, or is natural: In their natural habitat, dogs and cats won't be saturated in artificial lighting. Indoor lighting should mirror natural lighting to provide optimum comfort for your pets.
Play and exercise is a priority: Play and exercise tailored to your pet's temperament, age, gender and health indicates quality pet care.
Privacy: Cats are naturally private in toileting. A cattery should provide private kitty litter areas or boxes, and sleeping area. A large, outside run for dogs' exercise and toileting is an essential feature for canine comfort.
Protection from weather, easy to access: Your dog or cat needs to be able to move out of the weather with ease. Easy access to a shady spot on hot days, or a warmer spot in the chillof winter, will minimise stress for your pet,optimising their health.
Safety: Toxins such as cleaning chemicals, or sharp objects should not be anywhere in reach of the animals.
Security: Overnight surveillance should provide protection for animals in the case of an emergency, such as a natural disaster. Working fire and smoke alarms should be evident for times when pet supervision is not available.Identification collars may be provided for pets during their stay, for added security.
Stress minimisation is a priority: Design that caters for separation of petsbased on their needs – such as climate control, weather protection and separate sleeping spaces and runs,will help minimise stress and noise factors. Offering sleeping suites suitable for the size of your pet is a positive indicator of commitment to comfort. Hygienic materials such as tempered glass, resin sealed flooring and fiberglass reinforced plastic are evidence of considered pet care and health.
Ventilation is healthy: Draft free, fresh air is essential for maintaining a healthy environment for pets, staff and visitors.Effective ventilation provides protection from the spread of odours and airborne illnesses. Raised bedding is also an important consideration in healthy ventilation.
- Boarding kennel staff are professional, friendly and experienced
A warm welcome: When it comes to caring for your four legged loved ones, first impressions do count. The way that staff approach you, is likely to reflect the way they will interact with your pet. A willingness to answer questions openly is also a positive indicator.
Business opening times, rates and terms and conditions are crystal clear: To experience a stress free time away from your adored pet, you need to understand exactly what you're up for, before you book your pet in. Opening times for dropping off and picking up your dog or cat are important for planning ahead. Public holidays and weekend hours may affect when you can board, or take your pet home.
Cares about your pet's temperament: Taking time to understand your dog or cat's temperament means that staff members can then tailor your pet's stay to suit their, and the animals around them, stay. Find out if the kennel offers a complimentary few hours or day stay to assess your pet's temperament before boarding.
Demonstrates experience and professionalism: The best pet minders or boarding kennels are managed by staff that genuinely love animals and care for your pet's welfare. Explore the level of experience and pet care demonstrated by the staff. Ask about training and development of the staff. The facilities and the reception areas should appear clean and orderly.
Health and emergency procedures are clear: Procedures relating to health concerns and emergency procedures should be clearly communicated. For example, do they have an agreement with a 24 hour, seven day a week veterinarian, and how will you be notified and charged?
Health records are required: You want to be comfortable that your pet will be holidaying among healthy animal peers. Under industry codes of practice for boarding establishments, you must show evidence of current vaccinations.
Provides an easy to understand boarding agreement: A good quality pet care provider will be easy to do business with. A clearly articulated boarding agreement should be provided, or talked through, before you commit to a booking.
Quality supervision is evident: Check the credentials of the pet boarding facility. Are the staff handling the pets calmly and confidently? Ask about their processes for identifying that your dog or cat is unwell, and how they go about getting help for your pet.
3: How to prepare your dog or cat for boarding
Congratulations! You've done your homework and found accommodation for your pet that you're happy with. Here are 5 steps to prepare your pet for their boarding holiday:
- Request a quote and payment terms: Contact the boarding kennel, cattery or pet minding service as early as possible to avoid the disappointment of being told there are no vacancies. Request a detailed quote, including the payment terms.
- Check if a vaccination or pest treatment is required prior to boarding: If your pet hasn't been treated or immunised for some time, you may need to arrange this a couple of weeks before boarding. Check the policies of the pet minding provider.
- Find out what you need to do when you bring your pet in: Make sure you agree a suitable drop off time, and bring a leash or carrier to transfer your dog or cat to their pet accommodation. Confirm everything you need to bring, including vaccination and health related records, medications, food, bedding, a favourite toy or item of your clothing, a leash or carrier for safe transfer of your pet to an animal attendant. Check the amount of the deposit that you will need to have ready to pay.
- Find out the process for picking up your pet: Plan your drop off and pick up dates according to your schedule, and the hours of business operation of the boarding kennel. Make sure you understand the process should something happen that requires someone else to pick up your dog or cat, or if your dates change.
- Don't feed or water your pet too close to boarding: Stay with your pet's usual routine before dropping them off at their pet accommodation. Don't give them an extra meal, or encourage them to drink more water beforehand. That 'kindness' could result in an upset tummy – not a good start to their pet holiday! And try to hold back tears or lashings of extra affection, your pet will absorb your emotions.
4:How to pick up your pet from boarding for a happy reunion
Hopefully the experience has been a positive one for everyone involved. Picking up your pet should be a cheerful reunion. When it comes time to bring your pet home, the following tips will ensure a smooth, joyous greeting:
- Plan to pick up your pet during operating hours: This means pet minding staff can ensure your pet is ready to go home, with minimal disruption to other animals and less stress for your pet.
- Plan for a secure reunion – bring a safety restraint: Lap up the lashings of affection your pet will greet you with. You don't want to risk your pet's safety in the excitement of your reunion. Have a safety restraint ready to escort your dog or cat from their pet holiday accommodation to your vehicle, and then home.
- Food can wait: If your pet has been in good care, there will be no need to feed them outside of their usual meal times. Knowing that dogs and cats will experience stress with a change of environment, it is best to let them settle back into their home environment for a few hours before feeding them, to avoid digestion issues.
5: How to assess the pet minding experience for next time
If you've chosen a professional, safe, caring dog boarding kennel or cattery,you will find that the staff will be eager to provide you with helpful feedback on your pet's stay.
Make sure to ask how well your dog or cat settled in and what the main challenges were, if any. This will help you plan for future pet accommodation or pet minding needs.
Your pet's appearance, grooming, temperament, health and behaviour ― once they've had time to settle back in their home environment― will be testament to the quality of care provided. Checking for the appearance of healthy faeces, as unappealing as that sounds,is a good way to confirm the health and stress levels of your pet.
If you have any concerns at all, make sure you contact the boarding kennels to find out more about your pet's stay. If you have any serious health or behavioural concerns (your pet's, not yours!), contact your local veterinarian for advice.
If your animal buddy is the same pet that you checked in, and appears healthy and content, chances are your careful research paid off. It also means that both you and your pet, will look forward to your next holiday apart!