My experience in boarding my cats for the first time...FYI I was a HOT MESS.
It's so tempting to bring your cat(s) with you when you want to take a vacation...
So...for some reason, you’re looking to board your kitty/kitties. Be it an emergency that will take you away from home, a little vacation time, or even because you have to pack up your place so you can move.
Then, you ask yourself “what do I need to do in order to find the perfect boarding facility???”
First of all, it all comes down to RESEARCH.
Before I worked at Catnip Inn, I was just a client. I had been searching frantically for a boarding facility for my then TWO kitties, Mac and Sansa. They were my babies, and I was one of those cat parents that wanted the best place for them…I was also that cat parent that took their kitty to the vet even after two sneezes. Yeah, I was bad. Lol.
I searched online for places, took notes, called for tours, and visited the places. First one I visited was a pretty nice place; had a lobby, had food and toys for sale…but one thing that bothered me most was the barking. The space for the kitties were awfully close to the space they had for the dogs, and even with the doors closed, you can hear the barking quite loudly. I saw some of the kitties that were currently there, some of them looked quite scared and right then, that place was crossed off my list.
Now, you may have dogs in your household too and they might not mind it, but if they do, please don’t let them suffer through the barking of other dogs.
The next place I visited was in some a neighborhood that was in a sort of business/housing place. The place had a small home-style feel from the outside and had a small parking area – it was kind of cute at first. Once I went inside, however, I noticed right away how small and cramped the place was. Then, I was shown the kennels…they were so dang TINY. They had bigger ones (but not by much) for a much higher price. You can literally fit one litter box, one bed, and the food and water bowls were cramped into that space…not much else can fit in it.
Next place, the outside looked like it hasn’t been maintained at all, and there was the smell of the trash wafting through the air. I got right back into my truck and called to cancel my tour.
I went to about 3 more places before I finally landed a tour at Catnip Inn.
I was immediately impressed by the sheer size of the place. This was back when Catnip Inn was located in Tangley. The front house was where the lobby and the grooming area was, and there were kitties that you can play and interact with while you waited, it was quite a pleasant atmosphere.
Then, I was led to the first building which also had friendly house kitties walking around. I was shown the last building and saw even more kitties playing with the boarders. It was so nice and clean, and the staff was very friendly to me (I had met Deborah – who is the current General Manager of the place) and she had been the first person to say, “I’m sorry for your loss”.
You see, I was frantically searching for a boarding place for my kitties because my grandfather had passed away and I had paid nearly $5500 for two plane tickets that would take us out of the country. NONE of the other boarding places even acknowledged the fact that I just lost someone near and dear to me. And to make it even more heartwarming, Deborah and Vicki (the owner) gave me a discount because they knew I was going through such an emotional time. So, my choice had been easily made…I chose Catnip Inn!
They had told me what to expect when boarding (reaction to other kitties, feeding times, when they clean, the process), things I could bring, the love and care they provide each boarder, and playtime. Play time was especially important to me. Everywhere else had tried to charge me extra for a few minutes of play time daily; and the more time I would like for my kitties to come out of the kennel to stretch their legs and play around a bit, the more they wanted to charge me. Whereas Catnip Inn told me, “oh, they can come out and play all day until about 4pm when we’d have to start cleaning up”. That was one of my other reasons why I chose the place.
Okay, so…first time boarders, you’re going to have the urge to bring pretty much everything but the kitchen sink.
You REALLY don’t have to do that.
I’m not ashamed of this, but I will admit that I bought a brand-new small litter pan, brand new water fountain, brand new small play condo/tree thing that fit in the unit I had reserved for them, and brand new bowls…I even bought a big bucket of Tidy Cats cat litter (and Catnip Inn already supplied their own litter). The only things that weren’t brand new was the cat bed they liked to share at home, some toys that they were familiar with, a blanket that they snuggle on, and a t-shirt that I wore to sleep the night before dropping them off.
Also, I had their little roller bag that included feeding schedules, their wet food, dry food, even pills should they get anxious! I had a print out of my and my significant other’s contact information. I had even brought extra filters for the dang water fountain. Lol. It was VERY extra.
I was a hot mess. I didn’t want to leave them, but I had a flight early morning the next day and I had to go back home to sleep without them. I was only gone a few days when another disaster struck. This time, it was my significant other’s father who had gotten into an accident and was admitted to a hospital in New York. I had said my goodbyes to MY grandfather at the wake, spent time with my grandmother and other family members, and we left to go back to Houston the next day.
I couldn’t wait anymore, I had picked up my fur babies just 6 days out of the week and a half that I had originally planned. I did something even more extra after that: we flew out with them on the plane. Yup. I took my fur babies to New York with me since we had a place there as well.
So, after coming back to Houston…I couldn’t stop thinking about the environment at Catnip Inn, and seeing that they needed some kennel staff. See, I had been working as a business consultant and I had been flying here and there, but I’ve never had to leave my babies for more than a day or two, and my significant other was always home. I had grown tired of living out of a suitcase. Sure, I was getting paid nearly 6 grand every two weeks, but it just wasn’t about the money anymore. I had made sound investments that gave me a lot of leeway to do whatever the hell I wanted. So…I had quit my job and started working for about 1/20th of what I was making. And I absolutely loved it.
I started getting to know all the kitties that were our “house kitties” those who were abandoned or dropped off to us because we were, at the time, somewhat of a no-kill shelter (we still aren’t, but we aren’t taking any more abandoned kitties).
I wanted to give the boarders the same experience I had, which was updates on how my two babies were doing. So, I took pictures and sent emails to clients who asked for daily or weekly updates. It was so much fun and very fulfilling. I had stopped worrying about old men who had the gall to tell me that women belonged at home in the kitchen, and relaxed and played with kitties during my break times. Kitty heaven!
Back to the whole boarding thing…
There are not much you need to know about boarding, but here’s a list of things that I suggest you do as a first-timer:
1. Research and TOUR the facilities. You don’t want to commit to reserving a unit without having seen the place or how big the units are!
2. Have a good rapport with the kitty staff; don’t hesitate to ask for updates! (It will ease your mind)
3. If your kitty needs meds, make sure that you’re very precise in your explanation to the kitty staff on how your kitty takes it.
4. If your kitty has special needs, make sure the staff are aware of it!
5. If your kitty has been known to be hostile with other cats, please inform the staff that they can only come out if all the other kitties are not around. You do NOT want to be responsible for your kitty injuring another cat.
6. Remember to bring something that smells like home, to ease your kitty into a brand-new environment.
7. Bring their own food and let the staff know their feeding schedule, especially if you have a strict one. However, be courteous. If the place is open only from 9am-5pm, don’t ask for a 9pm feeding. The staff also have lives.
8. Make sure you know the type of unit you’re reserving. At Catnip Inn, there are pictures on the website about how the units look like, with descriptions. The rates are also on the website.
9. Make sure you give a little leeway on the pick-up date. You have no idea how many people suddenly just extend their trips and the unit their kitty is in was supposed to go to someone else after they had left. ESPECIALLY DURING THE HOLIDAYS! Always book a day or two more than your actual pick-up date just in case!
10. If you’re leaving for the holidays…MAKE YOUR RESERVATIONS EARLY! Boarding places get full quite quickly. Especially Catnip Inn! We have our frequent boarding clients make reservations for Thanksgiving in September and for Christmas and New Years starting in OCTOBER.
That’s really about all of it. It’s not that hard to ensure that your kitty has a good experience. Catnip Inn staff are very efficient at their jobs, and they love each kitty that come in to board or get groomed. Our General Manager is quite knowledgeable about a lot of things that relate to kitty care, she’s been a groomer for over 20 years and she was also the co-founder of Catnip Inn.
Remember, if you have any questions regarding boarding, DO NOT HESITATE TO ASK. It's always good to be well-informed than leaving the place with questions nagging on your mind.
Well, folks, I hope you learned something today!
As always, be kind to each other, be kind to animals, love your pets!