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What To Look For in a Cat Boarding Facility: Vet Approved Tips & Red Flags


Mar 30, 2023
cat boarding


cat boarding
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Some cats can spend several days on their own as long as you give them plenty of water and food. However, if you’re going away for more than a few days or long-term, boarding your cat at a nice cat boarding facility is ideal for most cat owners.

However, how do you know if a cat boarding facility is “nice” or if it’s the exact opposite and will scar your poor cat for life? To help, below you’ll find tips and advice about what to look for in a cat boarding facility, including any red flags that should send you running in the other direction.



1. Excellent Online Reviews

These days it’s incredibly easy to find out about a cat boarding facility simply by “Googling” the place and reading the online reviews by its clients. Yelp, Facebook, Angie, and Trip Advisor allow people to review cat boarding locations. You want to see as many stellar verified reviews as possible, with high marks all around. Pay close attention to reviews that seem well detailed, describing the entire process in great detail, including names of staff, dates the service was used, overall experience, reasons for choosing the particular business, and so on. If you don’t or, even worse, see many negative reviews (a big red flag), move on to the next cat boarding facility.

Young woman with cat working on computer at table
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

2. Vaccinations Should Be Required

Cats are prone to several health issues that can be transmitted from one cat to another, including some that are deadly. Feline Panleukopenia (also known as cat parvo), FURD (feline upper respiratory tract diseases), and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) are just three communicable cat diseases that can make your cat very ill. That’s why it’s critical that any cat boarding facility you choose has strict requirements for vaccinations and up to date parasite control (example: flea drops, dewormers).

3. Look for Friendly, Cat-Loving Staffers and Employees

One thing you must do before choosing a facility to board your cat is to go to the place and meet all the people that work there. Take a few minutes to talk with everyone on staff that you can, from the owner down to the person who cleans the enclosures. They should all be genuinely nice, caring people who adore cats and will take care of yours as if it was theirs. Is this a perfect solution to ensure the facility is top-notch? No, but it comes close if you’re a good judge of human character.

4. You Shouldn’t Hear any Barking

Barking from dogs is common in boarding facilities, and many board dogs and cats (and even some other pets). However, barking is highly stressful for the average cat and can cause anxiety, fear, and depression. When visiting the boarding facilities, listen intently for noises like barking and anything else overly loud and disturbing. If you can hear dogs or loud, constant noises, consider that a red flag and keep looking.

Large and small dogs in daycare or boarding facility
Image Credit: Jayme Burrows, Shutterstock

5. Smelly Cat Boarding Facilities are a Big Red Flag

As you probably know, cats have a keen sense of smell and can be bothered by strange or potent odors. That includes the smell of feces and urine, which can irritate the cats. However, some smells are normal in any boarding facility. You want to watch out for places where the odor is very strong or overwhelming, which means that they don’t clean up well, have poor ventilation, or are short-staffed and can’t keep up. One or all of these are red flags.

6. Look for a Boarding Facility That’s Fully Licensed and Insured

No matter which state you live in, all have licensing requirements for cat boarding facilities within their borders. Also, most states require the facility’s owners to have adequate insurance. It’s well within your rights to ask for proof of both and the facility’s latest inspection. If they can’t provide all the documents to prove they have insurance, a license, and their latest report, consider that a big red flag.

7. Look for a Facility that Trains Its Employees and Staff Well

Several people usually work at a cat boarding establishment, from the owners to the folks who care for and clean up after the cats. All of these employees should receive training from the establishment to properly handle and care for the cats in their care. How can you determine if the location you want to use trains their people? Ask them to show you or tell you about their training program, what it entails, and who gets trained. Even a cat boarding facility staffed with volunteers will usually have some training program in place, at least if they’re a quality facility. The company or facility’s online platform should also contain information and proof regarding staff training.

woman holding and stroking a purring cat
Image Credit: Gadzick, Shutterstock

8. Does the Boarding Facility have Close Contact with a Local Veterinarian?

Even the best boarding establishments will occasionally have a sick or injured cat on their hands. What they do with your cat when it gets sick or injured is an important question. You should look for a location that works closely with a local vet or, even better, has one on staff. That way, if something occurs that jeopardizes your cat’s health, you’ll be sure that veterinary help is nearby.

9. How Nice Are the Cat Enclosures?

Not all cat boarding facilities are created equal. Many factors make one cattery better than the other, and most have to do with the experience your cat goes through while staying there. To that end, a good cattery will have the following features in its cat enclosures:

  • Large enclosures that are big enough for your cat to move freely
  • Multi-level enclosures so your cat can roam around
  • Windows for your cat to see the outside world
  • Comfortable, dry bedding in each enclosure
  • Unlimited water
  • Plenty of toys to play with
  • An outdoor play area so your cat gets some sunshine

Please note that while you’re away, it is very normal for your cat to be stressed. A good facility may offer your cat some privacy in lieu of an outdoor experience or a window view to help calm them down. This should be considered as a positive instead of a negative, as your cat may not appreciate the outdoor amenities offered. Adapting services to your cat’s needs is a sign of a great facility.

10. Does the Boarding Facility Have Webcams in Place to See Your Cat?

Webcams aren’t an essential feature of a good cattery, but if you adore your cat(s) and want to see it while you’re away, they can be beneficial. With a webcam, you can see your kitty anywhere in the world as long as you have an internet connection. It might not help your cat, per se, but seeing that your cat is OK while you’re away is great for your peace of mind. Webcams with audio are preferred, as they offer you a way to talk to your cat while you’re away. The sound of your voice might provide your homesick cat with some much needed reassurance.

Image Credit By: Evgeniya Sheydt. Shutterstock

11. Does the Cattery Have 24-Hour Staffing?

This last possible red flag is one many cat owners overlook. Some facilities have staffers on-site 24/7, 365, but many don’t. The ones that don’t are the problem, of course, due to what could happen in an emergency. A facility that doesn’t have 24-hour staffing isn’t an immediate red flag, but you should be sure to ask what their procedure is in an emergency. That way, you can decide whether it’s adequate or not.


Good Questions to Ask a Cat Boarding Facility

All of the tips and red flags above can be helpful. However, if you want to interview the staff at the facility you’re considering, the questions below will be beneficial and provide valuable insight into their operation.

  • Can dogs be heard or seen from where the cats are housed?
  • How large are the cat enclosures? (The bigger, the better.)
  • Do cats get any outside time when being boarded?
  • Should I bring my cat’s regular food with me when they’re for their stay? (They should say yes and in fact encourage it)
  • How often are the cat enclosures cleaned? (At least twice a day is the best answer for enclosures that are in-use.)
  • Are cats required to use the outside area with other cats? (Most cats don’t like this at all.)
  • Is there an extra charge for your cat to get playtime with an employee?
  • Which local veterinarian do they use in case of medical emergencies?



If you’re going somewhere where your cat can’t follow along, the best option is to hire a cat sitter to come to your house, if possible. A stay at a boarding facility might be stressful for your cat. Cats are naturally territorial, and a sudden trip to unfamiliar territory might not be something your cat would appreciate. However, if such services aren’t available, you should opt for a cat boarding facility. Never leave your cat alone at home for extended periods of time such as a vacation thinking they will be able to care for themselves without any supervision.


Final Thoughts

Boarding your cat while you go away is, for many cat owners, the only option they have. If that’s you, the tips and red flags we’ve presented today can mean the difference between your cat having a pleasant, life-enriching experience or being traumatized for several days or weeks. Strong odors, barking dogs, small enclosures, and negative online reviews are some of the red flags, but there are, as we’ve seen, several more.

It’s vital to do your due diligence and research before placing your pet in the hands of strangers. Whichever cat boarding facility you choose, we hope your cat has a healthy, happy time and returns to you in better shape than when you left!

Featured Image Credit: Bussakorn Ewesakul, Shutterstock

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