A couple of months ago we discussed methods of reducing stress for our pets when they visit the vet. So now let us take it a step further – holiday time! As we pack the car and head off on holidays often our pets also head off on a holiday of their own to the kennels or cattery.

One of the most important things is to research the best place for your pet to stay. Take the time to phone around or perform a web search of facilities in your area. Remember that at busy times such as school holidays and especially around Christmas many facilities fill up well in advance (even as early as 6 months ahead). Chat to the staff and ideally make an appointment to visit the premises prior to booking in.

Things to consider

Consider whether your pet has special care requirements – are they on medication, have mobility or sight/hearing concerns. There are a wide range of types of care available in modern boarding facilities – from the small facilities where your pet essentially lives in the carers home, to large facilities which offer a wide range of options such as grooming or obedience training whilst your pet stay with them. Some facilities let the dogs exercise in groups, this can be great fun for social dogs, but remember that even under the best care and management it is possible for accidents or injuries to occur (and let’s face it these injuries can occur even when dogs are ‘wrapped in cotton wool’ and kept by themselves).

Special requirements

For dogs and cats with special needs ensure the facility are willing and have trained staff to manage the needs. Develop a plan for how to deal with any issues that arise – check if the facility is happy to transport your pet to your usual vet for care, or check which vet they use. Ensure there is an easy method of communication if the boarding facility or vet need to talk to you. If possible provide guidelines re what level of treatment you would like if things do go wrong, for example; if you have cost limits define them, if your pet has a known health issue that may require consideration for euthanasia ensure the facility know what it is.


Double check that your pet is current on any vaccinations required for boarding. This is usually an ‘F3’ (feline herpesvirus, feline calicivirus and feline parvovirus vaccine) for cats and ‘C5’ (canine distemper, canine hepatitis, canine parvovirus and canine cough vaccine) for dogs.

What to bring

When you drop your dog or cat at the facility you are welcome to take a favourite toy or blanket that smells like ‘home’, but please be aware that if your pet is in for an extended stay the blanket or toy will almost inevitably get dirty or even damaged (more so in the case of dogs rather than cats).

For pets with special dietary needs you may need to supply enough of the food to last the duration of the stay. If your pet does not have special needs it may be worth enquiring what type of food the facility use and then you could start mixing a little of that food with their normal food in the week or two prior to the stay to avoid a sudden change in diet.

Reducing stress

Recently a new food for cats has become available on the Australian pet food market – Hills ID stress diet. The diet has been formulated with additives that studies have suggested will reduce stress and stress related gastrointestinal upset. It may be worth considering starting your cat on the diet about 1 month prior to boarding, and supply enough for the duration of their stay.

Pheromone products such as Feliway for cats and Adaptil for dogs may assist with reduction of stress. Some catteries will use a Feliway diffuser in the boarding area, if not you may like to spray the transport cage with some Feliway spray prior to placing your cat in it for transport, and then spray the bedding when your cat is first introduced to their ‘house’ on arrival at the cattery to help them settle in. Dogs may benefit from an Adaptil collar placed 24 hours prior to their stay.

All boarding services will be more than willing to answer any questions or concerns you may have regarding your pets stay with them.