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Planning Retirement Online

The Cattery lottery


Belinda Brown advises on how to choose a cattery

My first experience was a bad one. I’d left Gus, my beloved cat, at a cattery near where I lived when I went abroad for a week – and it wasn’t until I got him home that I realised he was running a high fever. 


I rushed him to the vet, who hastily administered an antibiotic injection. Without that he might have died. He had caught a viral infection, which could well have been avoided if the pets in the cattery hadn’t shared a run. Predictably, the cattery didn’t want to admit liability – and it would have been almost impossible to prove. Next time, I told myself, I’ll choose my cattery with greater care.


But how do you choose? Catteries are advertised in the Yellow Pages, local papers, cat magazines, pet shop windows and, often, your local veterinary surgery. It can be tempting to go for the cattery nearest to where you live, but this isn’t always the wisest option – as my sad experience bears out. And while personal recommendations are worth having, only you know what will suit your own cat.


What to look for

  • Indoors or out?  Catteries are generally classified as indoor or outdoor, depending on where your cat will spend most of its time.

  • What kind of sleeping area? Outdoor catteries offer individual units enclosed in a fenced ‘cage’. The sleeping area will sometimes be accessed by a solid ladder – this may not be the best option for elderly or infirm cats, who may find the ramp difficult to climb. Indoor catteries will often be built along the lines of a hotel, with individual units opening off a central corridor. They may also consist of separate units housed within an enclosed building.

  • What kind of welcome? Any cattery worth its salt will welcome a visit from a prospective client. The staff should show a genuine interest in your cat, and it’s worth asking how much daily attention it would receive.

  • Are the residents happy?  Try to take a peep at the boarded cats. Do they have things to keep them stimulated, like scratching posts or an interesting view? Check whether you can leave toys and bedding with them (most catteries encourage this).

  •  Nice surroundings?  The whole environment, including the gardens, should be well cared for, and everything in the cattery – surfaces, litter trays, feeding bowls – should be scrupulously clean. The cattery should have its own kitchen area.

  • How’s the security? Every cat run on the premises must be protected by double doors or a safety passage running the entire length of the units. A few cats manage to escape from poorly organised catteries every year – make sure yours isn’t one of them!

  • Separate living quarters are best. “By mixing together, cats get into fights and disease can spread much more easily,” says Gill Waldron of the Feline Advisory Bureau. “If your cat is housed outside, its unit should be separated from other units by either a gap of at least two feet or a full-heightsneeze-barrier. This must be of solid, and preferably transparent, material. Indoor units, too, should be separated by impervious barriers.”

  • Access to daylight and fresh air is important. It’s highly advisable for indoor catteries to provide outdoor runs – again separated by full-heightsolid barriers – to prevent your cat breathing only shared air, which is more likely to spread infection.

  • Warmth and comfort. Units should be properly insulated, and it’s worth asking what material they’re lined with – fibre glass or polypropylene would be good options. Your cat should be confined to its sleeping quarters at night, and a sun shelf should be provided. Thermostatically-controlled heating, which can be adjusted to the cat’s requirements, is advisable as well – especially for outdoor catteries.


Book in advance


Once you’ve chosen your cattery, don’t wait until the last minute to book. If it’s a good one it will probably be popular, particularly during peak periods.


A well-run cattery will want to know all about your cat – its name, age, dietary requirements and so on. You will need to leave a contact name and telephone number and, preferably, the name and number of your vet in case of emergency.




All catteries will require your cat to be vaccinated against feline upper respiratory disease (cat flu) and feline infectious enteritis.


One vaccine covers both types of disease but, if your cat is being vaccinated for the first time, it will need to have two injections, three to four weeks apart. After that it will require one annual booster. It’s very important to keep your cat’s injections up-to-date as, without a valid record of vaccination (issued by your vet), a cattery would be fully justified in turning your pet away.


What to pay


In general you can expect to pay at least 5.00 a day, which should include meals. Catteries in large towns may well charge more. Some catteries charge less per cat if you book in more than one. There will be an extra charge for certain services, eg administering medication.





  • forget your cat’s certificate of vaccination

  • wash bedding before you take it – this would remove its familiar smell

  • feed your cat before its journey – it may be sick!

  • carry a cat in your arms – it may escape

  • transport a cat that isn’t in a secure carrier by car.


The alternatives


If you really don’t want to leave your pet in an unfamiliar environment, the alternatives include:


  • getting a friend or neighbour to feed your cat. Ask them to spend some time with your pet and leave contact numbers (including your vet) in case of emergency. 

  • using specialist agencies like Animal Aunts and Homesitters, which provide a sitter or visiting feeder. The Cats Protection League runs a member-only register of people who will care for cats while their owners are away.


The Feline Advisory Bureau’s free leaflet Choosing a good boarding cattery is packed with useful tips and advice. To get hold of a copy, send an A5 SAE to FAB, Taeselbury, High Street, Tisbury, Wiltshire SP3 6LD.


Useful contacts

Feline Advisory Bureau 01747 871 872

Cats Protection League 01403 221 900

RSPCA 0870 010 1181

Homesitters Ltd 01296 630 730

Animal Aunts 01730 821 529



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