Boarding can be a very stressful event for both you and your cat. Cats are creatures of habit and are often resistant to change. Some of the common issues we see with cats that are stressed include behavioural changes, becoming withdrawn, going off their food and often a change in their urinary habits. At Balmain Cat Boarding aka “BCB” we are acutely aware of this and we have designed our operations around minimising stress to your cat and maximising their comfort and enjoyment during their holiday with us. Whilst we can take care of them when they are with us, there are things that you can do at home, both before and after boarding that will also help in making your cat’s experience one they will enjoy.
We have come up with some tips for you that will reduce the stress to your cat during their boarding experience.
One of the most important stress reducers is getting your cat accustomed to being in the carrier. If they only see the carrier once or twice a year when they are heading to boarding or visiting the vet, then chances are they will resist getting into the carrier as they have negative associations with it.
The key is to create a positive link between your cat and their carrier to reduce these negative associations. We recommend that you bring the carrier out well in advance of the boarding date.
Place it in a prominent position in your house where your cat will have plenty of interaction with it. Let your cat use it as a nap space and offer treats in there. Place their food bowls in there for a few meals prior to boarding. Place toys in there. Place a blanket or other item that has your smell on it as this will also provide comfort and make the carrier a place they are more likely want to go in to.
Other ideas include placing a punnet of cat grass in there for them to nuzzle against and to graze on as this will release endorphins.
Finally, consider spraying some Feliway™ spray in the carrier to again create a “calm” and safe place for them prior to their transport to the hotel. You can also periodically bring the cat carrier out throughout the year, even when you have no plans to visit the vet or boarding, and initiate some of these ideas just to continue the positive link between the carrier and your cat.
In the lead up, it’s important to maximise the number of “feel-good” endorphins in your cat to prepare them for the transition to boarding.
Feliway™ diffusers or sprays are encouraged to be used as they replicate the pheromones your cat releases when your cat scent marks it’s surroundings.
An age-old remedy for stress in cats has been the use of cat grass. It has been known for centuries that cat grass is something that cats seek out. They derive great pleasure in nuzzling up to it and chewing on it. Catnip also has similar effects, as does cat mint.
Adding a supplement called Zylkene™ with their food can have a tremendous positive impact in most cats. The staff of BCB, as well as our associated vets, recommend this calming supplement. You can start administering it up to a week before your cat’s stay and continue during the stay with us. It works to settle the cat using a highly concentrated milk protein called Casein. Don’t worry, its lactose free and extremely safe. It is for sale over the counter at reception and recommend purchasing a bottle so you can use it before, during and after the boarding stay.
You can research it further here https://www.vetoquinol.com.au/products/companion-animals/zylkene
Much of what sets cats on edge, is the journey here, not the actual boarding experience itself. As a rule, cats don’t like cars. To help your cat relax we encourage you to follow the familiarisation steps with the carrier from Tip Number 1. The type of carrier you use can also help to reduce the stress for your cat. It should be large enough so that they can stand, stretch and make a full turn. Carriers with options of top-loading and front loading are preferred. This gives us choices for getting in/out a scared cat. When you get them in the car, make sure you secure the carrier with a seatbelt through a handle, and then cover with a sheet or blanket. The dark space will comfort them. Playing soft soothing music can help, but no loud rock music! It’s a proven fact that classical music calms cats!
We recommend not feeding your cat in the 2-3 hours before transport. This will assist in reducing car sickness.
Place a “puppy pad” or some newspaper (we all know how much cat’s love newspaper!) in the carrier in case they toilet on the way to us.
It goes without saying, driving in a calm manner also helps! (we know this can be difficult in Sydney!)
On arrival to the veterinary hospital, place your cat in the designated cat cubby holes in the cat seating area to the right of the main door. If this space is already occupied, the receptionists may be able to place the carrier behind the desk with them, away from inquisitive dogs.
If the reception area is too loud and you are concerned about your cat’s welfare, ask our staff to assist finding a quieter area for you. We will endeavour to get your cat into a calmer and more peaceful area as soon as we can.
When your cat stays with us it would help to have an object from home. Keep in mind it’s the scent of something familiar that’s most important, not what the cat will actually do with the object. For this reason, a blanket or piece of clothing with your scent or the cat’s scent on it is a better option than a toy.
If you do intend to leave an item for your cat, please ensure it is not of high sentimental or commercial value as occasionally things do get lost during the cleaning process. Also, please ensure your items are clearly labelled.
It is just as important to take your cat’s stress levels into consideration AFTER their boarding experience. Cats often don’t have the ability to switch on/off and they may carry some residual stress during the transition from the hotel back into your home.
For this reason, we recommend that you continue to utilise Feliway™, Zylkene™ and cat grass for at least one week during their resettlement back from boarding.
Additionally, ensure that your cat’s litter area is away from dogs/noise and other stressful distractions, at least for the first week on their return. Cats will often not want to go to the toilet properly if they feel their litter area is exposed and is not “protected”.
Once you feel your cat has adjusted to being back home you can go back to normal.
It is a strange phenomena that we have witnessed over many years when you have a multi-cat household that has just been boarding. Sometimes when you introduce the cats back to their home they seem to “not recognise” each other OR they feel the need to re-establish territory. This can lead to aggression between them and in some cases, fighting.
This obviously perpetuates stress for the individuals. It may be necessary to separate your cats for a period when you re-introduce them to your house. Ensure that you instigate all the above strategies and supervise their interaction when they are brought home.
Rest assured that our staff at BCB are well trained to spot signs of stress in your cat. We have strategies to deal with this to ensure that your cat lives their best life whilst they are with us. Our job is to help you make the boarding experience of your cat the best it can be! Call us and chat if you have any concerns about before, during or after their boarding experience with us, we LOVE catting, woops, we mean chatting!!