So I decided to hijack the blog tonight, since Ebbie and Muffin are outside, and Minx is asleep in an effort to hide from the red bug that keeps following her. No doubt if she were awake, she'd chide me for my appalling english, so lets not tell her I wrote a post, okay? As you might have surmised, I'm Muffin, Minx and Ebbie's Meowmie - and usually I go by the handle 'Meri'. I thought I'd hijack the blog so I could rant a bit about finding a cattery for my girls to stay at while I go away, because I figured you'd all understand how very nerve racking it can be to find just the *right* place for your babies.
The thing is, I don't have much experience with catteries, because I don't actually go away all that much . . . and up until my mother died, if I went away, I'd just leave them with her, and, since she doted on them as much as I do, she looked after them even *better* than I do - talk about spoiled! Just ask anyone about Ivory's 'milk dance' at the fridge - worked everytime.
I did use one cattery a few times, and in nearly all aspects I was really really pleased with it - for one thing, the owner went above and beyond the call of duty when it came to taking my cats in. See, I started taking some, or all, of my cats to her when my mother was going through the long process of dying, and taking her sweet time about it. I often had to stay with my grandfather to care for him, or I was just out of the house so long each day that the cats were being totally neglected . . . and often went unfed from the time I left the house in the morning, till whatever time I rolled in at night. So I had an arrangement with the cattery lady - whenever I needed to I could just pack up my cats and bowl on out, as long as it was a decent hour, and drop them off - no phone call, no booking, no questions asked, no matter what time of year - and she'd look after them for me. She truly was a treasure, and a certified cat lover to boot - didn't matter how many cats she had in, she could tell you, in quite considerable detail, what your cats had been up to on each day of their stay . . . where they'd spent most of their time, which cats they'd associated with and which they'd scrapped with . . . where they slept, how much that ate, peed and pooped.
But, as you can probably tell from that last line - she ran a communal cattery, where most of the cats stayed in one large communal area.
Well, this time I thought I'd rather have the cats stay in a cattery where all the different cats were seperated. I wanted this for two reasons - one, the last time Ebbie stayed in the communal cattery she wasn't happy and spent a lot of time outside, totally pissed off that she couldn't dominate the rest of the cats. She's older now, and crabbier, so I didn't want to add that stress on top of the stress of being in the cattery in the first place. Minx and Muffin I wanted to house together, but thought it would be easier to cope with Muffin's food and medication needs if they were in a separate run too. So I decided to try a new cattery I'd heard good things about that advertised seperate runs and 'electric blankets in each run'.
Well . . . yes . . . it needed the electric blankets cos I'm not sure the building was heated otherwise.
Now, to be fair - the building was new and very very clean. The cats were also clean and well fed and none of them looked overly distressed. No major yowling constantly or anything. Each cat was seperated from the others and everything was . . . . adequate. But darn it, I don't want adequate - I want comfortable at the very least. See, each seperate run was this small cubicle. Think toilet cubicle cut in half with the toilet take out - it was small but tall and narrow, with a small toilet sized window high up on the wall that the cats couldn't even get to to see out. Each cubicle was barren - there was a food dish, a bucket of water, a litter box and a cardboard box(????WTF???) with blankets in for the cats to sleep in. A few toys rounded out the space. What bugged me most was that there was very little floor space, but no attempts had been made to maximise the vertical space by putting in places to climb and sleep - no shelves or ladders or anything. If there had been three dimensional use of the space, it would have been a much more appropriate space to leave cat. But no - they were basicall limited to this . . . well, I'd guess three by three foot floor space a the most. The owner . . . well, there wasn't anything wrong with her either - she seemed conscientious and competent, was obviously cleaning when I got there, had one of the cats out for it's play time (although it was determined not to go back in) and was careful to stress that she got each cat out twice a day for a play and a cuddle. Then she spoiled it by saying that in the evenings she doesn't like to be in the cattery any longer than an hour. And I'm really just like . . . well, I'd like someone that was in and out of the cattery all day, especially since the cattery was a distance from her house . . . and I'd also like someone who likes cats enough that she doesn't see caring for them as something she needs to get done quickly so she can move on to other things. Oh, and she fed cheap food ::sniffs snobbily::
Maybe I'm too fussy . . . maybe these things wouldn't bug other people . . . but . . . well, put it this way, it was no Wag Hotel! And the clincher for me was the fact that as I drove away I just *knew* that there was NO WAY in HELL I was leaving my babies there. I had a horrible burning pain in the pit of my stomach so, since my original cattery was near by, I just turned the car around and, all unannouced headed there.
And I'm glad I did. I haven't seen this lady for about two years - before my mother died anyway, and not only did she recognise and remember me, the first thing she asked was how my mother was! And it was no problem I'd turned up unannounced. Yes, she still has a communal cattery at the moment, and no, it's not brand new and it shows signs of hard kitty usage - but it's scrupulously clean, the cats are all happy and active and playing with each other and eating and peeing and pooping fine. They all run towards you when you go near the enclosure . . . . they have the space to do cat things! And she was only too happy to adapt the communal situation to suit my cats. So Ebbie will be on her own still, in the 'upper cattery' which is a bit older again, but is kept well maintained for cats just like Ebbie with special needs. Minx and Muffin will go into the communal cattery, but will be seperated into a large sleeping cage each at meal times so they can have their own food - they'll stay there for about half an hour then be returned to the main cattery again (once Muffin has had her medication of course). I know this lady, and I trust her to care for my cats . . . it's still not the Wag Hotel, but it is a comfortable, homely cattery, with potplants hung way up high, and a TV in the inside portion, and the outside portion has real tree trunks and branches as well as ramps to play on, and the cats can see the goings on outside, and hear birds, and even watch some construction going on if they're brave enough. And the cattery is close to the lady's house - and I know she's in and out all day.
And that's the other thing - everywhere there is signs of the improvements she's making, and if a cattery can afford to make improvements, you know they must be doing something right! Since I've been there they've built another cattery for the long stay cats - I think it only takes a few cats at a time and has another, seperate outdoor area and everything, and I think more ability to seperate the cats from each other, and is more stable in population so the long stay cats aren't constantly having to deal with new arrivals. She's also having her 'luxury cattery' built which *will* have seperate single and double suites for cats and cat families, but I'm a bit early and it's not finished yet. The thing is that this lady gets what cats needs - her single suit cattery is going to have huge bay windows in it so that the cats can climb into the windows and look out and sun themselves, not stupid little toilet sized windows that the cats can't get to - she knows what cats like to do! So yeah, I booked my babies in there and my anxiety and the nasty burning pain in the pit of my belly went away as soon as I saw this lady. AND I got to say hello to a gorgeous rag doll boy poodin!
So, now I'll give you the Thursday Thirteen - with some input from my poodins even though it's a serious list rather than a funny one! Thanks for listening to me rant and ramble and vent!
The Thursday Thirteen - by Muffin, Minx (and Meowmie) - Thirteen things to look for when inspecting a cattery:
(Disclaimer: I just made these up, although some of them cover points that I've read in various places on how to find a cattery - these are just things I want for my poodins and that I looked for today and will look for even more carefully in the future. I'm not trying to tell anybody what to do, nor am I trying to be some kind of expert . . . it's just that after today I feel quite strongly about the whole thing . . . and, well, maybe I should have left this particular list until next week when I wasn't quite so touchy about it!)
1. The cattery, no matter how old, and not matter whether it's communal or seperate runs, should be scrupulously and spotlessly CLEAN - no pee smell, no poo smell, no old food smell. The smell of clean fluffy cats, cat spit, and the faint tang of a good pet friendly disinfectant is acceptable.
2. The cats should appear happy, alert, and active (with reasonable allowances for temperament and stress caused by changes in environment). Long haired cats should appear well groomed and short haired cats their usual dapper selves. Needless to say, the cats also should be clean, and willing to groom themselves in the usual manner.
3. The owner of the cattery, be it food lady or food dude, should be interested in you and your poodins as individuals - even though your cat can't use your credit card, the cat is the client, and should be treated as such.
4. The owner of the cattery should be willing to accomodate reasonable requests that fulfil any special needs your cat might have, without charging excessively for these extras - feeding special food, administering simple medications like tablets, or housing your cat seperately if the cattery is otherwise communal but your cat is unsuited to this, should not be too much to at least ask.
5. The owner should love your cats as much as you do, and enjoy caring for them, rather than seeing it as a necessary evil that is to be gotten out of the way as soon as possible - there are many easier ways to make money, so why run a cattery unless you actually enjoy your work?
6. The cattery accomodations should be of such a standard that you, yourself, in a pinch, would be prepared to curl up in one of the kitty beds and sleep there (although I won't expect you to eat the kibble or use the litter box).
7. The cattery should not appear to be overly stuffed with poodins - one cat per run, or two to three per double/family suite if the cattery has single accomodations, or . . . well, the communal runs are harder to judge, but there shouldn't be so many cats that each cat doesn't have room to get away from the others and have some alone time - if there's a lot of hissing, snarling and spitting going on, above and beyond what is normal for strange cats of different temperments that have been thrust together, then there might just be too many cats for the area.
8. The cattery owner should have no objection to you inspecting any part of the cattery (excepting their private living areas of course) - areas where you cat will be kept, food preparation areas, cleaning supply areas (if safe, of course) should all be open to your view - in fact, I'd be suspicious of a cattery that didn't want to show you their cleaning supplies . . . might mean they don't have any!
9. There should be, even in a communal cattery, cubby holes or 'boxes' where your poodin can go to be by itself, especially when it first arrives and is getting used to it's new environment. Even in a seperate run, there should be somewhere Puss can hide safely away from prying eyes. Beds, boxes and cubbies etc should be made of a sturdy, not porous, easily cleanable material, such as plastic or painted (with pet safe paint) wood - NOT FRICKIN' CARDBOARD BOXES!!
10. Surfaces and furniture should be easily cleanable and bedding like blankets and towels washed frequently. I'm of the opinion that catteries should make an attempt to be as home like as practical and to me that means providing some sort of furniture that resembles what would be in the home, but is easy to clean - so plastic chairs, maybe, with washable cushions, and vinyl or leather couches that can be wiped down. When inspecting these things, do remember that cats have claws and claws scratch things, so cattery furniture may appear shabby and well worn, but that doesn't mean it's dirty or unhygenic - just think of what your cats favorite scratching pole at home looks like!
11. All catteries should have a mandatory requirement that your cats vaccinations be up to date - this will protect both your cat and the other cats who are being housed in the cattery.
12. Word of mouth is a good way to find a reputable, quality cattery - but still check it out for yourself, as your friends and family may not have the same exacting standards you do - and what is suitable for their fat old Felix, may not suit slim, svelte Sylvester.
13. Lastly, even if the cattery appears fine - trust your gut, which is what I did this afternoon. If your gut starts to ache or burn, or the thought of leaving your darling poodin there makes your heart ache with anxiety, then get the hell out of there, and find a cattery that makes you one hundred percent comfortable!!
Minx: Meowmie has hogged the bloggie ALL NITE! And she didn't efun rite the most impurrtant things on her list - da cattery should have LOTS OF TOYS, LOTS OF NIP, LOTS OF TREATIES, and da food lady or food dude should give LOTS OF CUDDLES AND SCRITCHES AND PETS (and belly rubs to dem dat wants them). But . . . well . . . I guess dat today I actually am fankful dat Meowmie was so cautious and concerned about where she left me and my sisfurs when she goes away - she not efun going away for furry long, only five sleeps, but she wanted so bad to make sure we all alright, and she didn' want to leaf us at home alone efun tho' Aunty Karen wud cum in and feed and cuddle us each day. So I fankful dat Meowmie is being a gud Meowmie to us again. Efun if I not sure I like going away from home to da strange place. But I sure I be fine and haf fun. Maybe.