Boarding cats for the first time

onedog3catsApril 18, 2013

I don't know how I missed this forum! I'm usually lurking at the home decorating/kitchens/baths.

I have 10 and 12 year old female cats. The 10 year is overweight and recently developed arthritis on her spine. The vet wants me to switch them to high protein canned food. Previously they were on high protein kibble mixed with a variety of other foods to get them to eat. She has always been a big cat. I think she has some maine coon in her. It doesn't seem that either of them eat a lot. But it is obvious they both would benefit from losing a few pounds.

The transition has been going well. But we are scheduled to on vacation in two weeks for two weeks. We usually have my mom and a friend stop by and perform litter box duties and change food/water when we are gone. But dealing with canned food will be much more work on their part. They would have to stop by at least twice a day. That's a lot to ask. They have both expressed that they would be fine with doing that, but I still feel bad about it. Since it is early in the transition, I worry that they won't eat enough while we are gone. I've gone through so many brands and flavors in a week. I think I finally found one they will tolerate. But who knows if they'll change their minds while we are gone!

My other options are:
1. Cancel our vacation
2. Switch back to kibble while we are gone
3. Board the cats at our vet

The cats have never been boarded before. I'm not sure how they would handle it. I'm sure they would be fine and it is probably just me who will be a mess for two weeks. The 12 year old is a talker...a 24/7 non-stop talker. I imagine she will drive everyone there *crazy* with her mouth. Doing this will make sure they are eating and getting care should the 10 year old have any issues with walking, etc.

I don't think going back to kibble would be the end of the world. And if I do decide to do that, should I stop the canned now and just start up again when we get back?

I'm driving myself crazy with this!

Any advice would be much appreciated!!

Thanks :)

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Well, you may be over-thinking & trying too hard...

This isn't hard at all.

Start them on the canned food now so they become accustomed to it;
make the transition gradually, mixing kibble & canned, etc.

*Keep them in their home.*

Everybody does better "at home", & cats especially are attached to their own territory.

I'd do everything I could to keep from boarding any pet, especially a cat, & even more especially an older cat.

Cats boarded anywhere are very likely to stop eating & get depressed & be constantly stressed, which weakens the immune system-
in an environment in which there are many sick cats & a lot of noise & smells & probably dogs barking & strange people making noise & moving around.

Your sitters have assured you that they'll take care of the cats;
let them do this for you, & show your appreciation when you return by taking them out to dinner or giving them gift cards or paying their electric bill or buying them a condo in Hawaii...

Have the caregivers keep kibble available for the cats to eat at will as well as feeding them the canned food twice a day.

Best luck, & have fun!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 12:05PM
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I agree with Sylvia.
Let the sitters take care of them and even ask if they're willing to spend the least a few times........while you're gone. That may give you more peace of mind that the cats are doing fine, and the cats may like the company.
If you usually have a TV on, have the sitters turn it on during the day and off at night. This gives the cats some sort of continuing routine......and background noise.

Within the next 2 weeks the cats should be eating the canned food and shouldn't need any more kibble. I'd worry that if kibble is left out while you're gone that they may eat out of boredom. In your test trials of food, try to stick with the basic flavors: tuna, salmon, chicken or beef (no veges) and see what they tend to choose. Once they're eating one flavor well you can branch out with variety.

My cat has always eaten canned and never wavers from her 10# weight. Favorite flavors are Salmon (the less chunky the better) or Tuna. Nothing else! She won't even sniff Chicken, Beef, etc. and she won't touch the 'high quality' brands.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 12:55PM
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I boarded my 13-year-old cat for the first time for a week last fall and she loved it!

I've always had friends or pet sitters come in and do the 2 cats and birds when we travel, but Pebbles now has some health issues and I was not comfortable leaving her unattended this time. (She is a light eater and is supposed to eat small meals throughout the day while the younger cat eats everything in sight as soon as it's put out, so I worried that the old girl would be going hungry. Plus, I wanted someone keeping an eye on her in case she needed any care---both of my cats tend to hide when the pet sitters come over.)

I found a vet-recommended boarding facility that maintains a separate wing for cats. They had very strict requirements for up-to-date shots, vet contact info, directives for emergency care, and so forth. When I arrived they let me choose the "cat condo" for her and we settled on one across from a big window looking out to some trees. It had three levels - cat box in the private lower level, and 2 upper levels with beds, toys, and a feeding area. Nothing fancy, but this cat spends 99% of her time sleeping on my bed anyway.

When I returned, she was happy, alert, well-fed, and obviously well cared for. They followed my feeding instructions, and took her out to a playroom every day while her condo was being cleaned, and also for some playtime with staff members. They told me she especially enjoyed exploring all of the cat towers and hideyholes in the playroom and sitting in the interior window that overlooked the lobby, observing the hustle and bustle as pets were dropped off and picked up. She also spent time snoozing in the sunshine and watching the birds in the trees outside her condo. The staff even sent a few photos of her enjoying her stay to my cell phone while I was away.

So I guess it depends on your cat. And on the boarding facility. I would think boarding at a vet could be more stressful than a boarding facility due to more cramped quarters, dogs being nearby, strange noises, etc. I was totally happy with this place, and Pebbles seems to have agreed. I would not hesitate to leave her there again the next time we travel.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 1:16PM
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Thanks for everyone's comments. That's why I have been going back and forth.

The cat boarding facility is separate from the dog area and from any sick animals. They have similar condos as ilovepoco described above. Three levels and an option to remove the divider between so they have six total areas. These two seem to enjoy going to the vet (after the initial shock of being in their crates wears off) and are usually pretty calm when we are there. They don't seem nervous or anything when we are there. I really wonder if they might not enjoy this change of scenery and watching all of the activities there.

But then there's the part of me that worries that they will think we've left them there and they won't understand why there are there, etc. Seems so silly I guess.

I remember when we boarded our large dog years ago. He LOVED going there. He was so excited to get there and wouldn't even look back at me when they took him back to the boarding area. I then wonder am I depriving the cats of all of this fun :) I don't think they'd think it was as much fun as a dog, but who knows, maybe they would!!

I will talk to my vet and see what he thinks. I'm leaning towards keeping them at home I think. And since they've been eating kibble for their entire lives, I figure a couple of more weeks won't hurt them.

I have found that salmon and tuna are their favorites so far. The ones with chunks are no good because all they do is lick all of the sauce off and don't eat the meat. It seems they don't eat very much of it though. Most times they don't finish what I give them.

Hopefully they will learn to love their new food in the next two weeks and then turn their noses up at the kibble :) I will probably leave some kibble in the feeder (it has 8 compartments and is on a timer) just in case.

Thanks again. I appreciate your comments!!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 2:10PM
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I have never boarded any of my dogs or cats, and I never will board my cats. They are strange creatures who love their home and routine. Even though you won't be there , their surroundings and life as they know it will be, so I'd opt for that and have your relatives take care of them.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 2:52PM
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You really need to check out the boarding facility. I boarded our young cat (he was 4 months) because he was too young to leave at home for 2 weeks, even with someone coming over multiple times a day. I boarded at the vet, brought his toys and food. They never once played with him (he's a MAJOR fun player!) and he came home with fleas. I was so angry....but that was my experience. if the facility has dedicated cat areas, will play with them, then the experience may not be so bad.

Having older cats like yours, they may not take to boarding because the older felines get more set in their ways. At a minimum, they need to be together.

Honestly, if someone is willing to come to your house and take care of them, that's the route to go. They will miss you no matter what they do but it will be less disruptive.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 6:20PM
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I have never boarded a cat and never would. I've had all kinds of cat health complexities and they've been handled by a professional pet sitter. Do you have an option for that if you don't want to impose on friends and relatives?

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 7:54PM
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murraysmom Zone 6 OH

I have boarded both my 2 dogs and my cat at a very nice place. It's super clean and the cats have a whole separate wing from the dogs. They have condos with individual separate air systems and they get some "out" time as well. The staff there love Rocket and he does very well. They probably go there maybe 3 times a year and they always are well taken care of. I guess I'm lucky to have such a facility.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 9:04PM
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Thanks for all your comments. The more I think about it, I am just going to keep them home and have my mom and friend stop by daily. We travel 2-3 times a year and the cats are used to them stopping by every other day when we are away.

I do feel comfortable with my vet's boarding facility. We've been using them for the past 15 years. If I had boarded them at some point during their life I might consider it more. There might be a time in the future when I will have to board them for health reasons, but I will just deal with that when/if the situation presents itself.

Thanks again to everyone for helping me work through this decision. I think I knew all along what I should do. It helps reading everyone's comments. I'm glad to hear that some of you had success with boarding your cats.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 10:39AM
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Dogs and cats are psychologically very, VERY different. There are, of course, many individuals in each species who belie the "average behaviors" for that species, but as a rule, cats are creatures of routine and "sameness". They are easily stressed by changes in schedule, environment, and family structure. Stress is also known to sometimes trigger illnesses in cats (herpes, cystitis, anorexia, etc.). Cats who are aged, more timid, and/or have pre-existing medical conditions are more prone to physical and/or psychological problems associated with stress.

Two weeks is a loooong time to take any animal (much less a cat!)out of his/her home environment. I won't even leave one of my animal's at a veterinary clinic overnight. I would urge you to leave your cats at home and let your relatives take care of them in your absence.


    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 11:57AM
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Do not cancel your vacation!!! You are worrying too much about this when you have a perfect solution in supportive friend and your mom. Just be sure to express to them how deeply appreciative you are, and you can gift them later with gift card, dinner out, donation to their charities, whatever.

Sylvia said it right. Your cats are mature, and if they have not been boarded, it could be stressful even if they are together. On our one and only boarding experience with our cat, she stopped eating at the boarding place; good thing we were only gone a few days. You have wonderful care for your kitties while you are gone, so take advantage of it. Canned food is not a lot of "work!"

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 11:43AM
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You are fortunate to have friends/family who have offered to do the additional care. Don't feel guilty - they did offer! But you might want to bring them a nice gift from your travels - I always do that for my pet sitter friends.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 12:13PM
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Yes, I am lucky to have friends/family to help out while we are gone. I will owe them big time when we get back!

The transition is going pretty well with the canned food. I do have to coax them a bit to get them to finish it. They eat some and then turn away, so then I mush it up again on the plate and push the plate in front of them and then they'll eat more. So I think I will definitely have kibble in the feeder in case they don't end up eating all of their canned food. It is an eight compartment feeder with a rotating lid on a timer that allows access to one compartment at a time.

Thanks again for the support!!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 10:57AM
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