I watched with dismay last week, as the Campbell Live programme reported on a dog having been mauled at a Boarding Kennel. Do not think this is a one off incident. It isn’t. And the problems do not stop at boarding kennels.
In the eighteen months I have been operating this cattery, I have heard some absolute horror stories relayed to me by clients regarding their experiences at other catteries.
Unfortunately New Zealand is sadly lacking in the area of rules and regulations pertaining to boarding establishments. You don’t need a licence; there is absolutely no governing body and no inspection done on literally hundreds of boarding kennel and cattery facilities throughout the country.
The one exception, of course, is those facilities that belong to AsureQuality. AsureQuality does undertake an annual audit of pet boarding facilities that have “VOLUNTARILY” joined this program. Even the NZ Boarding Kennel and Cattery Association which was disbanded in 2007 was voluntary membership. We need to do better if we are to be seen as a country that has animal welfare as a priority.
In the UK, catteries and kennels cannot operate without a licence from the Local Authority. Licences are issued subject to certain conditions and several organisations have contributed to the drafting of the guidelines of these conditions, namely the Feline Advisory Bureau, Pet Trade and Industry Association, British Veterinary Association, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, along with District Councils. Licences are normally valid for one year and annual inspections are carried out to ensure owners continue to comply with all licensing conditions. A qualified Vet is also contracted to inspect. Fees are payable to the local authority and to the Vet. What’s more, unannounced visits may also be made at anytime during the year.
So why is it that we do not have comparable regulations in New Zealand? It is unacceptable for pet owners to return from holiday to find their dog or cat injured, near death or dead from misadventure, or mindboggling as it sounds, missing!! Surely there should be some repercussions?
The NZ Companion Animal Council is currently drafting a code of welfare for the Temporary Housing of Companion Animals, covering among other things, boarding establishments. These codes are then submitted to the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee who in turn makes recommendations to the Government on what should become law. The NZCAC draft should be available for public consultation late 2013.
Let us hope that in the not too distant future, rules and regulations governing the pet boarding industry within New Zealand become a great deal tougher, at least for the sake of our beloved cats and dogs.
Periodically I am asked the question by would-be clients, “Will my cat get to run around and play with the other cats”? My answer is an emphatic “NO absolutely not”.
At Ashley Boarding Cattery only cats from the same family are allowed to board together. There are no exceptions. There are several reasons for this which I will explain shortly.
But first, if you are exploring the possibility of placing your cat into a boarding facility, my advice is; shop around. Sometimes the perception you will get from the advertising will be quite different from seeing the cattery first hand. Ask to see exactly where your cat will be housed and ask yourself the question, “Would I be happy staying in this cattery”? If your answer is no, walk away. Recently, when interviewed by a local newspaper for a pet care feature, I stated thus; “My management philosophy is simple. If it is not good enough for me to stay in, it is not good enough for the cat”. This is how I operate and this is the instruction I give to my staff when they are cleaning and setting up units.
Your cat’s happiness and welfare while you are away relies on you, the owner, making the right choice. Whilst there are still several communal catteries in New Zealand, and other countries like the US which appear to operate successfully, they have been banned in the UK for a number of years now. I personally would like to see the same happen here in New Zealand with the next round of animal welfare legislation.
Cats as a rule are territorial; they do not like to share their space with strangers. This would only cause them undue stress in an already unfamiliar and stressful environment. Whilst we know there are many semi-wild cats that live together in cat colonies, I don’t think you can compare that to a cattery situation. Most cats when they come to board are from a single cat family. They are not used to having unfamiliar cats close at hand. You must also remember that the composition of cats within the cattery will be continually changing.
Individual units also reduce the risk of any cross-infection of disease or illness. Staffs are more easily able to monitor cats: are they eating and drinking normally, are they toileting normally, identifying which cat has fleas or worms, which cat has vomited and so forth.
Organisms can be transferred from cat to cat very readily. Sneezing, sharing water and food bowls, sharing litter trays, contact with faeces, grooming are some examples.
And then there is Feline Aids. It just takes one bite!
New Zealand, along with Australia, has one of the highest percentages of FIV infected domestic cats in the world.
I often wonder who is responsible for the Vet costs if your cat has an altercation with another cat while in a communal cattery.
And while it all looks lovely and cosy to see them all lounging around on comfy chairs, couches and cat trees, nice curtains on the windows, pictures on the walls……….how is this environment cleaned and sterilised properly?
Anyway these are just my personal thoughts on the subject. Like I said in the title, the choice is yours.
It is a huge responsibility owners place on our shoulders when they leave their cat in our care for a period of time for whatever the reason.
We take our responsibility seriously. We endeavor to give each cat the same love, care and attention they would otherwise be receiving at home. Every day we feed, clean, groom, play and talk to them as if they were our own.
Inevitably it is only normal that we would become quite attached to these cats, especially our repeat feline guests that we have come to know quite well.
But just how attached do we become to our charges?
This became rather obvious a few weeks back, when for the first time since owning the cattery, I had to make the agonising decision to have a cat euthanized while the owners were overseas. This particular cat had stayed with us a number of times. We were devastated but knew it was the right decision.
My vet nurse was in tears before the cat had even left the cattery. I drove slowly to the Vet, making small talk to the cat as if nothing was wrong. “I am going to be strong” I thought. After all this isn’t my cat and we are doing what is best.
My tough stance lasted until the needle went in, then sadness overcame me and the tears flowed. The Vet kindly handed me a box of tissues. I felt stupid; it wasn’t my cat. I had made the choice to stay with this wee girl until the very end as she had nobody and I wanted her to have a familiar face by her side but the episode left me visibly upset.
Thinking about it later, I realised that even though the cats that board at our cattery do not belong to us, they very much become a part of us and we in turn feel privileged to have been a part of their lives.
I have been told by my sometimes “not so silent partner”, that I will never make any money running this cattery as I make decisions from the heart and not from a business head.
A good friend, who has been in business for over 20 years, also told me “never spend money in areas where you will get no return”. Good advice I’m sure, however does return always have to be monetary?
An example being; Not long after we purchased the cattery, I spent a considerable amount of money putting new shelving into six outdoor north facing units, just so the cats could have a wider, sunnier more comfortable spot for their cat baskets and bedding. Having done this, we cannot charge more for the units just because the shelving was replaced.
Nevertheless, as I watch the cats lazing happily on these shelves each day, soaking up the sun and contently watching the day’s proceedings, I feel enormous satisfaction in knowing that I have made their stay with us even more enjoyable. To see the cats so happy is worth every penny spent.
There is my “return”.
Our clients notice the relaxed and happy atmosphere as well. This is reflected in the comments they make when viewing the cattery for the first time. It is reflected in the bookings and our ever growing list of new clientele. This is also my “return”.
A new client recently booked his cats into our cattery after noting that I had worked voluntarily for various animal organisations overseas, because and I quote; “He could tell I was a compassionate person”.
To operate any business or organisation involving animals, I believe there must be a certain amount of compassion. On the other hand, the business side must show a return. The trick is to find the right balance. For me it is a learning curve but I think I am getting there.