11 Aug

SHOULD I VISIT MY CAT?

Ashley Uncategorized

Due to the repairs/rebuilds from the Canterbury earthquakes, quite often cats need to be boarded at the cattery for a considerable length of time.

Owners frequently ask the question, “Should I visit my cat, I don’t want to upset him”?

My answer is always, “If you are able, yes absolutely come and visit your cat”. It has been our experience that cats settle in much better and gain confidence quicker if their owners visit on a regular basis.

Obviously all cats are different and the ones with the extra shy and timid personalities find it harder to relax and come out of their shell. While cats are known to be solitary creatures, they can still form strong bonds with their human family and can therefore stress or fret when change occurs, such as being left at a cattery. Most households have already started packing up prior to the cat being taken to the cattery and this would of course add to the stress your cat is feeling. I sometimes wonder if they think they have been abandoned.

It is normal for cats to be withdrawn for the first 24 hours, especially if it is their first time in a cattery. They hide, won’t eat or drink or use the litter tray. This behaviour normally wanes within a day or two and the cat settles down to a new routine.

When the owners arrive for a visit, afterwards there is often a phenomenal change in the cats’ persona. We have seen it many times. Bring toys and treats, make it a happy occasion. The cats respond and it makes their time with us so much more enjoyable.

As a cat owner, if you have done your due diligence, you will of course be placing your cat in a facility where you know they will get the very best care and attention possible. But no matter how much we give them, nothing can make up for the familiar voice and smell of their owner. At Ashley Boarding Cattery, you do not need to make an appointment to visit your cat, so long as you are visiting within opening hours. Just turn up. Your cat will love you for it!

30 Jun

The Importance of Feeding your Cat a Well-Balanced Diet

Ashley Uncategorized

It never ceases to amaze me the number of overweight cats we see coming through the cattery. What is worse, is that most owners are oblivious to the fact that their precious pet urgently needs to shed some kilos.

Since obesity can be associated with a number of health issues, including diabetes, urinary tract infections/diseases, joint and skin problems; it is important that pet owners take responsibility for the well-being and health of their cat right from day one. Having a little bit of understanding about your cat’s dietary behaviour and digestive requirements will certainly help you make the right decisions.

Feeding your cat a tailored and well-balanced diet will contribute considerably towards whether or not your cat remains healthy throughout its senior years, or you are lumbered with astronomical vet bills for consults and medications.

When choosing your cats diet, several factors need to be taken into account; breed, sex, age, physical condition, lifestyle and level of activity ie. Does your cat live inside or have access to the outdoors. A cat that lives indoors expends little energy and consumes fewer calories in order to maintain its body temperature. Obesity is far more common in inactive cats compared to those that spend a significant amount of their day outside.

Cats “snack” naturally and should preferably have several small meals a day. However, some cats are unable to regulate the amount of food they are eating, so food portions should be monitored to avoid obesity. Fresh drinking water should also be available at all times.

Cats do not have any digestive enzymes in their saliva, and their intestines are short, so they require food which is highly digestible. Signs of digestive problems include diarrhoea, flatulence, constipation and vomiting. Cats are happy eating the same completely balanced food every day. Chopping and changing your cat’s diet can cause digestive problems. If you need to change your cat’s diet, introduce the new food gradually.

When owners are admitting their cats to the cattery, we always ask about diet. What is the cat being feed at home? Are there any special dietary requirements? Ninety percent of the time, the answer is “no but he/she is an extremely fussy eater”.

We know that taste is not the most contributing factor as to whether or not your cat eats its dinner. Compared to a dog, which has 1700 taste buds on their tongue, cats only have around 500 and cannot taste sweet flavours. (Humans have 9000 taste buds).

Perhaps the word “fussy” is a too anthropomorphic term to use when talking about the food your cat will eat. Cats do not refuse to eat their food because they are fussy, they simply will not eat food unless it is palatable to them. All cats will have different levels of palatability, so what one cat will eat, does not necessarily mean another cat will eat the same thing. They will all have individual preferences.

The palatability of food for a cat is made up of these characteristics:

  • Smell – cats will only eat food if the aroma is attractive to them
  • Texture – the shape and composition of the kibble
  • Ease of prehension (grasping by the mouth)
  • Post ingestion feeling – each cat will interpret the sensation after digesting food differently
  • Taste

Feed your cat the very best that you can afford and it will pay dividends later on. Remember, one in three cats are said to be overweight. Ashley Boarding Cattery is a retail outlet for Royal Canin, a world leader in the Pet Food Industry. Talk to our staff about a diet that would be beneficial for your cat. Although more expensive than the Supermarket brands, you need to feed far less of it and your cat will reap the benefits of enjoying a premium diet. We stock the full pet shop range including breed specific. We can also provide Royal Canin Dog food to order.

01 May

So…You think you’d like to own a cattery?

Ashley Uncategorized

That’s great. And I certainly do not want to put you off, but perhaps you should think again!

Quite often, when showing people around the cattery, out comes the comment “Oh I would just love to own a cattery like this”. The person is very taken with the place and obviously a true cat lover. I just smile and think inwardly “No you wouldn’t” or sometimes I reply “Do you want to work seven days a week 12-14 hours a day”?

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. You just couldn’t do it otherwise. However, it would be fair to say that if we had had a crystal ball and could have foreseen the impact running a large cattery was going to have on our lives, we may have re-considered. I know my partner Stephen definitely would have.

Ours is a very large boarding facility currently taking around 85 cats at full capacity. Amazingly enough there are plans afoot to expand to 100 cats. Are we crazy!

The cattery was purchased for me. Stephen works fulltime off-site during the week and there was never any plan for this to be otherwise. Even so, I don’t think people in general realise exactly what is involved in owning and managing a cattery this size. It totally consumes your whole life. Having good, reliable staff is essential. So far I am lucky in this respect. The day to day operation is a team effort. I have set the bar high and it is impossible to do all the work myself.

After committing to buy this business, I formed a vision on where I wanted the cattery to be in five years time. Second best was never an option, which means surrounding yourself with the very best people you can lay your hands on. I am proud of my staff and proud of what we are achieving.

But is it hard work and one cannot pretend otherwise. It takes total commitment and without reservation it means putting the animals first.

Cats do not care or even know that it is Xmas Day and you’d rather be eating roast turkey and plum pudding with your extended family. Or that it is New Years Day and you’re hung over from last night’s celebrations. Or that you have a wedding or some other special function to attend. Or that your simply just bone tired and want to stay in bed or have a day off.

Not a chance. Cats look forward to you unlocking same time every morning, appearing with the food trolley, cleaning their litter trays, fussing over them while their units are cleaned and tidied. It does not take them long to catch on to the daily routine, morning, afternoon and evening. Great……dinner time, here comes more yummy food!

Meantime, I finally get to collapse on the couch in front of television and eat my evening meal about 7:30 or 8pm, quite often the first meal of the day.

God forbid that you might want to take a couple of weeks for a holiday overseas. Do you have enough staff, the right staff, and a house/cattery sitter? The cattery cannot be left unattended. There must always be someone living on-site. So many things to plan and organise.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way. The delight on the wee faces of the cats when I open up each morning makes all sacrifices worthwhile. The cats need us; me and my staff every day without fail. It is a hard life but a rewarding one. So if you think you’d like to own a boarding cattery; my advice, buy one!

11 Apr

Not all Catteries are Created Equal

Ashley Uncategorized

There are some very good boarding catteries in Christchurch and the surrounding Canterbury area. Then again there will be some that are not so good. Do your research. Be prepared to travel just that little bit further to find the perfect place for your cat.

If time permits, I recommend viewing your chosen cattery prior to admitting your cat. In fact, you should view several during the course of your research. You will enjoy your holiday that much more knowing your cat is in the best of hands.

So here are some tips on what to look for in a boarding cattery, meaning your precious pet can enjoy their holiday too.

Most importantly, meet the owner and the staff. First impressions count. Would you feel comfortable passing the responsibility of your cat over to these people? Some facilities advertise as having Vet Nurses on staff. That’s great, find out who they are, talk to them. Do they seem genuinely concerned about the welfare and needs of your cat?

Watch how staffs interact with the cats in their charge. Do the cats look comfortable and happy? If a boarding cattery does advertise as having qualified staff, you are within your rights to ask to see these qualifications. The qualifications of our staff here at Ashley Boarding Cattery are clearly displayed on the wall in our reception area.

Look at the size of the units. Is there plenty of room and space enough for multiple cats from the same family to share? This is important, especially for long-term holidays or earthquake repair stays. Are they warm, sunny, with plenty of fresh air and lots of comfortable bedding supplied?

Are they quiet, is there a view, music, what food is supplied, are there toys or other enrichment? What if my cat has special needs or is on medication? Can I bring special toys or bedding from home? Can I visit my cat whenever I want?

Is the facility clean and tidy? Is there any cat smell? There definitely should not be. And here’s a biggy! Is the facility safe and secure? Is there an appropriate monitored fire alarm system in place? What are the procedures should something go wrong?

These are just a few suggestions and all customers will prioritise differently. As the bill payer, you are entitled to ask as many questions as you see fit in order to truly satisfy yourself that this is the best place possible for your cat. At Ashley Boarding Cattery, our reputation speaks for itself.

But you be the judge…….see you soon.

25 Mar

Auckland Zoo Big Cat Encounter

Ashley Uncategorized

Not even a 4am start could deter the participants of our day trip to Auckland Zoo.

The 6am flight from Christchurch and the pre-booked shuttle had them outside the Zoo gate at 8am, adrenaline pumping and rearing to go.

They were met at the gate by Zoo employee Renny, who was assigned to the group as guide and official photographer for the day. Once formalities were over and done with, it was time to get down to the nitty gritty. First up; off to the Cheetah enclosure in time to join the Cheetahs for their casual morning walk around the Zoo. Auckland Zoo has two Cheetahs in residence, Osiris and Anubis (named after Egyptian Gods). The Keepers gave a brief talk about the cats, focusing on conservation and why they are endangered.

This was followed by a 1 hour walk with plenty of photo opportunities and a chance to pat the Cheetahs. On return to their enclosure, the Cheetahs were given their breakfast and the Q & A session begins.

The Keepers are always happy to answer any questions you might have and you are encouraged to learn as much as possible about these, and in fact all the other majestic creatures at the Zoo. Remember, a portion of all monies paid for close up one on one encounters goes towards the protection and conservation of cats in the wild. So by participating, you are directly contributing to the conservation message.

Next it was off to the Lion’s den. There are four in total, one male and three females. The big cats are feed pet milk as a treat via a large syringe. This encourages the Lions to come closer for photo opportunities. And the group certainly got some fantastic photo shots. You can view a selection of these on our face book page Auckland Zoo album. While the Lions remained safely in their night dens, the group helped put out behavioural enrichment into the large enclosure. Enrichment plays a crucial part in providing quality care for captive wild animals. What a thrill for the group to be able to be involved in this.

During morning tea break, one of our group expressed an interest in meeting Burma the Elephant. This was not part of our itinerary, however Justine, (our cattery staff member who accompanied the group from Christchurch, and who also used to work at Auckland Zoo), thought she could pull some strings. What a bonus as all the group got to pat Burma and have their photos taken with her. Burma is a 31 year old Asian elephant and is currently the Zoo’s only elephant. Well it certainly helps to take along someone in the know! This day was just getting better and better.

Next on the agenda were the Tigers. The Zoo has three Sumatran tigers and the group got to interact with two of them, Molek and her son Berani. Obviously the talk here concentrated around conservation and how critically endangered this species is.

The excitement not yet over, Craig, one of the Senior Vets, tracked down the group and took them on a guided tour of the NZ Centre for Conservation Medicine, a state of the art facility which also operates as the Zoo’s Veterinary Clinic. In the autopsy room they were able to get a close up view of a whale’s eye.

Prior to the Shuttle pick up at 3pm there was some free time for a bite to eat or to view other parts of the Zoo. Arrival back in Christchurch was around 6:30pm. This was an absolutely fantastic day and the group was just buzzing with excitement. Each participant was also presented with a CD of all the photos taken on the day.

Provided there is enough interest, we will look at taking another group for a Big Cat close up encounter in a few months time. Please contact us if you would like to be involved in this unique once in a lifetime opportunity as spaces are limited.

05 Mar

Transportation of your Cat to and from the Cattery

Ashley Uncategorized

We had a situation earlier this week which very nearly resulted in tragedy. Hindsight is a fine thing however this scenario is something we can all learn from and we at the cattery will be putting procedures in place to ensure episodes such as this do not happen again. Whilst we have no control over how your cats are transported to the cattery, we will be exercising control on how they leave the cattery. If we feel that the mode of transportation is in anyway unsafe or inappropriate, we will be strongly advising an alternative. Cat carriers are available for hire at our cattery. This is surely a better option than expensive veterinary treatment or worse…..the death of your cat.

The circumstances of this story were that three adult cats were squashed into a single cat cage, designed to transport only one cat, and then driven home. While only a short drive, it was a very hot afternoon. The cage was plastic with the only ventilation being at the front through the grilled door, which by the way was facing into the dashboard. Cats can get stressed enough already by just having to go into a cat carrier, followed by car travel, let alone being squashed in with little or no air. In a hot car, high body temperature and dehydration can occur very quickly. If the temperature inside the car is higher than your cat’s body temperature, then there is a considerable chance that heatstroke will occur. In this situation the problem was aggravated by having three cats packed together in one cat cage. The cat at the back must have been near suffocating. As it was, when all three cats were released from the carrier, the cat from the back collapsed. Rushed to the Vet, it had a temperature of 40.1 and was dehydrated. The cat was stabilized and given fluids. Had the drive home been another 5-10 minutes longer, the outcome could have been very different.

We as humans can become complacent if it is convenient for us but be aware of how you are transporting your cats. Their needs are different to ours. Buy an additional cat cage if necessary or at least borrow one. The life of your cat is not worth the risk, even for short drives. Always ensure your cat has adequate ventilation while travelling. For longer drives, provide water. Having only one cat per cage provides them with better airflow and thus less chance of overheating. On hot days, do not cover the carrier in such a way that air flow is impeded. Turn on the air-conditioning if you have it or leave the windows down. Never, ever leave your cat unattended in a vehicle.

15 Jan

Why Dogs chase Cats

Ashley Uncategorized

I acquired my first Doberman in 1987. Takoda and Reumah are my 4th & 5th respectively. From 1987 up until about five years ago, I have always been involved in dog obedience, agility and dog clubs. I did reasonably well at competing and have a box full of ribbons and trophies to reflect upon that past life. So, by no means an expert, I do know a little bit about dogs.

A wise and well respected dog trainer once told me two things I will always remember;

1). Pet dogs will not necessarily make good obedience dogs, but a good obedience dog will always make a good pet.

2). don’t try and teach your dog not to chase cats, teach the cat not to run.

My blog in this instance relates to the second piece of wisdom. There is logic here. Cats are certainly more vulnerable if they run. Dogs are natural predators and will normally chase anything that moves. Small animals like cats and rabbits are the perfect prey. Dogs will chase prey for two reasons, either as a game for the fun of it or with the intention of killing the prey if caught.

When I lived in Tauranga, I lived in a no-exit cul-de-sac. One day as I drove up the street with the dogs in the back of the car, I noticed a cat sitting on the pathway opposite our home. Unbeknown to me, Ruemah had seen it too. I pulled up the driveway, stopped the car and let the dogs out expecting them to run around the rear of the house as they usually do.

Reumah took off at full speed back down the drive and across the road. Screaming out any kind of command would have been a fruitless exercise so I stood and watched the scenario play out. The cat sat motionless and watched this Doberman powering towards it. It did not move a muscle. Ruemah came to an abrupt halt about 3-4 metres from the cat. You could see the look of confusion on her face. Why wasn’t the cat running? She waited a few seconds, lost interest, turned around and trotted back home. This brave cat made a stance; on the other hand, I still believe its life depended on the breed of dog doing the chase and the intention in the dogs mind.

My dogs are obedience trained, have always had cats as part of their family unit, and yet given the chance will chase unfamiliar cats. In their case it is a game, but I still reprimand for it. Had the cat across the road been injured, the blame would have been mine for a number of reasons; assuming my dogs had not seen the cat; knowing the cat was there I should have taken precautions prevent a problematic situation occurring; my dog was also off my property therefore rendering me liable.

I have never encouraged my dogs to chase anything and I am appalled when I have overheard other dog’s owners saying to their dog, “Get the cat get the cat”. It is a stupid and senseless thing to do. Dog owners should always try and deter cat chasing habits with appropriate training. Nevertheless a dog’s instinct, no matter what the training, will always be to chase if the owner is not around.

Terrier breeds can be some of the worst; it is an instinct that has been bred into them over centuries. If you know your dog is a cat killer, seeking advice from a professional dog trainer or animal behaviourist is the best option if you want to curb that behaviour.

Times are a changing for cat owners as well, so whilst dog owners need to be held accountable for the actions of their dogs, cat owners must also take more responsibility for their cat. In saying this I know it is difficult to keep your cat from straying onto neighbouring properties, but there are options should you chose to investigate. We know that both here in NZ and in Australia, the outcry over domestic cats (and feral cats) killing native birds and wildlife is definitely intensifying.

Finding a way to keep your cat on your own property will keep your cat safe; not only from dogs but from vehicle accidents, other cat fights, poisoning etc, and very importantly will contribute towards saving New Zealand’s precious native wildlife.

11 Oct

Celebrating Vet Nursing Day

Ashley Uncategorized

Today, October 11, is Vet Nursing Day 2013. The day is a chance for Vet Clinics and other Employers nationwide to show their appreciation and to acknowledge the fantastic job that vet nurses do within the animal industry.

Vet Nurses do not just work at Vet Clinics. Any large reputable boarding facility will have a vet nurse as part of their team. You may also find them working at places like the SPCA, Breeding Kennels, Pet Shops, Animal parks or Zoo’s etc.

Vet Nursing Day is an excellent way to educate the public about the profession and to recognise the contribution vet nurses make to the care and wellbeing of animals in our community.

Here at Ashley Boarding Cattery, Stacey Clearwater is our staff vet nurse. Her role is crucial to the running of our business. In fact Stephen has nicknamed her “Inspector Clearwater” as she does not miss a trick! If a cat in our care starts showing any signs of being unwell, then Stacey is on to it pretty quickly.

We are a large cattery and we simply have to be professional. Having at least one qualified vet nurse here is a fundamental part of that professionalism. The welfare and happiness of all the cats in our care is always at the forefront of any decision we make and we certainly value the opinions of Stacey and, in fact, all our other great staff in matters cat.

However, today was Stacey’s day and our chance to show Stacey how much we appreciate her efforts and hard work. Stacey was presented with flowers and chocolates, then it was carrot cake and grape juice all round for morning tea, with fellow staff members Hazel, Justine and Katey joining in the celebration.

Stacey, we thank you, I know the cats simply adore you and I know I could not run this place anywhere near as well without you. Have a very happy “VET NURSING DAY!”

10 Sep

Lack of Legislation within the Pet Boarding Industry

Ashley Uncategorized

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.

22 Aug

Individual units or communal cattery? The Choice is Yours.

Ashley Uncategorized

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.