boarding your pets

We all need a break once in a while, but what happens when you can’t take your furchildren with you?

Here at Meowoof, we have never parted with our pets for more than a few days as we feel guilty about leaving them behind. However, we are overdue for an overseas holiday and it was time to indulge in ourselves for once.

We decided to visit boarding houses and see what services they offer. Being in Sydney, there are two noticeable clusters of boarding facilities: Dural and Duffys Forest. There is also a large well know resort in Sutherland called Hanrob with very mixed reviews.

Since we are closer to Dural, we decided to visit kennels and catteries in this area. There are many companies to choose from and if you plan it well, it’s possible to visit all of them on the same day.

Because there are so many boarding facilities to choose from, we didn’t know where to start. So we began online and exhausted all the dog and cat forums for recommendations. The last thing we wanted to do was send our furchildren to a place with bad reviews. We came across a few nightmarish stories that did not ease our hesitation or anxiety.

From the reviews and research, we then wrote a list of boarding houses we wanted to visit. Each company was then contacted for inspections. Some are open appointments that allow you to visit between a certain time, others are hard appointments where you will have to reserve the time to visit.

A tip is to structure your day around the hard appointments and slot the open appointments in between. This will allow you to fit a lot more inspections on the day.

Aragon Cattery
Aragon is considered luxury 5 star accommodation for cats so we were interested in visiting as the photos on their website showed the closest living situation to what our cats have at home.

They offer two types of suites: Penthouse and Apartment. The Penthouse suites include a couch and an indoor area opening out onto a deck with meadow views. The Apartment suites are separated by solid walls and feature private window balconies. The cattery is raised above the ground which reduces the chance of flea and tick infestation. Each suite was very clean, tidy and felt homely.

Puss ‘N’ Boots
Puss ‘N’ Boots was a recommendation on one of the forums. It was established in the 1980s and is family run. The facilities may have been ‘modern’ with ‘stimulating surroundings’ at the time, now it just looks run down and depressing.

Puss ‘N’ Boots offers two types of accommodation: Apartment and Verandah Bungalows. With the Verandah Bungalows, your cat gets a plastic chair and some sunshine compared to the Apartments where there is neither.

The cattery had a slight smell and felt quite uninviting. In fact we compared it to the RSPCA’s adoption cages. The mesh cages aren’t fully enclosed so the cats are partially exposed to the elements. Many of the boarded cats stayed in their heated crates due to the cold when we were there.

They are a member of Pet Industry Association Australia (PIAA) and the wife of the owner is a practicing vet.

Aristo Cattery
Aristo cattery is another member of the PIAA. We were warmly greeted by the owner upon arrival and informed of the ins and outs of the cattery. Similar to Puss ‘N’ Boots, the cats are housed in mesh runs. However, it was bright, cosy and quiet with no odour. Many of the cats were out of their crates, looking out into the garden.

Each run features multilevel platforms for your cat to perch and explore, however it may be a little crowded for two or more cats if they are used to a lot of space.

Cat In The Hat / Acacia Grove Canine Lodge
The idea of a boarding house that looked after both dogs and cats was very appealing to us as it would be convenient to drop off and pick up Udie and the cats in the same location. These two boarding houses have different names but are on the same property.

Cat In the Hat had spacious mesh runs and offer the option of connecting runs if you have two or more cats to board. There is a catarium (separate play area) where the boarders get an hour of playtime a day. This may benefit cats that are used to being outdoors.

Acacia Grove was the first kennel we visited and we were shocked at how dark and smelly the runs were. The concrete walls echoed the barking which may add stress to already unsettled boarders. Other than allocated playtime in one of the exercise yards, the boarders remain in their runs.

One of our biggest concerns was that both facilities were being looked after by one staff member, making us wonder how the boarders could get dedicated attention and supervision.

Abbotswood Boarding Kennels
Another recommended boarding house. We turned up at the appropriate time, only to be greeted by a closed gate. There was a note saying ‘back in 15 minutes’. So we left and returned 30 minutes later to the same message and closed gate. The phone went direct to voice mail.

We had to leave for our hard appointment at the next boarding house and had no interest to visit again. It is a shame that we didn’t get to inspect Abbotswood as they also board both cats and dogs. However, we feel that this is not how you would treat potential customers and it reflects badly on business.

Calabash Kennels and Cattery
Calabash was highly recommended by regular boarders. The owner was very thorough and upfront when giving her tour and it was obvious to see why she had gained such positive reviews.

The cattery is an enclosed building, warm and bright with three suites to choose from: Garden Villa, Balcony and Garden View. All suites are separated by mesh. The Garden Villas have individual outdoor catios, ideal for indoor/outdoor cats. There is also a large catarium for allocated playtime.

Dogs are paired and stay in their runs for most of the day. They get two supervised playtimes in one hour blocks with dogs of similar size and temperament. There were numerous staff about their duties and the facilities seemed modern and well thought out for their purpose.

Sydney Pet Resort
This was the only boarding facility to turn us away due to having a full house which made us more curious to see what made it so special. We went the very next week.

Do not get this confused with another facility which has a similar name. Unlike the other kennels we visited, Sydney Pet Resort is free roaming. The dogs are out in the large supervised play areas from 8am until 5pm and are kept indoors during the nights.

The yards looked very clean considering the amount of use and the dogs seemed relaxed.

Update: 8/12/14
Sydney Pet Resort has moved to Londonderry, NSW.

Tips
– Get recommendations, look for places with good reviews/testimonials.
– Don’t rely on photos of the boarding facilities, it is always better if you visit in person.
– Visit the places you are interested in, a couple of months in advance. Once you’ve made a decision you can reserve a spot straight away to avoid disappointment of your preferred boarding house being booked out.
– Inspections will give you a vibe about the place, does the entrance seem untidy, does the place smell, are the animals happy, relaxed, etc? Trust your instincts.
– It is encouraged to ask staff questions, see how they reply, are they energetic, do they love their job? They are the ones looking after your furchild after all!

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10 comments

  1. kerry & paul

    thank you so much for detailing your pet boarding research. We had just booked puss’n’boots as had heard great things but hadnt actually visited – so we are now waiting to hear if Aragon has space so we can cancel. We always hate leaving our cat behind and try for short holidays to have friends look after her but this time we are just away for too long. We had a great cattery that we used when we lived in New Zealand and its been a real shock to see the standard of boarding over here – and the price! Thanks again for your research and happy 2014, Kerry

    • meowoof
      Author

      Hi Kerry, we found ourselves in a similar situation where we didn’t want to burden our friends and family with the responsibility of looking after our pets for our holiday. We’re happy that our research helped and hope Aragon can make room for you!

  2. Hi there, what a shame you don’t live near the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains Pet Resort has an open-door policy regarding inspections and/or visits. You can come and do a surprise visit as long as it is within our opening hours.
    We are the best Cattery in NSW. We have 9000 photos on facebook and have been licenced since 2009. Our Cattery is beautiful – all pink and aqua with chandeliers and pretty blingy butterflies and artworks, TV’s, heated beds and luxurious sheepskins to snuggle into. We love cats……. Doesn’t everyone?

    • meowoof
      Author

      Hi Susan and John, we may not live near the Blue Mountains but we would love to visit your Pet Resort. One day we might just pop by and say hello!

  3. Mary

    What a fantastic list. Thank you for taking the time and effort to compile it. You have taken the stress and worry away for many people I am sure. However, I would always personally recommend Puss N Boots in Dural. I have been using them now for 17 years for short and long stays. Yes I agree that the accommodation cages could do with a spruce up; but that would be my only complaint. I have tried loads of different catteries in VIC and NSW and had some bad experiences or not been entirely happy with the attitude of the staff. Whereas Puss N Boots is the only cattery where I can drop my three cats off and just totally relax when I walk out the door – because I know they are in good hands with people who genuinely care. Anywhere else I have ever left them, I have stressed and fretted about them, which is not the best start to a holiday. But again thank you for this list. Some of the other catteries included look good too although very expensive 🙁

    • meowoof
      Author

      Hi Mary;
      thank you for your comment and personal recommendation of Puss N Boots. At the end of the day you have to be comfortable with the accommodation and people you are leaving your furry ones with so we’re glad that you have found their service and care to be good over such a long period of time! While we may not be going away any time soon, we’ll be sure to take a look around at other boarding houses to add to this article for everyone’s benefit.

    • Crazy Cat Lady

      Hi Mary

      I am about to leave my much loved moggie at Puss N Boots. I only visited one other cattery (a small, local one, not on this list) and didn’t like either the feel or the smell of it, so set off to visit both Puss N Boots and Cleo’s Cattery, where I had previously left my cat several years earlier and was quite happy with it. Once I got to Puss N Boots the owner was professional, obviously caring and the whole place had such a great vibe that I booked my cat in on the spot, without even visiting any others. My cat is an outdoor cat, so is probably going to feel quite confined during her stay there, but I do believe she will get very good care. Still comfortable with my decision, even after reading the slightly off review,

  4. Phyll

    I have been taking my two cats to PUSS N BOOTS for the past 6 years. I did take them to another more “upmarket” well known cattery but my cats came back distressed. It really depends on what your’e looking for. If you want some 5 star “hotel” style accom , with all the bells and whistles dont bother with P S .n boots. It doesnt have plush sofas and balconies with panoramic views. Its a simple, comfortable place with a very relaxed atmosphere . There is soft classical music playing and while it doesnt smell like a boutique it has an earthy smell which is familiar to animals. Because its small the cats get a lot of care and attention and Michael, the owner is a consummate professional .

  5. Linda

    Does anyone know anything about http://www.dogwoods.com.au/
    It look fabulous and if the pictures are correct, the dogs can socialise, swim and have fun.
    My dog is very attached and dependent on us, however he loves the company of other dogs, so this is why I am attracted to this kennel, because I would like to believe that he would have a lot of doggie company.
    It is very far from where we live in Leura, however if it is as good as they say, then it would certainly be worth taking him there.
    Hope someone has heard of them and could share some experiences.
    Many thanks Linda

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