Don’Take Me To A Cattery! What To Do With Your Pet When You Go On Holiday:

According to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) – quoted in The Guardian on 22nd July – a record of 2.4 million British holidaymakers will go abroad this year. This means that over the weekend of 21st – 23rd July, more than 500,000 passengers were expected to fly from Heathrow airport, 335,000 from Gatwick and 136,000 from Stansted. They were going off to enjoy their summer vacation – but what happens to the pets that many of them left behind?

The website has estimated that there are 54 million pets in the UK: Dogs are the most popular at 24%, followed by cats (17%), indoor fish (5%), rabbits (2%),  reptiles (1.5%) and hamsters (1.4%). The majority of dog owners tend to either leave their animal with friends or family or (if they are travelling by car) take it with them. This is not, however, an option usually available to cat owners, 54% of whom ask their neighbours to go into their house to feed their pet and 16% of whom leave it with a cattery.

Any guilt complex these owners may feel about apparently abandoning their animals will not have been alleviated by an article in the Daily Mail by columnist Caroline McGuire captioned “ Take me too! Upset pets look the picture of misery as they watch their owners pack for their holidays”. This was accompanied by photos of cats and dogs with sad faces sitting in their owners’ suitcases and refusing to move.  The Telegraph’s science editor, Sarah Knapton, however, seems to regard this as something of an exaggeration. She has noted that research conducted by the University of Lincoln has concluded that “cats, unlike dogs, do not need humans to feel protected, preferring to look after themselves”. Furthermore – and especially relevant in the summer vacation context – that “Although owners might worry that their pet is nervously pining for their return, in fact cats show no sign of separation anxiety”. As a consolation for cat owners “despairing about their aloof house guests”, Knapton also highlighted the opinion of animal behaviourists that “if a cat stays around, it shows it really wants to be there”.

A report on “pet translators” by the Guardian journalists Sarah Butler and Hannah Devlin  on 22nd July cited the author of “Learning The Language of Animals”, Con Slobodchikoff, Professor  Emeritus with the Northern Arizona University’s Department of Biological Sciences, who told them that many people would dearly love to find out what their dog or cat is trying to communicate. He suspected, however, that a lot of times, the cat would just want to say “You idiot, just feed me and leave me alone”. Christopher Hitchens, the English-born American author, journalist and literary author, was similarly sceptical about feline attitudes, pointing out that “ If you provide dogs with food, water , shelter and affection, they will think you are god. If you do the same with cats, they draw the conclusion that they are gods”.

Meanwhile: If cat owners who are going on holiday don’t want to bother their neighbours, what’s the solution? The “Home Loving Cats” website is adamant that “most cats really hate catteries” and that when they are “forcibly taken away from their familiar home environment (their central territory) they will often become stressed, unhappy, sometimes stop eating and are quite unable to adjust to their new surroundings”. It’s not so much the fact that they don’t want to be taken to a cattery, but more “that they don’t want to be taken anywhere”. If, however, a cat owner really has no alternative, they should “be careful to exercise appropriate care and due diligence when choosing a cattery”.

David Fellingham, the proprietor of the West Wimbledon Cattery, concurs with the view that “dogs need people, cats don’t”. He’s been running his business, authorized by Merton Council, for almost 25 years, works from 7 am – 8 pm seven days a week looking after around 24 cats on site and another six based in houses in the area. He says there are no seasonal fluctuations, that he is busy all the year round. Some cats will be left with him for just a couple of weeks, others for much longer, such as two years in the case of a cat from America. He charges £13 per day for one cat and £17 per day for two, though they have to be from the same household.

The Animal Boarding Establishment Act 1963 requires anyone operating a cattery or kennel to acquire a license from their local authority, which will also specify the number of animals that can be accommodated. As the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) has emphasized, the facilities have to meet specified minimum standards: The enclosure, for example, must “provide sufficient space to allow each cat to turn freely and to easily stand, sit and lie in a comfortable position”. It should also be maintained in good repair to protect the cats, contain them, keep other animals out and enable them to remain dry and clean.

There is a considerable variation of prices, depending on the cattery: Silverdale Kennels in Feltham charge £11.83 + vat per cat and £20.66 + vat for two cats sharing; The “Cat’s Whiskers”, on the Middlesex / Surrey border, £15 per day for one, £20 per day for two sharing. By contrast, a suite in the West Wing of the Pawchester “five star luxury cat hotel” in Fulham SW6 costs a minimum of £45 per night. It also has two bungalows (£30 per night) and ten “high rise” suites (£25 per night): “Relaxing classical music is played throughout the premises, premium food is used for all the guests and there is Cats TV in every room”. For anyone interested, the Pawchester is now being offered for sale.



Filed under: Society, Travel | Posted on July 24th, 2017 by Colin D Gordon

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