Kitty playtime is becoming a trend at kennels that board cats, but Kelly Jones, a Wichita veterinarian who specializes in felines, doesn't expect "kitty day cares" to catch on anytime soon.
"Cats don't get along immediately like dogs," who may make friends with just a couple of sniffs, said Jones, who practices at Wichita Cat Hospital. "It can take a week or more for them to get accustomed to another cat."
As plusher accommodations and doggie day cares are offered as options for canine boarders, cats are being pampered, too, with play sessions, larger kitty "suites," and plenty of personal attention.
Most pet owners agree that when it comes to leaving a pet at home, cats are less of a worry than dogs.
Unlike dogs, cats don't need to be walked, and are independent enough that many cat owners who leave home for a weekend just put down extra food, water and litter and leave the kitties to take care of themselves.
"That's easy to do with a cat if you're just leaving for a short period," Jones said.
But if you'll be gone longer than a few days, you need to have someone check on them or consider boarding, she said.
For a cat that needs medication or has special needs, a kennel is probably the best option, Jones said.
"It's pretty difficult to get medicine down a cat. The neighbor boy isn't going to be able to do it," she said, and even a professional pet sitter might not be able to find the cat when it's time for a pill.
Diabetes is one disease that is fairly common in cats, Jones said, and if a cat needs insulin injections, "you're probably going to end up boarding."
People who decide to board their cats won't find as many options as for dogs, but customized quarters for kitties can be found in many kennels today, Jones said.
Cat Hospital of Wichita offers boarding in large kennels designed just for cats, with a shelf for cat naps and a separate area for the litter box, Jones said.
The quarters also feature "walk-throughs," she said: "We can take a divider out so a cat can have two cages or share with a housemate."
Boarded cats are kept separately from any sick cats in the hospital, and — best of all, Jones said — there are no barking dogs to stress kitties out.
"It's really peaceful and calm," she said.
Larger kitty "suites" with removable dividers are also part of the new boarding facilities at Chisholm Creek Pet Resort in Park City.
"Each cat suite has levels, so it's not just a single crate," said manager Jenifer Payne.
As with the kitty condos at the Cat Hospital, the dividers between suites can be removed, giving feline guests two rooms — with food, water and litter in one section and the bed in another.
"It's more like a suite you'd stay at in a hotel," Payne said.
One popular feature at Chisholm Creek is the webcam, which allows owners to check in on their pets.
People who have never boarded their cat or may be reluctant to do so, "at least they know, 'There's Fluffy. I know she's OK and she's sleeping,' " Payne said.
Chisholm Creek also offers "play time" for cats, but unlike doggie day care, it's just for one cat at a time, or maybe two or three from the same family, Payne said.
Play equipment includes a large scratching post with multiple levels and hanging toys, but some cats "want to go straight to the window seat and look out," Payne said.
The sealed concrete floors are easily sanitized, which Jones said is important for communal cat areas, to lessen the chance that a kitty might catch fleas, ringworm or something more serious like a respiratory virus from another cat.
Before you choose a boarding kennel for your cat, visit the facility and ask questions, Jones said.
Make sure it is clean and quiet, she said, and ask if food is provided, if there are extra charges for medication, and if someone will be there to check on pets over the weekend.
Some kennel keepers "don't come in on Sundays at all," she said. "It's nice to have your animal checked on daily. That's what you are paying for."
Although cats dislike change and would prefer to be home with their family, most do fine being boarded, Jones said.
"The younger ones have a tendency to cry," she said, "but we have a lot of repeat boarders that are used to being here.
"They might cry the first day, but then they settle in," she said.
"We play with them. It's not like they sit in their kennel and are ignored all day."
Likewise, Chisholm Creek advertises "individual loving for your feline friend" at its "cat hotel."
When let out of their cages to stretch their legs, some cats will head for the scratching post or the windowsill, Payne said, "or they are in our laps 'cause we do lots of loving."
Some cats prefer not to be handled a lot, she said, "but the ones that do are like, 'Please love me, 'cause it's been three days.' "