Pets are a wonderful addition to our lives, and can add love, joy, and excitement to the family. But no matter how much you love your pet, there will be times when he needs to be temporarily boarded. It may be difficult to find travel and accommodations for a pet during a vacation, and family emergencies or other sudden events may require leaving pets behind for a while.

The most common place to board your pet is at a kennel. A kennel is a facility specialized in short or long term care of dogs, though many accept cats as well. Choosing a kennel wisely will ensure that you and your pet have a relaxed and stress free time away from home.



Many industries have organizations that set standards of safety, accountability, and best practices. Kennels are no exception. Animal care facilities are watched over by organizations such as the International Boarding and Pet Services Association (formerly known as the American Boarding Kennel Association). The IBPSA sets standards for the care of animals in kennels, day care, and other non-medical pet facilities.

It's not required for a kennel to be certified, but it's a good idea to choose facilities that have taken this extra step. Certification means that the kennel has achieved high standards for pet safety, employee training, emergency procedures, cleanliness, grooming, and other operating procedures. Many kennels proudly include accreditation in their advertising, so it should be easy to find accredited facilities in your area.


One of the most important aspects of choosing a kennel is cleanliness. Bringing multiple animals together in close quarters always creates a risk for spreading viruses or disease, so careful cleaning and disinfecting of boarding areas is a must.

Many kennels will offer a tour to prospective clients, and this is the perfect time to ask questions and observe the hygiene procedures. The runs and cages should be cleaned at least once a day, preferably twice, with a safe but effective disinfectant. Accidents should be taken care of immediately. The kennel area should be visibly clean and fresh smelling, and the animals should look clean and comfortable. Lobby and office areas should be tidy as well. The kennel should present a picture of a pleasant and well maintained facility.

Medical Services

In most cases, pets will remain healthy during boarding and will not need medical care. Elderly pets or those with existing health problems may need special care during their stay, and there's always a tiny chance that something unexpected may happen to even a healthy pet. It's best to know what veterinary options are available before choosing a kennel.

Some animal hospitals include boarding alongside their medical services. This is helpful for pets who need regular medication or close monitoring, since they can be easily cared for right alongside the hospitalized pets. Hospital boarding may be available for healthy pets as well, but keep in mind that the hospital's major concern is with sick and injured animals.

It's also wise to learn about the procedures involved in giving medical care. Is the kennel staff trained to recognize an animal in distress? Do they have a relationship with a nearby veterinarian who accepts emergencies? What decisions are made if they can't reach you by phone to explain the problem? Knowing the specifics will help smooth the process if something unexpected should occur.

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Bathing and Grooming

Because of the health risks, most kennels have strict standards for cleanliness.  But even with rigorous cleaning procedures, pets can sometimes get dirty or smelly during their stay. Unless bathing an excited dog is something you want to do after returning from a trip, it can be helpful to look into bathing and grooming services.

It's fairly common for kennels to offer a bath on the last day of boarding, sometimes for a reduced price if the stay has been long. Some facilities may offer grooming services as well; these may be as simple as a brush out by the staff, or as complex as a full clip performed by an in-house professional groomer. Bedding and toys can often be laundered as well. Learning
about what procedures are offered is useful in bringing home a clean and fresh smelling pet!



Boarding can be extra stressful to cats and their owners, due to the usual dog-centric focus of most facilities. There are some special concerns when boarding a feline.

One important aspect of boarding a cat is to make sure that the cat area is completely separate from the dog section. Many cats are frightened by dogs, so being housed in close quarters will cause undue stress and fear. The cat area should be separate from the dog area, preferably on the opposite end of the building. It should be kept clean and odor free, and each cat should have her own cage or run for privacy.

Staff should also be trained in the basics of medical care for cats. Cats tend to show much more subtle signs of poor health than dogs, and some behaviors (like panting) can have very different meanings for the two species. It's always a good idea to choose a facility that welcomes cats as equal boarders, and not just an "extra" to the dogs. Though they aren't very common, cat-only facilities do exist as well, and are held to the same high standards for accreditation.



Choosing a boarding kennel shouldn't be a simple choice. A valued and loved member of your family is being cared for, so careful consideration should be put into which kennel you entrust them to. These tips should help you choose a facility that will keep your pet safe, healthy, and happy!