Creating a Stress-Free Ambience in Your Feline Boarding Area
By Deborah Hansen
When thinking about how to make the environment in your boarding facility more comfortable for the felines you service, ambience is a great starting point. There are many inexpensive and free adjustments you can make to your boarding facility that will improve the comfort of the cats in your care. While aesthetics are important to the human client, more subtle factors help cats relax and stay stress-free during boarding.
Background noise is something we grow accustomed to and easily forget how it affects our feline clients. Most cats seem to prefer a quiet environment. Very few cats live with dogs that are always barking. This makes it important that your cat area has as few dog noises as possible. Eliminating or muffling barking dog noises is just the tip of how we can manipulate the environment to make our feline clients more comfortable.
As natural hunters, cats seem to prefer nature sounds as background music. Sounds like rivers, forests, waves and birds seem to have a calming effect on cats while keeping the feline’s mind active. Changing your current background music to nature sounds will have a positive impact on the felines you board.
There has been much research done on sound therapy for both canines and humans. Research focusing on sound therapy for cats is significantly lacking. I believe there is enough published research on the topic of music and sound therapy for humans and canines that it is safe to make an educated leap to assume the same benefits will be true for felines. Using music that matches the number of beats per minute of a resting cat’s heart rate should provide comfort for the cats in your care.
Some kitties do live in very loud and chaotic homes. These cats can handle louder and more random background noise than other felines. If you know the background of the cats in your boarding facility, it is ok to switch the background music depending on your current residents.
A popular add-on service that can be offered and will enhance the overall ambience of your boarding facility is a private drinking fountain. Adding drinking fountains will not only pull in extra income, but will also add the gentle sound of flowing water to your feline area.
Aroma in your feline area is another low-cost aspect you can manipulate to help the cats in your care have a less stressful experience. There are three different kinds of scent receptor proteins in mammal noses. One of them is V1R. It is believed V1R is the protein that controls a mammal’s ability to separate one scent from another. When we think canines have a fabulous sense of smell, keep in mind, humans have two variants of the V1R protein, dogs have nine and cats have 30. With almost three times the V1R protein, a cat’s sense of smell is far more intense than ours or that of our dog friends.
When we think of making the enclosure comfortable for cats, we need to especially consider the smells that the felines can smell and we humans cannot. A good place to start is with the smell of dogs. While some of the cats that enter your boarding facility live with dogs, the smell of dogs sends many felines into a fear response—which in turn will raise the anxiety and stress level of the cat. It is important to keep your cat area as dog-free as possible to avoid the added anxiety that some cats experience around dogs.
We also have the naturally occurring smells from multiple animals being housed in one facility. Research shows that a high-quality filtration system is the best option when considering the overall wellbeing of cats. If a high-quality air filtration system is not in the budget, or it just isn’t keeping your boarding facility as fresh as you would like, there are great slow-cooker air freshener recipes online that are feline-safe and will make your waiting area smell great.
Keep in mind, commercial air freshening products can be toxic to cats. If your boarding facility decides to add something to the air to make it more appealing to humans, always make sure to verify that the ingredients you are using in your air fresheners are non-toxic to felines.
One of the smells I like to introduce when boarding a cat is the smell of that particular cat’s favorite human. Not only is this free, but it builds the relationship and trust you have with the human client. Many times during my cat grooming career I have felt cats completely relax when something with the smell of their favorite human was given to them. One of the items I believe should be on the check-in list for boarding facilities is a dry, but used towel of the cat’s favorite human. Some clients prefer to bring used pillow cases or a worn workout shirt. These items will have the same calming effect on the feline.
Another free add-on is time in the sun. What cat does not enjoy a cat nap in a sun puddle? I recommend letting in as much natural light in your feline area as possible. While you may be restricted by the number of windows your building has, using a window treatment with less light-control might be something your business can consider. Next time the window treatments are replaced, choosing an option with a lower light-filtering feature will not only allow more light into your building, but will also bring comfort to the felines in your care. If you are limited on the natural sunlight in your facility, an excellent add-on option is giving the felines extra time in an area with direct sunlight.
Ambience is a great place to start when catering to a feline client base. There are many easy and free adjustments you can make in your boarding facility to make the feline’s stay more comfortable and stress-free while increasing your bottom line.