When owners are away, cats can play at luxury resorts no longer reserved just for needier dogs

Industries Associated Press

When Boris and Anastasia vacation, they prefer to stay in a deluxe three-story suite, dine on tuna mackerel and lobster consommé, and spend their time on an iPad.

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The Russian blue cats spend a few days to a couple of weeks at Morris Animal Inn in Morristown, New Jersey, when their owners go out of town. And it's pretty clear to owner Shannon Muller, of nearby Morris Plains, that her cats get more indulgences at the hotel than at home.

When Boris and Anastasia get to the resort, "they barely look back at us," she said. "But when they come home, they are glad to be home."

People are pouring more money into pampering their pets, including at high-amenity hotels such as Morris Animal Inn. The luxury and the costs vary widely at kitty resorts, but all cater to cats that are no longer left at home without care. These days, they're getting the same out-of-town treatment as dogs while people emphasize pet care and cats become more popular with help from online videos and TV specials.

Morris Animal Inn started boarding cats in the 1980s with a basic enclosure, litter and food. It expanded its services because pet parents are treating their cats and dogs more like family and demanding specialized and customizable services, said Joann Morris, vice president and co-owner.

"Our first activity was the pampered pet session, simulating the love and attention they might get at home from an independent cat sitter," she said.

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It costs $12.95 a session and is popular with those who don't want to buy a full menu of services. For those who do, package prices range from $19.95 to $49.95 per day and vary mainly by how much one-on-one attention the cat gets.

The most popular is the Purr-fect package, built for the most active animals, which gives cats lots of personal attention, five-star fare and even a running wheel that looks like a large hamster wheel. They also get plenty of time to play with toys, climb ropes, create art on iPads by pawing at the screen, listen to classical music and snack on catnip.

Kitty TV is always tuned to something cats like to watch: butterflies, balls, birds. Once they're tired, they head back to their three-story suites for a snooze. The rooms offer a birds-eye view of the lobby through clear plastic, wide window seats and soft pillows — no metal resembling a cage.

Older cats or those who like to laze can get cheaper packages with more sleep time, fewer activities and a premium bed. But everyone gets maid service and daily brushing.

Morris Animal Inn isn't the only hotel doling out kitty amenities.

The Pawington in South San Francisco is a 23,000-square-foot dog and cat day-care and boarding center. Suites, much like Morris', come in packages or ala carte. Priced at $45 to $65, they include separate ventilation systems and hideaway dens for peaceful rest.

At Whiskers Luxury Cat Boarding in Georgetown, Texas, every suite has a 7-foot tree topped with a kitty skybox. The owners even promise a family of finches for cats to watch. Suites range from $25 to $80 per night, depending on amenities.

The cat-comfort craze has even moved into veterinarians' offices, with a push for feline-friendly, dog-free facilities where cats are handled more gently and get calming pheromones, said Raelynn Farnsworth, a professor at Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.

For Muller, she wonders if her cats realize all the ways they're pampered at luxury kitty camp. It wasn't long ago that Boris and Anastasia stayed in a cage at the vet's office when she and her husband left town.

When the Mullers heard about the attention Morris Animal Inn gave cats, they signed up their pets for every amenity.

"It was like opening the door to paradise," Shannon Muller said.