Decision review: Cat boarding

We were going to be away for a week and a half, so we needed to make plans for our three cats. In the past, J- had done a little cat-sitting for us. I’d also asked a friend before, but that was for a weekend. With our cats occasionally throwing up or pooing outside the litter box when they’re upset, I didn’t want to inflict that on friends, even if I was happy to pay market rates. We wanted to make sure the cats were watched over and played with during the day, so we decided to give cat boarding a try.

Boarding cats is more expensive than hiring a cat sitter. We felt anxious about having someone else come into our house while we’re away, though, so we considered the difference a worthwhile premium for peace of mind – no litterbox accidents or throw-ups to worry about, and no worrying about stuff missing either. We also liked the ability to specify instructions like feeding Neko small, frequent meals – if you give her a lot of food in one go, she sometimes rushes and then throws up.

There was a small risk that the cats would pick up colds, ticks, or fleas from other cats, but we decided we could deal with that.

After calling up a few cat boarding places, we settled on Lonesome Kitty, a nearby cat boarding place. I checked out the location, and it seemed fine. The resident cats looked bright and alert, and none of them were obviously scratching themselves. We decided that it would be better to board there than with a veterinarian because vet offices tend to be busy (and occasionally full of sick animals!), so we e-mailed our confirmation. On the day before our flight, we dropped the cats off along with enough cat food for their stay.

After we got back, Luke and Leia sought attention more often than usual, and Neko had a cold. (The poor dear.) The cats were okay, though, and life returned to normal a week or so after we got back.

The cost of boarding three cats worked out to around $32 per day. A cat sitter would have cost around $23 per day. Lonesome Kitty has since then raised its prices to $36 for three cats / day.

2011-09-25 Sun 09:06

  • Mel Chua

    Decision review request: tablets? I know from prior blog posts that you’ve gotten a Wacom Bamboo and a Cintiq, and I have been longing for pen computing of my own since high school. Now that I’m finding graphical outlets for my grad school work (thanks to some very tolerant engineering education professors) it seems even more pertinent… but graduate students don’t exactly have massive hardware budgets, so I’m struggling to decide whether it’s worth it, and if I should go the tiny (read: cheaper) tablet route, or make a goal out of the big, long-term investment in a Cintiq. And of course my current infrastructure is Linux-based, so moving to Windows or Mac would entail yet another outlay of cash.

    You’ve been a 25-year-old grad student struggling to save for the future… if you were in my shoes now, looking at the technology available today, knowing what you know now, what salient factors would you consider in making your decision?

  • Sacha Chua

    Mel: If you need the finer resolution, pressure sensitivity, and visual feedback of a Cintiq, it’s a terrific pro tool. If you don’t mind not being able to see your screen and you’ll usually have a flat surface to work on, a small tablet is a less expensive experiment. Tablet PCs are much, much more awesome, though – portability means actually using it more often!

    History: I saved up for the Cintiq because I wanted the reassurance of being able to see what I was drawing without having to rely on hand-eye coordination. I also reasoned that keeping the drawing functionality separate from processing (so a tablet instead of a tablet PC) would make it easier for me to upgrade the processor/hardware specs, because I could just upgrade the computer it was connected to.

    Getting the Cintiq was a good decision at the time. It helped me learn how to draw more quickly and more confidently. I ended up spending my drawing time downstairs, though, so I bought a small Bamboo Pen + Touch for portable experiments. I used that one from time to time on the kitchen table, but I found myself rarely using it elsewhere because I needed too much desk space, and the separated visual feedback wasn’t much fun. When I got an X61 second-hand, that was amazing, and I had much more fun drawing with it. Later, I crunched the numbers and realized that buying a current Lenovo X220 cost about the same as buying a used X61, replacing the battery, and adding other stuff. When J-’s old laptop broke, we decided to pass my X61 down to her, and I got an X220. (Which is awesome!)

    Now we’ve got a Bamboo Pen+Touch languishing unused. Maybe I can ship that to you so that you can experiment inexpensively, if you think you’ll usually have the table space to make carrying it around worth it. =) I love seeing your engineering/education comics, and I think you’ll totally rock with an even easier way to draw.

    Wacom support for Linux is pretty decent, so you can stay on it if you’d like. I remember installing Ubuntu on my X61 and being amazed that stuff Just Worked. Inkscape and the Gimp are good programs for drawing, and can even be pressed into service as presentation tools. MyPaint is handy if you’ve got keyboard access. Handwriting recognition tools for Linux aren’t as awesome as Microsoft OneNote, but I found that I used OneNote less than I expected I would. I’ve been doing most of my notes as non-searchable sketches, as I found drawing programs were more reliable than OneNote. (Sometimes I’d get weird squishy parts in my OneNote notebook.)

    In short: a tablet PC was more than worth it for me, and way more fun than a regular PC or a regular tablet. I’d recommend that as the path of least regret, although not if it involves going to debt or eating unhealthily. A small drawing tablet is a decent way to experiment, but it’s not very portable. The Cintiq is not portable at all, and doesn’t get you that much more compared to a relatively recent tablet PC. Hope that helps!