Bow WOW! Travelling pets get their first dedicated airport terminal
From New York to Kuala Lumpur, pampered animals are getting all the bells and whistles when they travel, writes Elizabeth Sleith
Pampered pets have begun making their way through the world's first privately-owned animal terminal in New York's JFK airport.
The ARK, which opened this week, provides pre- and post-travel care for pets, horses, birds, livestock and exotic animals.
Located off the runway at JFK International, the 24/7 state-of-the-art facility is climate-controlled and promises on its website "an efficient, safe and low-stress environment for both our human and animal clients".
JFK is New York's primary airport and the fifth busiest in the US, handling 57-million passengers a year.
The $65-million Ark covers 16,500m² and expects to see some 70,000 animals passing through annually.
The first phase of the facility, now up and running, features pick-ups, food and drink and micro-chipping.
Pending approval by the US Department of Agriculture, it will also offer services during quarantine periods, which at times could involve weeks of stay. More equine, aviary, veterinary and grooming elements are to follow.
Pointing out that pet travel has always been rough, the New Yorker recently quoted the ARK's developer.
"You sit in baggage," John Cuticelli said. "If you have to be there four hours before the flight, the animal has to be there six hours before."
And as for customer service . "We see, in cargo, little cages that say, 'Fido eats at two o'clock, three o'clock and five o'clock, and here's the food.' " The baggage guys ignore it. "They're not trained! They're baggage handlers!"
While the ARK's staff have no power to intervene with animals on the planes themselves - they still go in the cargo hold - the Ark's website says that the creatures, when landing, are moved from jets directly into ARK-branded transport vehicles and taken to the terminal, where they will receive immediate care in whatever form is required.
block_quotes_start Owners who choose the ARK's premium option will get reports with photographs of their pets and information about their "activity" block_quotes_end
While the focus is on humane treatment, there are of course some bells and whistles.
For one, pet owners can choose a premium option - which includes reports to them with photographs of the creature and information about their "activity".
A Paradise 4 Paws option boasts "premium bedding and nightly tuck-in service" for dogs and "window perches in select bungalows" for cats.
There is also a pet spa that offers "hot oil treatments, mud paths, pawdicures and pet tattoos".
Though most airlines and airports have areas designated for pets, the Ark says it is streamlining pet travel, taking care of cargo requirements, quarantine and customs.
While they snooze and wait for boarding, pets in the know should hope they're destined for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - at least, the cats should. The self-proclaimed "world's first" five-star hotel for cats has just opened.
Catzonia is a 35-bedroom cattery that promises to pamper pets while their owners are away.
Beyond the yawnsome spa and grooming services and temperature-controlled rooms, this one even offers a "dating service".
WATCH: See inside Catzonia, Kuala Lumpur's five-star cat hotel
The guests can settle in to one of four room categories, including a VVIC (Very Very Important Cat) room - the hotel's most luxurious offering. The VVIC room can fit up to 10 adult cats and comes with three "king"-sized beds, a mini-playground and a separate loo.
The other rooms, which can accommodate between three and seven cats, come with either a "queen", "double" or "single" bed and up to three feeding and cleaning sessions per day.
Some have a shower facility and wi-fi, though we have no idea why.
The VVIC and VIC rooms also come with CCTV, allowing anxious cat owners to monitor their pets 24 hours a day by using a phone app.
Cats can also indulge in a range of grooming options including a "medicated grooming" service, which uses a special shampoo that shoos away fleas.
Guests can enjoy stays between three hours and a year (yikes) in rooms priced from RM 25 (about R75) per night.
"We believe the cats need holidays too. They always prefer to be treated as a boss. It means the environment must be felt like home, always being cuddled and hugged, and most importantly they don't want to feel lonely," the hotel says at catzonia.com.