Can't Travel with Pets? Make Sure They're Well Cared for While You're Gone

September 21, 2016
Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN

Pets can be a great vacation companion. If your destination won't allow pets, though, follow these tips to ensure they're safe and healthy back home.

With Autumn’s arrival, some families want to squeeze in that last trip before the chill of Winter arrives. After all, the weather’s not as hot, the leaves are just beginning to turn — it’s the perfect time to get out of the office for a few days and enjoy yourself! But sometimes it’s impossible to bring the whole family – namely, your pets - on that last vacation.

Our pets enrich our homes and lives, but unfortunately they’re not always welcome at the places we visit. So what if you can’t bring your pets on the trip you’ve got planned? There are plenty of options for the care of your furry friends — here’s what to look for so you can have peace of mind on your trip.

Ask a Friend

Sure, it’s the most obvious tip, but some people are still hesitant to ask their friends to pet-sit. If you have a friend you trust with your animal and your home, you can ask them to visit your home several times during the day, depending on the animal, to feed, exercise, and spend time with your furry friend.

If you do ask a friend,

it’s important to be considerate

. Be sure to leave your friend with everything necessary for the proper care of your pet, like food, food dishes, leashes, and toys. Also, leave important information with your friend, like your veterinarian’s phone number, just in case something happens to your pet and they need medical care. If your pet is taking medications, be sure to discuss them with your friend prior to leaving, and leave the medications out in a safe place so your friend can easily find them.

Depending on how long you’re gone, it’s probably a good idea to discuss your pet’s behavior in certain circumstances, like thunderstorms, so no one come back to a house that’s been torn to shreds. You have to know your critter’s quirks and communicate them to your pet sitter. It’s also important to discuss health problems your pet might have and any special needs resulting from these problems.

Since your friend is doing you a huge favor by taking care of your pet when you’re away, it’s important to show gratitude and consideration toward them. After all, it might mean they’d be willing to watch your animal again in the future. Consider paying for your friend’s fuel if they’re driving far out of the way to your home, or bring back a small token of appreciation from your vacation. A little thank you goes a long way!

Hire a Pet Sitter

Sometimes, if you don’t have friends available, you might have to shell out some cash to hire a professional pet sitter. If you choose to go with this option, some preparation is key to ensuring a good experience. Make sure you take time to introduce your animal to the pet sitter. If the sitter will be caring for your pet at their home, it’s a good idea to take your pet to their house before leaving on vacation — that way, your pet is more familiar with their temporary surroundings and any other animals that might be present in the sitter’s home.

Your sitter might watch your pet in your own home. This might be a better option, but introductions to unfamiliar people are still important. Ask your sitter to stop by your place to meet your pet shortly before you leave on your trip.

Regardless of where your animal will be cared for, it’s important for you to assess compatibility between your pet and your sitter. Just like with people, animals don’t get along with everyone. If you suspect there might be a conflict, you’ll have time to find another sitter before leaving.

Board Your Animal

If a friend can’t watch your pet, and no pet sitters are available, you might have to pay to board your pet at a reputable kennel. How much you’ll pay and what services you can expect will vary depending on the kennel, but regardless of where you choose to board,

there are several things you should look for

to make sure your pet has the best experience possible.

First, make sure the facility looks and smells clean. You want to make sure that the entire kennel, not just the inside, is clean and orderly. Ask to see the outside area where animals can play to make sure it’s clean. There should be good ventilation to prevent offensive odors, and the temperature inside should be adequate — not too hot, not too cold. The outside play area should be protected from the elements, and it should be secure so that your pet can’t escape if they’re exercising outside.

Ask how frequently kennel areas are cleaned. You should also check to see if there are resting boards or other bedding provided to allow animals to rest off concrete floors. Make sure there is enough space for multiple animals to move around comfortably, and that there’s adequate space between food bowls and litter boxes. Ask how often pets are fed.

Responsible kennel owners and operators will require pets to be current on their vaccinations. This requirement helps protect your pet and the other animals at the facility from common communicable diseases, like canine kennel cough, that can be expensive and time consuming to treat. You should also ask if there are veterinary services at the facility, or what veterinary services are used if there are none present on site.

Finally, make sure it’s OK to bring some of your pet’s favorite toys from home! They help comfort your furry friend while you’re gone, and help make the boarding experience a more positive one. You might come back to find your pet had as much fun on his “vacation” as you did!

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