Vacations & Pet Sitters

The holidays are nearly here and pet sitters can be a big help when you plan vacations with or without your dog. Many of us will travel to visit family and friends, have folks visit, or spend vacation time away from home. Time off from work and a change of routine offers humans much-needed stress relief. But the same is not always true for furry family members.

Good vacation plans depends on the individual pet, and your special circumstances. Does your dog love meeting new people, hide, or become hyper around strangers? Perhaps Chance the cat enjoys riding in the car but your brother’s dog hates kitties, or Grandma is allergic. Are pets more comfortable at a kennel, away from your nephew’s hair-pulling fingers? Or does your pet go on a hunger strike if boarded?

HOME ALONE?

In general, cats tend to prefer staying in their home amid familiar surroundings. Some do well if left alone for a day or two when provided with adequate food and water, and extra litter boxes. That’s not appropriate for kittens, cats older than 10 years, or any cat with a health issue that needs attention, though.

No pet should be unsupervised for longer than a couple of days. Make arrangements to have a friend, a neighbor, or a professional pet sitter visit at least once a day to clean the toilet facilities, check food and water (and medicate, if needed), and perhaps play or cuddle with the cats.

Leaving dogs at home is also an option. But unless your dog is litter box trained (yes, it can be done!), people visits must be more frequent for potty breaks and meals. Some dogs eat four-days’-worth of food at one time if it’s all left out at once.

BOARD or BORED?

Many dogs and some cats are fine when boarded at kennels. Reputable kennels require proof of adequate health care, so get vaccination proof from your veterinarian in advance. American Boarding Kennel Association provides a list.

Be sure that the cat space is out of sight and sound of the doggy facilities, to reduce feline stress levels. Some state-of-the-art facilities now provide pets with sofas, play times with other dogs, cat trees, videos of squirrels and birds to watch—and even close-circuit television monitors owners can access over the Internet while on vacation, to keep an eye on their furry friends.

Veterinarians may have kennel space available for dogs or cats with health issues that need monitoring. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations regarding boarding facilities or pet sitters.

PICK A PET SITTER

Pet sitters are the ideal choice. You can search via professional organizations such as National Association of Professional Pet Sitters and Pet Sitters International to find members in your area. Check out the pet sitter’s credentials, how long they’ve been in business, if they’re bonded/insured, what services they provide, and be specific about fees. Find out how much time the pet sitter spends on each visit—average is 30 minutes but for dog walking (especially multiple pets) or grooming/medicating it may take more time and require a higher cost.

Ask for references (and check them!) before you decide if the service or individual is a match for you and your pets. It’s also important to see if the candidate interacts well with your cats and dogs. Some pet sitters specialize in special needs animals. For instance, they may be able to medicate your diabetic cat or “pill” your reluctant dog.

Be sure to leave caretakers with detailed information about each pet’s care needs, veterinary contact information, and emergency phone numbers where you can be reached. Leave your pets’ leash, medications and other “must haves” in an easy access area and show the pet sitter where to find them. Alert the neighbors that a pet sitter or family friend will be coming and going from your home so they won’t be alarmed at strangers in the neighborhood, and give the pet sitter your neighbor’s name and phone number. Talk with your veterinarian about signing a “just in case” authorization for medical care (you can designate the dollar amount). That way, emergency care is available and funded even if you are unavailable to give your okay in person.

Preparing for your pets’ comfort during your vacations gives you peace of mind so you can enjoy your time free from worries. After all the joy they bring you throughout the year, don’t your cats and dogs deserve happy howl-adays, too?

So…do you contract with a pet sitter, or perhaps a neighbor or family member to care for pets when you’re gone? Or do you board the dog? How does that work for you? How many readers take the dog along for the trip–or even the kitty? What tips and tricks make the travel problem free? Please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Comments

Vacations & Pet Sitters — 9 Comments

  1. I had folks use me as a regular pet sitter. It was a lot easier on them knowing it was going to be the same person every time. It became a treat for the pets involved because I was that lady that gave them stuff they didn’t usually get (I was often instructed to dole out extra treats during my visit so they wouldn’t see it as a bad thing).

    A friend of the family had a doberman who tended to have… issues with the kennels. Ate her leash on multiple occasions (which frustrated said friend after the first round because she had left strict instructions to keep the leash WELL out of reach). So as a test run, my folks ran me over to her place, and she and my mom went out shopping for a bit, left me alone with the dog to make sure the pup trusted me enough to handle me being her keeper for a couple weeks at a stretch. It went well, so I became regular babysitter and housesitter. Packed up some clothes, friend stocked the pantry with all sorts of goodies (and LOTS of popcorn, which is great because the dog and I BOTH love popcorn), and stayed there a couple weeks. After that she always got excited when I came over. She missed her momma too, but I seemed to have gained Pretty Awesome status. I loved that dog. I really did. Still miss her… some of my most fun critter stories come out of my time watching her.

    Keeping in mind that this was when I weighed like 90lbs, and we’re dealing with a small horse (who, by the way, thought she was a lap dog – OOF!): one of the times I was sitting, the neighbors were having some roof work done. Well, to access their backyard, the roofers needed to back down “my” driveway, so a couple burly guys come knock on the door to ask permission. Now, every dobe I’ve known has had a very open-mouthed bark, even when it’s a happy bark, which shows quite a lot of teeth. The big marshmallow of a dog always got excited when someone was at the door, and I had to grab her by the collar to stop her from busting up the screen door. The roofers, not knowing this dobe was a big sissy, just kinda stared from the crazy giant barking dog, to the twig that was holding her back, and before they’d even gotten the question out they had started backing up. LOL Of course I’m standing there all calm, holding back this monster who would have quite viciously licked their faces had I not been there. ;) At least I didn’t have to worry about intruders with her there. LOL She was all sad to see the people go though. She hadn’t even gotten to try and jump on them yet. Just no fair.

    There was also a moody cockatiel living there. As I understand it, he was quite friendly originally, when our friend was home full-time. But then she started teaching (how I met her, actually – she was my science teacher), and as much as cats hate change, birds HATE hate it. If their person is suddenly not there as often, they will apparently hold a freaking grudge for life. O.o ESPECIALLY cockatiels. They’re so very common, but I’ve been told they are one of the least friendly pet birds you can have, largely because of that whole unforgiveness factor. So the bird was just a total pain by the time I first met him, but I was told if I felt okay with it, I could let him out for a bit during the day (just if I had to put him back in the cage before he went on his own, to use a towel because he started biting after he got all ticked off at our friend). Now, there was a particular shriek he ALWAYS made when his owners came down the driveway, and that was the only time he ever made that noise. The dog had learned this. One day while he was climbing around the outside of his cage, he looked rather intently out the window, and started shrieking. I looked at him like he was nuts, because they weren’t due home for another week. The dog FLEW to the window, totally going crazy, and you could see her just totally deflate when she didn’t see any car. I swear to you, that bird looked pleased with himself, and as soon as he saw the dog get all disappointed, this sinister little “heh heh heh” came from the cage. Shame he didn’t have a black cape and a mustache to twirl when he did that. Little brat did that on purpose.

    As for my kitties, thankfully we have family very close by who can watch them. Of course, it’s usually me watching THEIR critters, since I don’t tend to get away much lately.

  2. Karyl, love this story about the totally VICIOUS (hee-hee) doggy. Probably the bird would’ve beaked ‘em worse. :) For a while we had a spectacle Amazon parrot and she was not a people person…er, bird. She had the dog totally cowed. I need to dig up those pictures somewhere of this little green parrot backing the German shepherd across the room. He had beak scars on his nose, before he learned better. And Venus the parrot had a scream that would cut glass.

    Glad you were available for them. Remember that pets DO remember and if you choose the wrong pet sitter it can have side effects. When Seren was a kitten, we had a friend’s daughter care for her–and the daughter wasn’t mean, just didn’t know any better than to chase down/corner her to catch and return to her room. She wasn’t supposed to let her out…but did to play…and when we returned home our previously friendly-to-strangers kitten couldn’t stand strangers in her house. *sigh*

    • Man, this is making me miss petsitting even more. I was kinda the go-to person once people started to figure out that animals just kinda glued themselves to me. LOL Just don’t have the time anymore… and I don’t really want to do the whole agency thing, because it’s just so much nicer to me to actually know the people you’re dealing with, because it makes things calmer for everyone involved.

  3. Two weeks ago we went to the Oregon coast for the weekend. This was the first time our kitty stayed home alone, without anyone coming to the house to check on him, play with him, change water, add food, clean the litter box etc. But we left him a lot of water and food, plus a fresh litter, and many toys to play with. He did really great on his own, but was happy when we returned from our mini vacation :-)

  4. We look out for our (dear rescue) cat’s relatives when their humans are gone. We had boarded him with his vet in the past but after his hunger strike when he was staying there due to his stone problem we aren’t much for being away from him at all. (Now we need an RV, hee-hee, designed for our furry dear.)

    I was disappointed that our vet’s digs for the furry ones mix dog noise and cats, hadn’t really realized it before. Our furry dear does NOT like to hear barking, will generally notify me of any unusual barking he hears which is a good thing to assure no loose dogs are endangering any neighborhood cats.

    I am tempted to start a cat sitting business in my area but our furry one does not approve of me petting non-relatives and has been known to be miffed at our petting relatives too. If I am gone longer than expected he sniffs me carefully to be sure I haven’t been up to extra-kitty petting.

    • Brenda, our Magical-Dawg always checks us out, too, and actually seems a bit pleased to smell new furry friends on us. But Seren makes faces, as if to say, “You’ve been unfaithful!”

  5. We always have a house sitter as we have pets and plants to deal with Last summer the 21 year old daughter of a friend stayed at our house while we were out of town for about a week to care for our 4 cats and our standard poodle, Toby. She grew up with pets and we thought she would be a good find. One evening, while she was having dinner at a friends, there was a violent storm. She left Toby in the fenced back yard (which is what we told her to do when she was gone) and he must of freaked out because he broke a low window and when she returned he was inside the house very bloody. She called us and said she cleaned things up and we advised her about covering the hole. She said Toby was fine. But we found out she really wasn’t mature enough to handle the situation. Toby had some major lacerations on his leg when we returned the next day. I told her she could take him to our vet (and the vet knew) if there for ANYTHING, but she didn’t. Turns out she was afraid she would get in trouble! Next time I must be more careful to spell out some rules for the next house sitter.

    • Oh Pam, that’s scary. How lucky that Toby ran INTO the house rather than getting lost out of the yard. Yes, it’s hard sometimes to judge in advance how people (or pets) will react during such situations.