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?
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!
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