When the holidays or business travel rolls around, pet sitters can be a big help when you plan vacations with or without your dog or cat. 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.
I’m traveling this week to the Cat Writers’ Association and BlogPaws conference, and would love to travel with pets along the way. Many attendees will bring their cats and dogs on this working vacation, but those who leave pets at home must make other arrangements.
This past week, I also received a message from someone planning for a possible future absence due to surgery, and concerned about their beloved rescue cat, Larry. Like many kitties, this little guy is fearful of strangers. I applaud his owner’s forward-thinking, to help the little guy feel comfortable. So it was perfect timing to revisit this topic.
VACATIONING WITH & WITHOUT PETS
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.
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.
PREP YOUR PETS!
Of course, you can’t ask your cats and dogs about what THEY want when you’re gone. So do your best to prepare them for the absence. Even the most dedicated and friendly pet sitter may not be accepted by a fractious or fearful pet. Gradual introductions are key, and it may be love at first sight (YAY!) or could take some time for especially shy felines to accept that stranger in the home.
Plan for your vacation or absence at least a couple of weeks in advance, especially for cats. Ask the pet sitter to meet with your pets, to see how they get along. A savvy pet sitter knows what pets expect and won’t push the fur-kid past limits. For instance, they won’t force petting, or close interaction when the dog or cat prefers distance. Over time, though, when the “stranger” visits several times and perhaps plays a favorite game or drops treats for the pet, a more positive association develops. You can find more detailed tips in my short quick tips guides, MY CAT HATES MY DATE as well as MY DOG HATES MY DATE.
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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