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Pet Vacation Options: Boarding, Pet Sitters, Stay-Cation?

by | Jan 19, 2022 | Cat Behavior & Care, Dog Training & Care | 4 comments

Good pet vacation plans depend on the individual pet and your special circumstances. This past fall, when my mother became ill and then passed away, we need to find a pet boarding place for Shadow-Pup and Karma-Kat to stay. Does your dog love riding in the car, meeting new people at the boarding kennel, hide from pet sitters, or become hyper around strangers? Maybe you’d like to learn about traveling with your pet.

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?

vacation with pets

PET VACATION?

I can’t remember the last time that my husband and I had a vacation together, but I do remember how boarding my dog led to a broken arm (read on for that story!). Since that time, we make an effort to not be gone at the same time. There are times, though, when we must leave them behind, maybe not for vacation but other reasons.

Of course, if your dog suffers separation anxiety, you’ll want to address that as well. Cats aren’t immune to feline separation anxiety, either. And many cats seem to hate vacations and act out during your absence, or after you come home.

I’m very particular when it comes to who I trust to care for my furry wonders. Most pet parents are. It can be tough to find the RIGHT pet vacation service that doesn’t cost a furry arm-and-a-tail or that you don’t have to travel a great distance to find. Here are some options to consider for your cats and dogs.

Generational Difference Impact Pet Parents (And Pets)

A new-to-me company, Trusted Housesitters, conducted a recent survey that revealed surprising results. They compared Baby Boomers, Millennials, and Gen X & Z generations in how they relate to their animal companions.

Guilty Pleasure-ers: Millennials and Gen Z most willingly give up their guilty pleasures (social media, alcohol, coffee, sleeping in, and their favorite TV show) instead of leaving their pet in an overnight kennel for a week.

Excuse-Makers: Gen X and Boomers are 2x less likely to use their pet as an excuse than Gen Z and Millennials. Gen Z and Millenials are more likely to use their pet as an excuse to avoid social gatherings with friends.

Entertainment Ease: After their pet’s favorite toy, Gen Z and Millennials are more likely to play music to calm their pets, whereas Gen X and Boomers are more likely to turn on the TV. The most popular song mentioned as a pet favorite is “Who Let The Dogs Out?” (not a particularly calming piece of artistry!).

Helicopter Parents: After spending two years watching their pet’s every move, nearly one third of Millennial pet parents have taken to GPS/Activity collar devices to obsessively track their fur babies as they may head back into the office and social scene. I’ve heard from may pet lovers they now use cameras and apps to interact long-distance with their furries. You can learn more about the company to find out if you’d like to become a TrustedHousesitters Member!

pet vacation

“Don’t leave me!”

CATS WANT TO STAY AT HOME!

Some pets enjoy traveling with you on your vacation. Here are tips for teaching dogs to love car rides, and more tips on how to travel with pets here.
Cats typically hate vacations. The best choice for cats, paws down, is a pet sitter. That person can come into the home at least once a day, sift the cat box, check the food and water, and make sure Kitty hasn’t picked the window lock with his rabies tag and escaped into the great beyond. A pet sitter for your dog’s stay-cation works well, too. Learn more about pet sitter options here.

WHEN STAY-CATION WON’T WORK FOR DOGS

Veterinarians may have kennel space available for dogs or cats with health issues that need monitoring. Even if they don’t, ask your veterinarian for recommendations regarding boarding facilities.

Reputable kennels require proof of adequate health care, so get vaccination proof from your veterinarian in advance. The best of these boarding facilities offer home-like environments with sofas, playtime with other dogs, cat trees, videos of squirrels to watch, or even internet access for you to check in on them from the road. Of course, the more they offer, the higher the $$ too, so sometimes it comes down to whether you’ll fund holiday gifts for the rest of the family, or a stay-cation for your pet.

Some dog boarding facilities require animals to be neutered. That’s especially true for facilities that include doggy daycare options for pet interactions. Check everything first.

dog travelBE A RESPONSIBLE PET PARENT, TOO

Whether pets stay in your home or have a pets vacation at the kennel, be sure to leave caretakers detailed information. That should include 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, or provide them in the kit that accompanies your pet to their home.

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.

I BROKE MY ARM BOARDING MY DOG

You think I’m kidding? Au contraire!

Years ago, we didn’t have many options when we traveled, other than to board our dog at the kennel. He always came home smelling funky like the kennel, too, and needed a bath. Today, of course, many facilities offer bath options before you pick up your furry wonder. That would have changed the outcome.

My first shepherd hated the kennel! Wish we’d had another alternative… Image Copr Amy Shojai, CABC

I gathered materials and persuaded my 70-pound Shepherd to get into the tub of sudsy, warm water. No sooner had I got him standing in the several inches of warm, sudsy water than the phone rang in the next room. Yes, this was long before cell phones…

I told my good-boy to “stay” and turned to go answer the phone. He wanted to follow me, dripping water and suds. Quick-like-a-bunny, I whirled to stop him–

And slipped on the wet linoleum, fell, and landed on one outstretched hand, and BROKE–MY–RIGHT–WRIST!

Now I’m on the floor, screaming (I’ve never felt such pain). A kennel-stinky-dripping-suds dog climbed on my lap, also crying, licking my face, probably thinks I’m dying Finally, I managed to wriggle out from under him, lever myself upright, get to the phone that has since stopped ringing, and call my husband at work to take me to the ER.

CHOOSE VACATION OPTIONS WISELY…

The dog never got his bath. I wore a right-angled cast for six weeks. So boarding my dog not only broke my arm, it killed several writing deadlines. These days, if we ever choose to board Bravo-Dawg, I’ll make sure to include a bath in the services before pick up.

How about you? What do you do when you hit the road? Do you board your dog? Take him with you on your travels? Engage a pet sitter for your kitty? Have you ever broken your arm bathing your dog? Do tell! Rover pet sitters may be a good option!


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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, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

4 Comments

  1. Franklin Steele

    Every week I learn something new. Thank you (again) for the lesson.

  2. Crystal

    When I was young child we boarded our pure white cat in a kennel. That didn’t work. To say the least she was never the after we brought her home from vacation. Cats are not meant to be boarded in kennels they want to stay at home. Cat sitting didn’t work for us either. Our cat bit the cat sitter, So much easier to go somewhere nice with a lake close to your home then in a few days you can go home and check on them then go back on vacation. Everyone is different but that is how we do it now and it works out fine for us.

    • Amy Shojai

      Oh wow, Chrystal, I’m glad you’ve found something that works for you! Years ago, we had someone (a friend’s high schooler, not a professional) take care of our first cat, too, while we were away–and she was never the same. We’d asked them to keep her in one area of the house, and we believe she got out (or was allowed out to play) and then chased to put her back. She’d always loved and gone to strangers, and after that, no way! So yes, it’s important to find the right balance for your individual situation.

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