Your itinerary is set and you’re all packed, but have you made appropriate pet care arrangements? It is important to take the necessary steps to make sure your animal is well cared for while you’re away.
“Every pet is unique and has its own set of needs,” says Natalie Kyriacou, founding director of My Green World, a wildlife, environmental, and animal welfare organization. “And pets, much like children, require a high level of attention, affection, exercise, and enrichment. Locking a pet up or confining it in a cage for long periods of time is a definite no-no.” So, then, what are your options?
In Home Sitting
“Your pet—cat, dog, hamster, bird, or rabbit—is a creature of routine,” says Kyriacou. “It is accustomed to and thrives off the consistency you provide, from its morning breakfast to its nightly walk.” Your pet may experience discomfort at the change in its routine, which is why the best option is hiring someone to pet sit in your home.
Pet writer and expert Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell has five “recycled” dogs at home but still enjoys extensive travel, thanks to the services of a trusted pet sitter. You can ask a responsible friend or family member to do this important job, but don’t let just anyone pet sit. “Ideally,” says Campbell, “this person is certified by a pet sitter organization and has references, including at least one vet.”
Sitting for a Cause, new pet care company that matches pet owners with pet care professionals, makes finding a qualified sitter easier. “And we give 50 percent of our profits to animal-related causes,” says CEO and founder Ashley Jacobs, whose pet care providers offer overnight care, daycare, and daily drop-ins.
Jacobs encourages pet owners to seek individualized care and says, “Putting a pet in a traditional boarding facility can limit the personalized attention and care it would receive from a pet care professional who cares for a pet either in their home or in the pet’s home.”
If you’re unable to find someone to stay at your home, the next-best choice is a professional pet-sitting facility. Kyriacou recommends locating a place that’s safe, secure, and accommodating to the needs of both you and your pet. “There are plenty of options available, but it is imperative to thoroughly research the facility beforehand,” she says.
Check your local directories, or ask your veterinarian or groomer for suggestions. Visit the facility, with your pet, prior to vacation. Above all, trust your instincts and make sure that you feel 100 percent comfortable with the place.
The “Drop-by Sitter”
Leaving your pet at home alone is an option, but only if you’ll be away for no more than a day. “Not only can this be extremely boring and lonely for your pet,” says Kyriacou, “but it can lead to long-term emotional trauma if this is a regular occurrence.”
Make arrangements for a friend or neighbor to check in at designated intervals, but understand the risks. “What if there’s a fire or your pet gets sick?” asks Campbell. The less you rely on this option, the better.
Your pet will wonder what it did wrong when it finds itself banished to a kennel. “This should be a last resort,” says Kyriacou. “Time in a boarding kennel for your dog can be a lot like a prison, with unfamiliar sights, smells, and sounds and limited exercise and enrichment.”
Campbell advises pet owners to thoroughly check out prospective kennels. “If you’re not allowed in the back where the animals are kept, a red flag should go up,” she cautions. And ask if your pet will require special immunizations, and find out if there is a CCTV monitoring system that lets you view your pet online while you’re away.
Make A Decision In Advance
“Understanding and knowing your pet is crucial to choosing pet care,” says Kyriacou, who encourages owners to plan ahead and consider the following questions:
- Is your pet active and confident or quiet and withdrawn?
- Would your pet thrive in an environment with other animals at a boarding facility, or would it prefer to be in the comfort of your home?
- Does your pet require attention?
- Is your pet trusting of other people?