Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Pets and Vacations, Three Options

By Sarah Liu

Pets and Vacations, Three Options

With school out and warmer weather, it’s time for vacation. But what about your beloved pets while you are away? Below, we consider three options:

The Trusted Friend

Asking a friend to provide care in her own home or at the pet’s home, can be an economical option. However, it’s important to consider your pet’s needs as well as the personal preferences and lifestyle of your friend. Does your dog thrive on walking four times a day? Does your cat have a penchant for scratching furniture? Does your friend have young children? Like to stay out all night? Before broaching the topic, make a list of your pet’s habits, good and bad, and prepare for full disclosure. It’s critical to address any medication needs and/or allergies. Gauge your friend’s enthusiasm, and schedule visits to ensure she is well acquainted with your pet’s personality and routine. Observe your pet’s rapport with his temporary caretaker. If your pet is staying in your friend’s home, make a visit to ensure proper facilities and to observe your pet’s behavior in the new place.

Once a comfortable arrangement for all parties is properly established, you can enjoy the advantages. For example, especially in cats, a great deal of stress is eliminated by staying in a familiar environment. For dogs, staying at a friend’s house can be healthier and more stimulating than sitting in a boarding kennel. For any pet, care by a familiar face will be more enjoyable than care by a hired stranger.

And you may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome. For instance, one pet parent told us about a time she was called out of town and had to leave her cat in the care of an ex-boyfriend. Though apprehensive, she was greeted on return by a happy cat, further evidenced by cat toys strewn across her living room. Obviously, fun times were had, and a comfortable arrangement was established for future care.

The Hired Professional

Though more expensive than a friend, a professional pet-sitter is usually more experienced, and can be a better choice for administering medications or dealing with high-maintenance or easily stressed pets. Additionally, for owners of multiple pets, an in-home visit by a hired pet-sitter can be cheaper than boarding in an outside facility. However, prices will increase based on the number of visits per day, length of time, and special services required.

It’s important to meet the sitter before entrusting your pet’s care. Schedule an in-home visit to observe how the sitter treats your pet and your pet’s reaction to the sitter. Make sure to thoroughly explain your pet’s needs and routines, and show the sitter where supplies such as food and medications are located. Make your expectations clear, and arrange a method for updates such as email or phone calls. Supply the sitter with a list of emergency contacts, including your number, the vet’s number, and the number for an after-hour’s emergency care facility. Ask the sitter about his or her policy in emergency situations, and don’t be afraid to request references.

Notably, retired veterinarian technicians are often available for professional pet-sitting and come with additional benefits. According to one pet parent, a vet tech pet-sitter noticed her client had stopped eating, and knew fasting in larger cats can cause liver damage. The vet tech knew techniques to relieve the cat’s nasal passages, and hand-fed the cat by syringe, averting a potentially serious medical situation. If you’re interested in a similar level of care, ask your veterinarian for recommendations on professional pet-sitters or contact information on area retired vet techs.


If you are uncomfortable leaving your pet alone in your own home, or leaving him in a friend or relative’s home, it’s time to consider boarding. Though many pet parents associate boarding with cold isolated kennels, modern facilities are actually quite posh, with round-the-clock care, amenities like ‘TLC,’ treats, and roomy “condos.” Moreover, many facilities work in conjunction with on-site veterinary clinics, ensuring immediate medical care in cases of emergency. Prices vary, increasing with extra services, but may be less than a hired pet-sitter in cases of dogs who need multiple walks per day or cats who require spotlessly clean litter boxes. As with professional pet-sitters, your veterinarian can be a good resource for reputable boarding facilities. Additionally, most veterinarian offices will board pets and can administer vaccinations, check-ups, and other routine services while you are away.

When boarding, ask to see where your pet will be staying and playing. Make sure he has suitable bedding, toileting, and feeding arrangements. Discuss your pet’s routine and needs, and ask about the resident policy for emergencies. Make sure your contact information is up to date, as well as the information for an individual authorized to make decisions in your absence. Many facilities allow you to bring your pet’s preferred food, and will feed according to your pet’s schedule. Finally, make sure you understand the policy for late or early pick up, as many facilities will charge for an additional day if the pet is picked up after a certain time.

Ultimately, whichever option you choose, it’s difficult to leave your pet in the care of another. Alleviate concerns by maintaining contact via updates and feedback. Upon return, be observant! Carefully gauge your pet’s health and demeanor before deciding whether to reuse a particular friend or service. Something seem off? Find a better fit, as in our final story where a pet parent made last-minute arrangements to board her cat at the vet. Though concerned, she returned to the vet’s office to find the cat comfortably lounging in the waiting room, claws neatly clipped, and well bonded with a particular vet tech. She noted her cat’s happiness and health, compared to prior stays at the other facility, and frequently boarded her cat with the vet thereafter.

And of course, there is a fourth option. Take them with you! But we’ll save that for a future article…

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