Who Looks After Your Pets While You Travel?
So who looks after your pets while you travel? For me, I don’t plan any travel until I know that my two dogs will be safely looked after while we are away.
It is important to understand that I’m not just writing this as a “crazy dog lady”. I spent close to 10 years on the board of an animal welfare organisation that looks after almost 45,000 animals every year. I have also been a dog “mum” for over 20 years.
So what are the options available?
Option 1: Leave your pets outside and have someone feed them
There are a number of reasons I strongly recommend against this option. These include:
- it means your dogs may bark for long periods of time which can annoy neighbours
- cats are left to roam which can be dangerous both for them and native wildlife such as birds
- during storms or other loud noises (eg. fireworks) dogs can escape – even if you think your yard is escape proof, it is amazing the ways dogs can find to escape if they are frightened
- if your dog or cat gets sick (or is baited), the person feeding them may not find them until it is too late. For example, in parts of Australia cane toads and ticks can kill dogs and cats if not treated quickly.
Option 2: Have a house sitter look after your house and pets
You need to find a house sitter that you can trust both in your home and with your pets. If you and your pets are not comfortable with a person, do you want to let this person look after your pets and home? An experienced house sitter who understands animals is a great option as it allows your pets to stay in their own home environment. This will help keep their stress levels to a minimum. It also means that if needed the house sitter should be able to take your pets to your local vet if the need arises.
Option 3: Having your pets stay with a family member / friend
My previous dogs always stayed with my mum when we travelled. Her yard was safe for them and they loved staying at her place (they got spoilt by grandma!). Because my mum didn’t drive a friend of hers who does drive was happy to take them to the vets if the need arose (it did a couple of times).
The important things to remember if you are considering having your pets stay with a family member or friend are:
- is their yard fully and appropriately fenced for your dogs
- if your cat is an indoor only cat, are they happy for your cat to be indoor only at their home
- do your pets get along with any pets your family member / friend has
- does your family member or friend have small children. This may be problematic especially if your pets have not been around young children and the children have not been around pets. This is one scenario you may not want to put your pets into
- make sure your family member / friend has the appropriate emergency contacts
Option 4: Use a pet sitter finding service
Check if there is a reputable pet sitter finding service which covers your area. An example in Australia is PetCloud. I have not personally used PetCloud. It allows you to find pet sitters in your local area that have had police checks (including animal cruelty) done, have first aid certificates and have undertaken RSPCA training. If you find a pet sitter using this service, you can check references and also check that their home / yard is appropriate for your pet.
Option 5: Boarding Kennel / Pet Resort
There can be a huge difference between the quality of boarding kennels. If you are going to use this option, you need to pre-plan potentially well in advance (especially if you are travelling during school holidays).
Before you book your pets into a kennel / pet resort, you should inspect the facilities. If they don’t allow inspections, don’t book your pet in. You may need to book a time to be able to inspect the facility, but this is important.
Things to consider when inspecting a facility include:
- Are the facilities clean and well kept. Of course there may be some poops in some kennels that haven’t been picked up yet but, in general terms the facilities need to be clean.
- Does each animal get sufficient space and not have unsupervised direct contact with other animals. In one facility I inspected they had chain wire fencing between kennels. This meant dogs had direct line of sight between all dogs, This could increase their adrenaline levels significantly. My other concern was smaller dogs being able to get their mouths through the gaps and potentially snap / bite other dogs. Solid walls between kennels reduces the risk of these types of issues.
- What are the exercise yard/s like? Will your dog be exercised regularly? Will your cat be given appropriate exercise / cuddle time?
Other questions you should ask the kennel / pet resort staff include:
- What type of food will your pets be fed? Will the kennel feed your pet food you supply if they are on a special diet?
- Will medication be given to your pet if needed?
- What happens if your pet needs medical attention?
- Do they require all pets to have current vaccinations?
- What are their emergency evacuation procedures in case of an emergency such as a fire or flood?
There are also boarding kennels that specialise in small pets such as mice, guinea pigs and rabbits. Check if there is one of these close to you if you have small pets.
Yes my pets are my children and I always make sure they have the best possible care available when we travel. It puts your mind at ease that they are in good hands when you are going to be on the opposite side of the world.
If you are planning to travel and have pets, plan ahead and do your homework to make sure they get the best possible care so you have a worry free holiday and they are happy and healthy when you return.
Wow I can’t believe anyone would go away and leave their pet *outside*! How shocking. I would love a cat but the thought of leaving them while I went on holiday is just too difficult.
Hi Helen. Unfortunately it does happen and the animal welfare organisation I was involved in would end up some of these poor animals as they would escape during storms. We always make sure our girls will be cared for before we go away.
We have a wonderful company here called Bone Voyage (get it!?!). They have vetted families that foster dogs while people travel. Our girl gets to live with another family, sleep in their bed, go for daily walks, play with their kids and ,if they have them, other pups. It’s like a vacation for her too!
Joanne, that sounds amazing. Great way for your fur babies to be happy while you’re away. And love the name!
Catherine’s cultural wednesdays
We have a pet sitter who comes in to minister to our diabetic cat.
LisaCatherine’s cultural wednesdays
Hi Catherine. It’s wonderful when you have someone who you can trust to care for your pets and in your home.
Your dogs look lovely and it’s clear to see they are well cared for. Many people in motorhomes travel with their dogs, taking them from country to country. We miss having a cat while traveling and love it when people also take their cats away.
Thank you Ruth. They may be a little spoilt lol. It would be amazing to be able to take them on a road trip but unfortunately in Australia a lot of places still aren’t pet friendly. It’s improving but slowly.
Honestly, travel is the number one reason we don’t have pets. We used to have bunnies, but it was just too difficult as we go for months or longer. So we gave them to a good family.
I can understand Rhonda. Having our girls means we don’t travel for as long as we could each time so we just take more trips.
We’ve tried a number of options but what works best is finding someone to stay at our place so our animals are at least in their own environment. It seems to be better for them, although finding people who want to do this is getting increasingly difficult. I’m interested in signing up for animal sitters online for travelers looking to get accommodation in exchange for looking after your pets
I’m with you Emma about wanting to sign up for animal sitters online for travellers. I would love to do that. And I understand about how hard it is to find good pet sitters. I think that’s why I’m so happy we have at least found a pet resort that we know look after our girls so well.
Can’t believe people just leave their pets outside. That is unconscionable. We swap pet sitting with family members, but have been thinking that when our pup goes, we might not get another. 🙁
Thanks Amy. I think we will be the same when our fur babies are gone. We love nothing more than coming home to them after travelling but it does mean our travelling is in shorter trips.
I leave my pets with my mom unless she goes with us, then my niece will usually watch them for me. I wouldn’t just trust anyone with my fur babies. If I travel within the country, they usually go with me, but if I’m flying internationally, they have to stay behind. I miss them terribly when I’m gone, but I can’t imagine life without them. You’ve listed some great ideas for other options, minus the leaving them outside of course. Great post!
Thanks Amy. Absolutely can’t imagine leaving my babies outside. My mum used to look after out last fur babies but she now has a cat that is way to timid for my girls. But we are so lucky to have found a great pet resort. And totally agree I couldn’t just trust anyone with our babies.
Great information here, Lisa.
When I travel with just my son, I leave my dog with my parents though last time they said he sat by the front door and whined for 3 days straight. He’s older now (15) so now we’ll probably only take vacations where he can go with us until he’s gone.
When we all travel together (my parents included), we leave all the dogs in one home and have a pet sitter who watches.
It’s so hard when they get older isn’t it Cris. Our fur babies are such a huge part of our lives. A pet sitter is great to be able to use especially when you have a few pets.
This is such a great resource Lisa! I’ve been lucky enough (in some respects ;P) to have two adult children at home to look after my best friend while I’m away. She’s a very old girl now and is not happy when I’m not home so for the time being I’m on super short trips!
Totally understand Gabby. When our last fur babies were getting older we did short trips also as we didn’t want to leave them.
Making sure your pets are taken care of while you’re out of town can be stressful. I’m lucky to have family that will always watch mine for me!
It makes like so much easier if you have family that can look after them Jen.
Great post! I always take care of my sister’s dog when she is on holiday.
It’s so great when you have someone you can trust to look after your fur children Stephanie.
Feeling pretty good about the fact that I am not a pet mummy yet!
It was definitely a big decision for us to become fur parents again.
Great post. We have three indoor cats and are lucky enough to have a couple of people was can call for pet care while we travel. We always let the cats stay in our home and have someone come over once a day to clean their litterboxes , change the drinking water (we have three water bowls plus a drinking fountain) and top off the automatic food dispenser. Naturally they also stay for a while to socialize with the cats. This has worked out great for us and our fur babies.
People leave their pets outside?? Wow I had no idea. I always take care of my bff’s dog when she is traveling, wouldn’t want it any other way 🙂