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.