If you travel a lot, or even once in awhile, you probably know how hard it is to leave your pets behind. Your animals are members of your family, and you obviously want them to be comfortable and safe when you travel without them. Our family travels a lot, and with two dogs and two cats, it’s taken us lots of experimenting to find out what works best for all of us.
Fortunately, we've finally got it figured out, and now all we have to do when we travel without our pets, is to okay the schedule with our pet caregivers. The process has gotten a lot easier over time, but it took us quite a long time find the perfect pet sitting situation. We'd love to share some of the things we've learned about leaving our pets behind when we travel.
For total peace of mind, start planning for your pets as soon as you begin planning your own travels. Whether you’re headed away on an extended holiday, or just a weekend getaway, the last thing you want is to worry about your pets while you’re out of town.
Why Not Bring Your Pets with You?
Traveling with certain pets has advantages – you’ll know they’re well taken care of, you’ll save money on boarding fees, and there’s a chance your dog or cat will enjoy exploring a new place by your side. Is this the perfect solution to your “what to do with the pets” problem? Rarely.
With the exception of some dogs and a tiny percentage of cats, most pets just don’t travel well. They tend to be anxious when taken out of their home environment, and have a hard time adjusting to a new schedule. Pets aren’t allowed in most hotels, restaurants, museums, and national parks, and they should never be left alone in the car. Dogs may enjoy road trips, if you’ve planned ahead and are spending lots of time outside, but most family vacations just don’t work well with pets in tow.
The Best Care for Your Pets While You’re Away
Nobody knows your pets like you do. When deciding what to do with them while you travel, you have to consider their personalities and temperaments, cost, and the level of care you’re looking for. If you have more than a few animals at home, it might be easier and more cost-effective for you to hire someone to stay in your house while you’re away. If you have animals with special needs, you might want to board them at your local veterinarian. Here’s an overview of your boarding options, along with the pros and cons of each one.
Board Your Pet with Your Local Veterinarian
Many veterinarians provide boarding services for cats, dogs, and small animals. This is a good option if you are leaving an animal that needs regular medical attention. The downside to boarding your pets at the vet is that they will often be kenneled next to animals that are unhealthy. We used our local vet for boarding once, when our dog was being treated for Lyme Disease and needed to be monitored, but I don’t think it’s usually the best option.
Leave Pets in Your Home with a Pet Sitter
We love leaving our pets at home if we can find someone trustworthy to come and stay with them. Because we have four animals, it is actually cheaper than using a kennel. If you know and trust someone to stay in your home,this is a great choice for dogs, cats, small animals, and even house plants. Your pets will get to keep a routine that they’re used to, and it will also minimize security risks.
Friends and family members make great pet sitters, but if you don’t know someone who is willing to stay at your home, you can hire a professional. Find a certified pet sitter from the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. Members have a reputation for professional and ethical behavior.
There are a few downsides to hiring a pet sitter — they can be expensive, and you may feel like you have to do some extra cleaning, shopping, and organizing to prepare for a house guest.
Automatic food and water dispensers for cats and dogs won't replace a sitter, but they can reduce the sitter's duties, which may save you money. They ensure that your pet will be fed on your schedule and will always have water available. Allison's family uses the PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed Automatic Feeder for their cat, and it has been a great, reliable feeder.
Bring Pets to a Sitter’s Home
We often bring one of our dogs to a sitter who keeps him at her house while we’re away. Our pup is young and has a lot of energy. We found a sitter who is a great fit for him. She has another young dog, a fenced in yard, and even a pond for him to swim in.
Finding a sitter who will care for your pets in their own home is a great option for many dogs, and small animals like rabbits, hamsters and reptiles. Some cats will take to it as well, especially if you find someone who doesn’t have cats of their own. This option will allow your animals to experience the comforts of a home environment, and it is usually less expensive than paying someone to stay in your home.
Leaving your animals with a friend, family member, or even a professional pet-sitter will work for dogs and cats that are well socialized, get along with other animals, and don’t have behavior issues. Dogs or cats who are aggressive, poorly trained, or destructive may not be welcome in someone else’s home.
Board Your Pets at a Kennel
When we first started leaving our pets behind so we could travel, boarding them at a kennel was our only local option. We used a fabulous kennel in New York that took great care of our dogs so we could travel worry-free.
Are you picturing row after row of cages, all full of barking, miserable dogs? This scenario hasn’t entirely gone away, but many modern kennels have ditched the stereotype and set out to provide a little staycation for your pets while you travel. Look for a kennel that is clean and spacious, with a good reputation. If you live near a metropolitan area, you may be able to choose from rustic pet retreats, pet spas, or upscale resorts catering to pampered pets.
Pet boarding is available for almost every pet, including birds, fish, and more exotic animals. Standard kennels will still use individual rooms or cages, but well-socialized dogs and cats may be allowed out for play time. Because most kennels are independently run, it’s important to do your research. Ask your friends who they use, and be sure to check out the kennel in person before booking a stay. The Humane Society of the United States has some good tips for choosing a boarding kennel for your pet.
What do you do with your pets when you travel? Please share your tips in the comments!