This time of year I get a lot of questions about boarding pets for the holidays. I won't give specifics about particular businesses, but I do try to help owners make a decision that is informed.
Here are some key points on how to make a choice about caring for a pet while you are away. Assuming you will not be taking your pet, you will first need to decide whether family or friends can care for them, someone stays at your home, or opt for boarding in a kennel.
The top priority for you both is to be happy and worry-free about the stay. It is no fun to be away from your animals and worry about their welfare, then hear that your pet has been stressed in your absence. If you are considering asking a friend, realistically assess- is Fifi comfortable with your friend's home and dogs? Has Fifi stayed at the place you’ve chosen before, and is she happy about going back? How about a "Camp Fifi" overnight sleep-over before you leave? She will be much happier and stress free if she is familiar with the accommodations. No matter what you decide to do with your pet, try it out a few times before you leave to make sure you and your pet are happy!
Besides family and friends, we have a lot of choices for overnight animal care these days, from house sitters to kennels. Start interviewing and getting referrals early! Ask your friends and neighbors, vet, groomer, daycare provider, or local pet store for referrals. A great source of information, and a favorite magazine of mine for the Monterey area, is Coastal Canine Magazine www.coastalcaninemag.com/. Look under their list of advertisers for local businesses that provide these services.
House sitters can either visit many times a day to care for your pet, or they can live at your home while you are gone (this is probably the easiest for your animals, and is a good choice if you have a menagerie). After you have interviewed the person and checked some references, write up what your schedule with your animals entails- how you feed them, medicate them if necessary, walk them, play with them, and course your contacts. Educate your sitter about any idiosyncrasies your pet might have (my dogs like having the TV on!). If you want updates on Fifi, let your sitter know that and make it part of your working contract with them. And let your vet know you have a sitter, who they are, and work out contingency plans if a vet is needed. Some vets might require a letter authorizing them to treat your pet.
Kennels are another way to house your pet while you are gone. Some kennels provide a “run” with some outside space. Other styles of kennels have “rooms” for animals simulating home, some even have cameras you can log into to check your pet anytime. Some veterinary hospitals also board animals, which might be a good fit if your pet has medical problems. Another newer style alternative is some daycares will board overnight, providing play during the day, and overnight care. Make sure your pet is current on all vaccinations before boarding.
Check It Out
Wherever you decide to board, check the facility thoroughly. Where will Fifi be? Will she be housed in a cage, run, room, or have the run of a home? Can you see it? Is it clean? Where will she go to the bathroom? Is the facility loud with lots of barking (for sound sensitive dogs this might be undesirable)? Who is there during the night, and are they checked? Does the facility mind if you call in or email and want an update? What activity will she have during the day (exercise is great!)? Can she have her own bed and a few toys from home (very comforting)? And if you own several dogs, can they be housed together or in close proximity to each other?
Above all, ask questions! If a facility is unwilling to answer you, or you feel uncomfortable for any reason, move on to the next place/sitter on your list. Make the best decision you can, and then try it out for a night or two a few weeks before you leave.
Knowing your pets are well cared for and content while you travel will give you tremendous peace of mind. Once you develop a good relationship with a care facility, you then have an alternative place for your baby if you like to get away occasionally, need to have work done on your home, or you have any family emergencies. Of course there is always the possibility of taking Fifi with you, but that’s a blog for another day.
I wish you safe travels and Happy Holidays!