Sure, you’d think of all the popular times—winter holidays, summer holidays, holidays in general—but you’d be wrong. Your pet doesn’t necessarily know or prepare for the fact that Christmas is coming, and might still be surprised when you pack up the car and ease on down the road for the tenth year in a row.
But there has to be some way to ensure their happiness while yours is such a given.
Generally, animals like cats, snakes, and rodents are less of a pressing concern than their canine counterparts, but their care counts, too.
Finding a way to make your time in paradise (or at your mother-in-law’s) every pet’s time in parent-free bliss is a chore.
The options for pet care while you’re living it up are few.
Here, we highlight the benefits and downfalls of the three most obvious (and popular!) choices, so you can decide how to vacation without pets—and actually feel OK about it.
Stay with a friend/family member
There are some clear benefits here.
First, you’re leaving your pet with someone you know and trust.
Generally that person will be available for drop off and pick-up within your defined time parameters.
Payment is negotiable.
Some friends or family members will even want to spend that time with your wonderful pet.
You can choose the food provided.
If the friend or family member owns a pet, yours and theirs might already be acquainted. If not, it’s a good time for socializing.
The downsides? There are, believe it or not, a few—and some of them are the same as the benefits.
Payment is negotiable: setting up a payment plan for services between friends and family members is sometimes tricky. You won’t want them to feel you’re offering too little (or too much) and they won’t want to feel they’re asking for too little/much, either. So be consistent.
If you have several personal options, offer each the same amount and stick to it.
Factor in the cost of food (if you do not provide it) and the general burden or ease of your animal’s care. (For example, if your dog can only be walked at certain times of day and needs six medications on a schedule, you might offer more than if your dog is adaptable to the sitter’s schedule in every way.)
If the person owns a pet and your animal is unfamiliar with that animal, sometimes tempers can flare. Make sure to discuss this with your friend or family member to avoid any potential conflict.
Another possible downfall: Friends and family members might feel they are obligated to say yes, even though they had prior commitments or concerns. Avoid this conundrum by talking it out—don’t just ask and wait for a response.
Instead, say something like: “We’re headed out of town on vacation and are looking for a place for Magneto to stay. Do you have any suggestions? Have you ever left Daisy with a friend?”
If the person offers, you know they’re more than willing. If not, you can always finish with, “I was thinking he would be really comfortable here. We’re not leaving for a few months, so we have some time to figure it out.”
Giving the person space to decide will allow them to feel less obligated and more conscious of the factors contributing to their decision.
Home service is an incredible option for pets that really strive in the comfort of their own home or need medical provisions only available at home, and is probably your best bet for a cat.
Concerns include reliability, pet comfort, and trusting the provider in your space. Some tips for finding the perfect service provider:
Ask around. Talk to your vet, friends and family members about which providers they have had success with in the past.
Schedule an interview in your home. Find out if the person/service is prompt, kind, and how your pet will react to him or her. Then follow up on the provider’s/service’s references.
Make sure the provider has commercial liability insurance to cover accidents, negligence and any theft. Find out if the provider offers other services, like grooming or plant watering.
Once you have made a decision, there are steps you can take to ease your mind while you’re away. Speak to your vet about possible emergencies, the provider and the coverage that would be required in your absence, and establish feeding/ supplement and exercise schedules in advance.
Kennels are a great option if you and your pet are flexible. That’s not to say you have to settle—there are five star hotel equivalents for pets popping up all over the place.
A kennel is ideal for pets that don’t require a lot of individual care on a day-to-day basis. If you feel your pet is extremely finicky, or prefers to be away from the company of other animals, a kennel is probably not the right choice.
Benefits to choosing a kennel include: a standard cost, so negotiating is off the table; an opportunity to socialize with other animals; a clear state of quality as evidenced by past customers; and the provision of a constant contact for information.
Downsides are tough to pinpoint, as they are so dependent on the kennel itself.
At a kennel, dogs might not receive as much individual attention as they are used to getting. Some conditions could be less than ideal. The sheer number of animals around increases the likelihood of sickness or disease, as well as the likelihood that your pet’s preferences (like feeding time or type of food) will fall by the wayside.
Choosing a kennel entails much of the same as choosing a home service provider.
Ask around. Find out what concerns and praises former clients have to offer. Then schedule a visit long ahead of time so you can keep your options open if the first kennel you visit is not suited to your pet’s needs.
Again, find out how the kennel operator deals with feeding and exercise schedules, what type of socialization the pet will experience, and the state of the sleeping arrangements.
Not what you had in mind?
To ease your mind, take the same type of simple steps we mentioned earlier: Talk to your vet about emergencies and provide him or her with the kennel’s information.
Set a schedule for feeding and exercise that is similar to the schedule you discuss with the kennel provider. Provide the type of food and portion sizes your pet prefers/needs. Create a written medication or supplement schedule for the kennel owner to confirm compliance.
And finally, relax.
Do your homework ahead of time to ensure your worries are gone when you board that cruise ship or hit the slopes. The best way to secure your happiness and the happiness of your pet is to be prepared and take your decision seriously.
If you’ve gone on vacation without pets before and have either a horror or success story to share about the mice playing while the cat was away, please let us know. We’re always looking for good information about what to avoid and what works best.