Leaving Your Pets While On Vacation by Josh
Leaving your pets when you visit Disney (or any other vacation for that matter!)
Whilst it can be an exciting and relaxing time for you and your (human) family members, going on vacation can be a very stressful time for your furry (or not so furry) friends. However, this stress can be minimised with a few simple techniques and exercises that will help both you and your pet cope with the stresses of leaving them behind when you are on vacation. Most of the information within this article is common sense, however when confronted with the many different options for having someone look after your animals when you are on vacation it is easy to get confused and to forget the most fundamental of things.
Different types of animals obviously have different needs when it comes to their day-to-day and long-term care. However, a few basic rules apply to all different types of pets. The species-specific information will be discussed later in this article.
To board or not to board: Kennelling and other options.
The first thing you should think about when organising your vacation is whether or not you want to board your pets (in a kennel, cattery or otherwise), or whether someone will stay with them in your home. The latter of the two options is obviously the most preferable for many people. Most pets, especially cats and dogs, are animals of habit and therefore do much better when in familiar surroundings. Reptiles and other non-domesticated animals are less likely to notice that their keeper has gone, however often have much more specialist needs than cats and dogs, so it is beneficial for them to stay within their surroundings (Be it a vivarium, tortoise table or other enclosure.)
Another thing to consider when thinking of boarding your animals is the cost. If you have more than one animal it can prove very costly to pay for boarding for them all. However, if you have more than one pet of the same species, you can often request for them to be boarded/kennelled together. As well as reducing the cost, having such company would also help to reduce the stress put onto your pet and having a familiar companion will often help to calm them down and become settled into the routine of kennelling much more quickly.
As well as standard kennels, some pet lovers also offer a ‘pet-sitting’ service in their own home. This might be a preferable option if you have a pet who gets separation anxiety (biting/chewing/wetting the house when left alone) as he will obviously spend a lot less time on his own than he would if he was in a kennel situation. If choosing this option, it is best to go on personal recommendation rather than choosing one that you see advertised. Often these types of businesses do not have the relevant insurance and your animal may be kept with any number of others- so this option is more than likely not suitable for animals that display aggression towards others when in a group situation.
‘Pet-sitting’ services are particularly popular in the UK for owners of small animals, such as guinea pigs, rabbits and hamsters. They provide a helpful service and they often have experience of keeping these animals themselves. If you are unsure whether this service is available in your area then it is recommended you ask your vet practice for recommendations as they often have notices and adverts displayed and should be more than happy to recommend certain practices. However, such services can work out costly and may be inefficient if you are going away for long periods of time.
Pet sitting services are particularly handy for reptiles. However, be sure to choose one that comes recommended and has knowledge of your particular animal. Just because a particular person may have bred Pythons for ‘X’ amount of years- his knowledge of Geckos might be virtually non-existent. A key thought to remember is that a good pet-sitter will welcome any questions that you may ask about the day-to-day care of their animals they will provide, as well as questions regarding their insurance and what their procedures are in the event of a health-related emergency.
Kennelling/Boarding your cats and dogs
If you’ve weighed up the pros and cons and found that kennelling or boarding is the option for you, below are a few things that you need to think about before choosing your kennel or cattery.
Where can I find a kennel or cattery?
As with most services, the best way to find a kennel or cattery is from personal recommendation. Ask around fellow animal-lovers to see if they have had any positive (or negative) experiences at kennels or catteries in your local area. Once you have a few in mind, it is advised that you ask your vet for recommendations- most will be more than happy to recommend kennels and catteries that they have experience of, or have heard good things about from their customers. When phoning your vet, this is also a good chance to ask about any vaccinations or medication that your pet may need before going to the kennel or cattery.
Remember: Most good kennels and catteries will ask for PROOF of vaccinations. If you don’t have these on the day you take your pets, they may end up without anywhere to stay. Be sure to arrange this prior to taking your pet to the kennel.
Some countries have advice groups set up specifically to regulate these establishments and some even give kennels their ‘seal of approval’ – which will provide you reassurance they have a good reputation with a high standard of care for the animals boarding there. This varies from country to country so it is good practice to have a look around the internet to see if such an organisation is available in your country before looking for a kennel.
Check-list for visiting kennels
When visiting kennels there are tell-tale signs at whether or not they are suitable for your pets.
· Cleanliness- Be sure to check that the kennels are clean, presentable and do not have a foul smell. Often they will show you kennels that are not being used- this is actually a good sign- as it shows they are security conscious, as well as being much more hygienic for the animals, as many visitors don’t follow the strict hygiene routines of the kennel workers.
· Security- Are all boundaries and fences secure and escape proof? Fences should be well over 6ft high and kennels should be padlocked to prevent thieves. Preventing escapes is just as important as preventing people entering the kennels.
· Exercise space- Is there a lot of space for the animals to exercise in? Most times many animals will be exercising together, and if they are let loose in a small space there will often be fighting and dominance between them.
· Staff- Do the staff seem to have a good level of knowledge about the pets that are staying there? Speak to them in general, ask them what pets they have and show a general interest. They’ll often be glad of the conversation and you’ll be able to tell whether they are pet-lovers from their responses.
The cost of boarding animals varies from place to place, and it can work out extremely costly for a longer stay, however it is strongly advised that you do not pick a certain establishment because it is lower in cost, and like wise, more expensive kennels/catteries/boarding doesn’t necessarily ensure a higher quality. The key point to remember when choosing somewhere to board your animals is to visit well in advanced. If you arrange the stay well in advance and have a tour of the establishment, you won’t be left without somewhere to board your pets should you find it to not be of standard on the day that you drop them off.
If your pet requires a special diet or has any particular behavioural needs, it is also best practice to check this with the boarding place before making your booking.
Most kennels in the UK & USA provide food for your animals included in the price, however there are some that request you pay an extra fee or bring your own food. It is always wise to double-check when booking the kennel so you can factor in any additional costs (such as insurance, food, heating) that may be added to your bill. Most kennels and catteries are more than happy for you to specify a particular type of food, especially if your pet requires a specialist diet.
Questions to ask before booking kennels/catteries/boarding establishments;
Below is a list of things you should speak to the kennel/cattery before booking your pet’s stay.
· Vaccinations– What vaccinations does your pet require before being allowed entry to the kennel
· Exercise– How many hours exercise a day will they give your pet? Some breeds of dog require up to 3 hours of exercise a day and will become destructive if not stimulated properly.
· Food– What diet will they provide for your pet, is it included in the price? Will they provide a specialist diet if requested?
· Medication– Are they willing to give your pet any medication if your make a prior-request? Do they need any vetinary advice before administering this medication?
· Insurance– What sort of insurance do they have?
· Vet visits– What are their policies on vet visits? Do they have their own on-site vet or do they require the contact details of your own vet so that they can take him or here there in case of an emergency?
· Price– How much will the stay cost? Do you require a deposit? Is there a discount if I kennel more than one animal?
· Equipment– What equipment do I need to bring with me for my pet?
One question a lot of people have before taking their pets to kennels or catteries for the first time is; what equipment do I need to take with me? Will the kennels provide food bowls, lead, bedding etc? This varies between all of the different kennels, however, most kennels do not require any equipment.
Having somebody ‘Pet-Sit’
If you are lucky enough to have somebody offer to stay at your house to sit for you, then there are a few key points you may want to think about so that they can do the best job possible.
The cost of ‘Pet-sitting’ varies greatly. A few people have family or friends who are more than happy to stay at your house whilst you are away to look after your pets and will gladly do it free of charge – however there are a few ‘hidden’ costs involved. Remember that you will more than likely be paying for your pet’s food as well as whoever is house sitting for you. As well as this, you’ll have the added cost of heating and electricity bills for the duration that you are away. However, in the long run, this option usually ends up the cheapest and least stressful for your pets.
If you don’t feel comfortable having someone staying in your house, it is often a good idea to take pets to a friend or family’s household. If your friend/family member has the pets themselves, you can offer to return the favour when they go on holiday. It is very important to remember not to let reptiles mix with one and other. Dogs and Cats are immunised and unless one animal is particularly ill, there is little risk involved in them co-inhabiting, however, reptiles, such as snakes, lizards and tortoises, are not inoculated in the same way and mixing them together provides a serious risk to their health and behaviour. It is extremely important not to be tempted by letting your animal share an enclosure with a friend’s. The risks of doing so FAR outweigh the benefits gained and in a worst-case scenario you could end up with two dead pets.
Choosing someone to ‘pet-sit’
When asking someone to pet sit, it is important to consider a few things first. Obviously you want someone that you know very well as they will be spending a lot of time in your house. They would need to be very trustworthy as well as comfortable around all of your pets- your friend could absolutely love dogs but be petrified of your pet spider! It is good practice to have them visit a few times prior to pet sitting so that your animals are accustomed to their new friends, and also so that your pet-sitter can get used to your pet’s routine and their behaviour. If the pet-sitter has their own pets who will be staying with yours, then it’s advisable that you are 100% sure the animals mix well together and will co-inhabit without any problems.
Check-list of Information to give your pet-sitter
Before leaving your pets with a pet-sitter, it is important that you leave them instructions for anything that they may not be aware of or need reminding of. Below is a checklist of information to leave them.
· Medication- Leave a list of any medication your pet may need, as well as dosage instructions as well as any instructions for administering the medication.
· Important Contacts- Important contacts include; Your vet and the local animal pound in case your pet goes missing. Other contacts include the RSPCA and the breeder of your pet (In case they have any general questions about the animal that are not suitable for a vet)
· Food- It is important to provide enough food for your animal for the duration of your vacation as well as a little back-up money in case you have under estimated the amount of food you need. It is also handy to include feeding instructions.
· Instructions for care- More advanced animals such as tortoises, lizards, snakes and other reptiles require much more stable environments than most mammals, and therefore should only be left in the hands of experienced carers, as well as a set of instructions for their day-to-day care.
· Special diet- Many reptiles require live foods or supplements for D3 to be added to their food. Be sure that the pet-sitter is aware of this need and leave instructions with each supplement. It might be best to demonstrate to your pet-sitter how it is applied/fed so they are safe in the knowledge they are doing it correctly.
· Cleaning- If your pet sitter is looking after a small mammal or reptile, there may be day-to-day cleaning or weekly cleaning that needs to be done on their enclosure. It can have serious implications on your pets’ health if cleanliness and hygiene is not maintained, so be sure to include thorough instructions for the cleaning and day-to-day upkeep of your pets.
Hiring a professional pet-sitter
One option becoming popular, particularly in the UK, is to hire a professional pet-sitter. These are people that often turn their love of animals into a business and offer for you to take your pets to their house for the duration of your holiday. This is particularly handy if you have dogs or cats that get on well with others as they will have company for the duration of their stay, as well as the added benefit of lot’s of human contact with an experienced keeper.
Pet-Sitters for Reptiles
Finding somewhere for your reptile to go on holiday can be a pretty stressful time. Because of their specialist nature, many pet-sitters who look after small mammals are not willing to take on reptiles, and many who do charge a hefty fee.
A home-based reptile sitter is desirable for a number of reasons. However there are alternatives, which do work out more cost effective. One alternative is to get in touch with the breeder of your reptiles. Most will be more than happy to board one of their ex-hatchlings and will often charge nothing, or a very small fee for doing so (for example just enough to cover food for the duration of your holiday.) If you bought your reptile form a pet shop, a number of them also offer boarding. However, one thing to keep in mind when considering this possibility is the likelihood that a pet shop is a big target for thieves. Specialist reptile shops are huge targets for thieves as reptiles often come with a high-price tag, and if your animal is kept in the store, they may become a target to thieves.
Reptiles often get stressed when their environment changes, so it is a good idea to move the animal’s enclosure, as well as any equipment with them, so that they experience as little change as possible. If it’s not possible to move the enclosure with you, then something similar in lay-out and size will be adequate, however, be sure that any temporary enclosures are completely escape proof, as many reptiles are seasoned escape artists and will take advantage of the smallest of gaps to make their escape route.
Pet-sitters for small mammals
Pet-sitters for small mammals are often quite easy to find. However, because of the prices of food, bedding etc, they are often quite expensive and can work out costly in the long run. A good place to look for these advertisements is in your local vet practice, or to phone a local small mammal rescue and to ask if they know of anyone offering this service. If you are unsure of anyone’s ability, ask them a few questions and be sure to get recommendations from your vet and friends who have had experience of these pet sitters.
I hope that this article has aided the planning of your vacation and the arrangements you will make for your pets when you visit abroad. Below are some helpful links that may aid you in planning your vacation around your pet.
UK Kennel Directory- http://www.kenneldirectory.com/
UK Cattery Directory- http://www.paws-away.co.uk/
UK Pet Sitters- http://www.ukpetsitters.com/
UK Reptile Vets- http://www.reptilevets.co.uk/
USA Kennels- http://www.dogkennelusa.com/dogkennels/
USA Pet Sitters- http://www.petsitusa.com/
USA Reptile Vets- www.herpvetconnection.com