At this time of year many people are planning their summer holidays, and so need to make arrangements for their pets too. Some people use their family, friends or pet-sitters to care for their pets in their own home; others prefer to use a boarding service, either in a home setting or a kennels or cattery. The choice is a personal one and depends on the services available in the area. As pets are members of the family, it is important to make arrangements that you are happy with.
Whichever type of service you decide to use, there are several ways in which you can help to make it a happy experience for your dog or cat:
1. Start when your pet is young. Puppies and kittens take new experiences in their stride. If it is too late to do this, or if your pet seems particularly shy, start with short stays and build up before a 2 or 3 week holiday. Most well-socialised pets will enjoy their holidays, allowing their owners to relax and enjoy theirs too.
2. Ask friends and neighbours to recommend a good place and then go and look round for yourself because not everyone likes the same things. Check for cleanliness and the general well-being of the pets. Respect the opening hours but beware of an establishment which does not allow inspection. If care is to be provided in your own home, interview the carer in advance, let them meet your pet(s) and check their experience and references.
3. Check that your chosen service offers everything you require. This could include grooming, collection and delivery, veterinary insurance, special diets etc. Check that your service carries proper insurance against unforeseen things like accident, escape, injury to third parties etc. If care is to be provided in your own home, check the position of your home insurance and be clear about whether the pet-sitter’s responsibilities include any elements of house-sitting, or if they are purely responsible for the pet(s).
4. Arrange necessary vaccinations in plenty of time and book early: good places will be fully booked at popular holiday times. If you go away frequently, make sure that the same service will be available all the year round so that your pet has a familiar routine on each occasion.
5. Discuss special needs or dietary requirements and medications at the time of booking. If your pet has a medical condition such as diabetes or epilepsy, it is particularly important that your chosen carer has the experience to deal with it. Make sure any tablets needed are clearly labelled, preferably in their original containers.
6. Ask if some of your pet’s familiar belongings can accompany them if they are not remaining in their own home. Bedding and bowls may not be accepted for hygiene reasons so ask what would be best to take.
7. If transporting your dog or cat, they may travel better on an empty stomach. Keep your cat in overnight the night before so that it cannot go missing, and provide a litter tray.
8. To avoid stress, try to pack AFTER the pets have gone if they are going away from home.
9. Try to take a relaxed attitude yourself, as your pet will quickly pick up on your mood. If you find it stressful to take your pet to a sitter or a kennel or a cattery, you will make them anxious and it will take longer for them to settle. Perhaps another member of the family could deliver them for you.
If your dog trots off happily with his/her carer without a backward glance and your cat settles in without any problems you will know that all your planning and preparation has been worthwhile. They will still be delighted to see you when you get home.
Enjoy your holiday!