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Planning your pet's vacation
by Rob April 1st 2012, 11:48 AM

Planning your pet's vacation
By Robin (PSY)

Many of us are going on vacation during the summer and winter breaks! Before you pack the suitcases and print off the boarding passes, though, have you considered where your pets will be while you’re gone? Fortunately, making arrangements for your furry, feathered, or scaly friends won’t be too difficult or time-consuming, now that you have this article to help guide you through the process!

First, determine each pet’s needs. Dogs will need to be fed once or twice a day and given time to exercise. Cats will need to be fed and have their litter boxes changed once or twice a week. Small animals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish may be confined to their cages and tanks, but they will still need to be fed and have their habitats cleaned, depending on how long you will be gone. If you live in an unusually warm or cool area, you will need to provide adequate shelter and additional supplies for your pets, so that they do not die of heat stroke or hypothermia. If you live in an area that is prone to earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and so on, you will need to ensure that someone can transport your pets in the event of a natural disaster. If you have a pet that requires medication, make sure you can provide it to the individual(s) who will be taking care of your pet.

Next, determine where your pets will stay. The most common options are hiring a petsitter and finding a board and care facility. There are pros and cons to each option, so weigh each option carefully before deciding which one is best for you and your pets. Some of the advantages of petsitting include the ability to hire a family member, friend, neighbor, or someone else you already know quite well. Petsitting can also be much cheaper than a board and care facility, with some individuals charging as little as $5 per day! In addition, most pets are happier when they are in a familiar environment, so hiring a petsitter will allow you to leave your pets at home while you are on vacation. One disadvantage of petsitting is the possibility of having to find a stranger via the Internet (ex. Google Search, Craigslist) or phone book. Make sure the individual you hire can be trusted with a key to your house or apartment. You should discuss everything with the petsitter in person before going on vacation, such as the amount of food each pet should receive per day, when and how often the petsitter should visit your home, and where the petsitter should take a sick or injured pet in case of an emergency.

If hiring a petsitter won't meet the needs of your pet(s), find a board and care facility. One of the advantages of boarding with a respectable facility is that you can expect your pets to be taken care of by responsible employees who have received countless hours of training in order to ensure your pet’s needs will be met while you are gone. Some board and care facilities also allow pets (usually dogs) to roam freely in a playpen for a few hours each day, which gives your pet the ability to exercise and interact with other pets. One disadvantage to boarding is that you may end up paying more with a facility (the one I worked at charged between $20-50 per day). Also, some facilities will only accept dogs and cats, so you will need to resort to a petsitter for your other pets. In addition, many facilities require you to book reservations several weeks in advance and provide up-to-date paperwork for vaccinations, so finding a board and care facility at the last minute or for emergency trips may not be possible.

Finally, determine the financial cost for each pet’s “vacation”. If you choose to hire a petsitter, make sure you can pay the petsitting fee. If you will be running out of food and other supplies soon, either purchase them in advance or set aside money for the petsitter to use when purchasing additional supplies. If you anticipate your pet will need medical attention at some point (ex. an elderly pet who regularly needs to visit the emergency vet), set aside money for the petsitter. Board and care facilities generally provide food for each pet, but they may charge additional fees for “individual playtime” or other non-essential services. Find out how much it will cost to board each pet BEFORE going on vacation.

Don’t forget to keep your cell phone on hand in case the petsitter or a facility employee needs to get in touch with you! As the owner, you are ultimately responsible for each pet’s care, even if you are on vacation. You may need to approve a payment or emergency trip to the vet, so don’t leave important decisions to people who aren’t emotionally invested in your pets!
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