It seems a little unfair that you get to go off on holiday but have to leave your pet behind. You can’t always take them with you though, so you’ll need to weigh up your options and decide who’s going to be looking after the dog (or cat, or hamster…).
Friends and Family
Do you have a friend or relative who could look after the pets while you’re away? This is a nice option, as most of the time the pet already knows their sitter and it doesn’t need to disrupt their routine too much. Cats can be left to their own devices and dogs will be happy once they’ve acclimatised to being spoiled by their new best friend.
If you’re not lucky enough to have a friendly dog or cat-sitter to hand, you might want to think about a formal arrangement.
A pet sitter or ‘home sitter’ can come to your home and keep an eye on your animals for you. This has the advantage of not upsetting your pets’ routine too much, and means you don’t have to worry about transporting them anywhere either. You’ll need to make sure that any sitter knows all the important details about your animals’ routine, so make a list of their favourite foods and treats, routines, likes and dislikes, and any medication. Be sure to leave the vet’s details somewhere too.
Pet sitters can just visit to make sure cats, birds, fish, and small animals are taken care of, or stay in your home and keep dogs company too. Some will even take your pets to their home if you prefer.
A house sitter can also be a great deterrent against opportunistic criminals. The best way to find a reputable sitter is by personal recommendation, but if that’s not possible, you could:
- Ask your vet.
- Look in specialist cat and dog magazines.
- Check listings in local directories, newspapers and online.
A registered sitter should have public liability insurance, references and, in the case of house sitters, CRB and police checks to ensure they are trustworthy, as well as competent in looking after pets.
Many people opt for a traditional cattery or boarding kennels, and although it can feel like a wrench to leave your pets behind, in reality they will soon settle into their new surroundings. Younger animals and secure pets tend to find the change of scenery quite easy to adapt to, but pets who are set in their ways or who are clingy may have more of a problem. If this is your first time:
- Ask for recommendations from a vet or other pet owners.
- Ask if you can have a look around the facilities before you make any arrangements. You could even take your dog to meet the staff first.
- Check that the pens are warm and comfortable.
- Ask if dogs are exercised by kennel staff.
- Find out if it’s possible for your pet to be given his or her favourite food.
It’s not just cats and dogs who need to be cared for while their owners are away – fish, birds, and small animals all need to be taken care of too. You can probably find a friend to pop over and feed fish – or buy vacation food blocks which release food gradually.
Other small pets, such as rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, rats, hamsters and gerbils need to be either left with a friend or a pet-sitter, or regularly visited, as they need fresh food, water and exercise every day. You can find small animal boarding places online and the same guidelines apply as for dogs and cats. There are even specialist holiday homes for rabbits and guinea pigs.
Make sure that you ask questions about the accommodation, the exercise they offer, what happens if your pet becomes ill, and what experience they have, and then arrange a visit.
If you can’t face leaving your beloved pet behind, you could try and find a pet-friendly hotel or self-catering home in the UK.
Whatever choice you make, you can bet that when you get home, your dog will be pleased to see you and greet you with his tail wagging. Your cat, however, will act as if she hadn’t even noticed you’d gone.
Alex Johnson is a freelance writer based in Oxford.