Pets: we have ’em, we love ’em, and they have a lot of needs that have to be met. I’m going to start off by saying how seriously I take pet ownership. Pet ownership is much more than keeping an animal fed, taking it out, and bringing it to the vet yearly. It’s kind of like when Jafar turns into a genie in Disney’s Aladdin. Aladdin traps him in the lamp explaining that, while Jafar might have the power he wants now, he also has to deal with everything that goes along with it. We love snuggling our pets and all the joy they bring us but we also have to sometimes cancel day trips to New York City because there is no one to watch the dog and we’re certainly not leaving him alone for twelve hours.
Which makes pet ownership and vacationing sometimes tricky. I have a friend with two dogs and three chickens. Which means that taking a vacation includes teaching someone how to take care of chickens. Because, let’s be honest, asking someone to take care of your pet/s can be asking a lot. I recently dog sat for friends when they went away and it was a borderline disaster. My dog-loving cats decided that they didn’t love this particular dog and then the poor dog was also getting over a UTI. I ended up with broken blinds, five pee messes to clean up, and six days of anxiety. And then my friends, of course, felt bad about it, which is natural but also a shame; they deserve to get away and take a vacation without worrying over their dog. And while I certainly was fine with the difficult pet-sitting situation, I know my friends’ will still be reluctant in the future to ask someone else to watch their dog.
There are many options when getting pet care and different ones will work for different people for a variety of reasons. A lot of things need to be considered ranging from pets’ needs to money.
The biggest downside of kennels is putting your dog in an unfamiliar environment. For this reason, this option won’t work for a lot of people. My Dad’s last dog got incredibly anxious every time my Dad went away and, for that reason, a kennel wasn’t an option for my dad. He’d cancel a trip before putting his dog through that. The dog needs to be cared for by people he knows and is familiar with. So, firstly, when considering a kennel, consider your pet first and if kenneling is something they can comfortably handle.
But, a kennel can be a good option if you can find one you can trust. They’re equipped with anything and everything your dog could possibly need, they’re a secure environment, they (generally) are run by people who like animals, your animal will have a consistent routine, and your animal will likely get a lot of socialization while you’re gone. But, addressing my bolded text above, do your research first. Make sure you’re putting your animal into a good kennel. As with everything else in life, there are definitely bad ones out there. Some kennels have an extra charge for extra outside playtime. I would avoid these. Any self-respecting animal facility is going to give dogs the exercise and outdoor time they need. (The caveat is if you have a difficult animal or a dog that doesn’t like other dogs and can’t be let out in a shared area. But, if you have a dog that doesn’t get along with other dogs, you likely aren’t considering a kennel anyway.)
When my family first moved to Connecticut, our family dog at the time had to be kenneled for a period of time while we were living in a one-bedroom apartment. The kennel owners’ house was on the same property as the kennel which meant they were present almost all the time, they didn’t charge for play time, and they didn’t charge for special food. Our dog had allergy issues and had a specific food she had to be on. We provided the food, of course, but the kennel did not charge extra for having to feed her something different than what they carry at the facility. Good kennels definitely exist but you just have to be willing to put a little work into finding the best one for you and your pet.
If you don’t want to board your animal somewhere you can pay someone to come to you. There are a lot of pet-sitting companies out there now and they’re becoming increasingly more popular than kennels. Hiring a pet-sitter means that your animal gets to stay in their own, familiar space. But it also means that a stranger will be in your home regularly when you’re not there. Another upside to these companies is that you can generally taylor the services to what you need. For example, you can pay extra to have someone stay at your house, or you can pay for twice daily check-ins, or once daily, ect. The once daily check-in is actually not that expensive which makes it a great option for people with cats.
However, again, do a little background work. Look up a companies’ reviews online or get a recommendation from someone you know. They’ll be inside your home and responsible for your little nugget so you want to make sure you’ve hired someone responsible.
Someone You Know
This is obviously the most ideal option. You know them and trust them. You can text them 18 times a day asking “how’s my munchkin?” and they (probably) won’t judge you. They’ll send you pictures and daily updates on your pet while you’re away. Plus, they’re also likely the cheapest option. But, you also know what a pain in the butt your little darling can be. I usually feel guilty asking friends to care for my pets because I feel like I’m putting them out. Which I am. They have to disrupt their day to pop over to my apartment and take care of my cats (and maybe end up cleaning up broken glass because my cats knocked over a plant).
I also personally feel more pressure watching someone else’s animals. I am more than equipped to take care of animals. I’ve had several, and have cared for many horses, dogs, and cats. I’ve removed stitches, tweezed off ticks, and given flea baths. I’ve de-wormed, administered pills, drawn blood, and tested blood sugar levels. Plus, I totally love them. I know how great of an option I am to care for someone else’s pet. Even so, I get so worried every time that I do. Because it’s somebody else’s little love and I’d be horrified if something went wrong on my watch. And I know that when someone is watching my little loves they probably feel the same way.
To off-set this I tend to spread the cat love around. When I did a couple of days in the finger lakes I really only needed someone to pop in once or twice to make sure my cats had enough food and water (huge upside to cats). So I asked my friend that has a key to my apartment and that doesn’t live too far from me. However, when I was in Oregon for ten days, I knew that same person wasn’t the best option; I’d be asking a lot of him given that he works 60+ hour work weeks. Instead my friend, Lindsey, a fellow cat owner/lover, watched my cats. She spent time working on her laptop at my apartment every day, bought them toys and treats, and then vacuumed my apartment. Honestly, she put me and my cat-sitting abilities to shame.
And then there is my Dad. Ever see that meme about the bond between dad’s and the pet that they said they didn’t want? I think the creator of that meme knew my Dad personally. My favorite story is a stray that showed up at our house when I was in high school. “No more cats,” was my Dad’s strict initial response. Which then turned into, “I’m just gonna put a blanket on the porch.” Shortly after: “I think we should put Zorro in the garage overnight because it’s going to be freezing tonight.” To which we obviously responded, “Zorro?” He named the cat (of course) and then took it to the vet because, “you know, it’s going to be hanging around and will be around our cats so we should make sure he’s fixed and vaccinated.” It wasn’t long before Dad was “accidentally” leaving the door open in case Zorro wanted to wander in.
My Dad actually loves my cats. He’s got a soft spot for Eleanor and the last time I stayed with him for a few days, with cats in tow, I came back from somewhere to find that my Dad had moved “Eleanor’s chair” to be right next to his while they watched TV. He’s such a sucker. (In the best way).
My biggest piece of advice? Don’t skimp. Yes, traveling is expensive but this is not the area that you want to cut corners in. Both for your pet and you. Your pet is likely going to be feeling some level of stress while you’re gone and you are going to be worried if you’re questioning your pet care choice. Not everyone is going to have every option available to them. But, with multiple options out there, it is still possible to find a way to travel while ensuring that your little love-bucket is being taken care of. And, you can be sure, when you’re back, they’re going to be extra snuggly.