The hardest part of going on a trip is leaving the pets behind. But in many cases, it’s what is best for the animal, especially if they hate to travel or have medical issues that make it better that they stay at home. But how do you find the right person to care for your pets?
There are numerous companies that offer this service—from coming to stay in your home to boarding your pet at their own facility—and it’s important that you find the right fit for your animal.
Ask yourself these questions before starting your search:
Is your dog/cat sociable? Animals that like other animals and humans are often fine with being boarded at a pet-care facility. But those who are skittish, or who have come from shelters or traumatic backgrounds, may have a much tougher time being in a cage (even a nice one) where they can see or hear other animals or have to deal with unknown caretakers. One of my dogs considers boarding a week at the spa; the other turns into a trembling ball of bared teeth. Knowing your pet’s comfort level will help you decide where they should stay.
Does your pet have any kind of special needs, like having to take medication every day or issues with sight or hearing? Older animals often require special care, and that means finding a caretaker who will take these issues seriously. It might be best to board your pet at a veterinarian’s office if he or she requires shots or meds, or to hire someone to care for a dog with sight issues so that they get to stay in familiar surroundings.
What can you afford? While this takes second shrift to your animal’s comfort, it’s still a very valid concern. There are all levels of animal care, from high-end, spa-type amenities, to boarding at a vet’s office, to pet sitters who will come into your home each day, to house sitters who will watch everything you own, including your pets. If you’re lucky, there are also friends and family who already know your pets. (While family is probably the least expensive, it’s always good to offer them some special perks—I always make my sister’s favorite meals and leave them in the fridge so that both she and my animals have a good time while I’m away.)
So how do you find the right boarding facility/pet sitter?
Research, research, research. Once you’ve determined the type of caretaker/facility you want, ask your friends who they use. Read the websites of the places you’re considering, and make sure to pay attention to the comments or ratings. If you’re considering a boarding facility, look for any certifications (though these are not always required by law), and find out how many animals they keep at one time.
If you’re considering a pet sitter who comes into your home, make sure that they are bonded and carry commercial liability insurance, and feel free to talk to them about their qualifications.
Make a visit or meet them in person. You wouldn’t leave your children with a stranger, so why leave your precious pet with someone you don’t know? Legitimate boarding facilities are more than happy to let you take a short tour and to listen to your concerns about your pet. Professional pet sitters will also come to meet you and your pet so that the animal can get used to them before they are visiting on their own. It’s a red flag if the person or facility won’t make time to do this. Also, make sure that the person visiting your home is the person who will be watching your pet—I’ve had the owner of the company come meet my Husky, only to assign his daily care to an 18-year-old employee who was scared of large animals. Obviously, that did not work out.
Be honest. Just like people, pets aren’t always perfect. You need to let the facility/pet sitter know what to expect, whether this means a more aggressive dog, separation anxiety, peeing in the house, trying to bolt out the door, barking, chewing, etc. Don’t worry that it doesn’t put you in the best light—chances are, it’s something they’ve dealt with before, and it’s better that they know any issues upfront. For the match to succeed, everyone needs to be comfortable.
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