We’re in the very early stages of planning an extended vacation…and our regular pet sitter will be on the trip with us! So we’re weighing our options and looking into pet sitters and boarding facilities. But how do you know if they’re reliable, responsible and that your pets will be well cared for?
It’s up to your personal preference whether you’d like a pet sitter or a boarding facility. There are many quality options out there for both venues. A sitter might be a better option if your pet is very uncomfortable outside their regular environments and they might agree to water your plants as well as your pets.
Finding a quality pet sitter might take more time than touring kennels and pet resorts, but it may be well worth the effort.
Looking for a sitter:
There is a National Association of Pet Sitters that offers a place to start your search, but if you’re in a smaller town like I am there won’t be many options. Often the best people to ask are your friends, coworkers and neighbors. That way you can get a quality reference to a pet sitter from someone you know who uses one.
Always set up an interview well in advance of your vacation. You can see how they interact with your pets and get a sense of their personality (take notes!). Be sure to ask questions about:
- Do they carry insurance?
- Do they have training or experience?
- Do they know where emergency services for pets are in the area?
- Do they have a backup plan for your pets in case of an emergency (in case they get snowed in or are otherwise unable to visit your house)
- Ask for references.
- How long do they stay/how often do they visit your pets and take care of their needs?
- Do they have a contract?
- Do they offer “live-in” services?
If you choose to pursue boarding kennels you need to consider that they may be more stressful than a sitter. Consider the stress on older or anxious pets related to being in an unfamiliar place, diseases and illnesses that can be transmitted in close quarters with other pets (Kennel cough, etc) before you make your decision (and make sure your pets are vaccinated against common communicable diseases well in advance of their stay).
Choosing a Kennel or Boarding Facility
As with pet sitters, the best way to find a quality kennel is to ask your friends, neighbors and relatives for a recommendation. Before setting up an appointment to tour the facility, do a little research on the venue.
- Have they been inspected by the state? What was their rating?
- Are able to handle any special needs that your pets may require?
- If you are a multi-pet household, ask if they can house your pets together.
If you’ve received responses that you like, it is time to schedule a visit. For the first visit you should go alone (no pets along) to tour the facility.
- Take note of the environment. Is it clean, sanitary and good-smelling?
- Is it comfortable?
- Do they have insurance or a license?
- What amenities do they offer your pet (group play time, walks, bedding, etc).
- How does the staff make you feel? Are they loving towards the pets in residence?
- What vaccinations are required and which are recommended?
- Do they take special precautions with aggressive dogs?
- Are you able to supply your own food?
- How often are the pets fed, and will they accommodate what your pet’s feeding schedule?
- What steps do they take in case of emergency?
Hopefully by now you know the right questions to ask when you’re getting ready to board or get a pet sitter. The only advice I can give you is to start your search well in advance of any trip so that you aren’t rushed into making a decision. Preparing your pet and sitter for your absence is another topic for another day!