When travel calls and your pet cannot accompany you or the family, what should you do? Finding a facility to board your pet is the topic of this month’s newsletter.

Most of us enjoy spending time with our pets. Since the shelter-in-place mandate began, we have grown accustomed to spending more time with them — and they with us. Which is why leaving your pet for even a few days can produce increased anxiety. Fortunately, there are several excellent options for you and your pet.

Pet Boarding or Lodge
Today’s boarding facilities are different from years past. Most are much more than a fenced-in run. Modern facilities involve personalized pet care — from meeting their dietary needs to ensuring exercise to fostering social interaction to providing comfortable (even swanky) environments that may include furniture, a television or even background music.


Luxurious Cat Accomodations

When selecting a pet facility, it’s important to do your homework.

First, understand what your pet needs. Do they prefer quiet or the ability to interact with other animals? Do they get along with other pets? How much daily exercise do they require? Do they have special medical needs? Or might they require a specific diet (which may be difficult for others to prepare) at defined times of the day? How will they react to a new environment?

Next, understand your needs. Define your daily budget, the distance you’re willing to travel, the hours when you need to drop off or pick up your pet, and whether you need to see them while you’re traveling (yes, many pet facilities allow you to watch your pet via a streaming web camera).

With this information in hand, begin talking with friends, the staff at Kirkwood Animal Hospital, your groomer, or other trusted individuals. Then conduct an online search via Google, Yelp or the International Boarding & Pet Services Association (IBPSA).

Then visit the websites of those that meet your criteria — including search of the Better Business Bureau looking for any complaints. When considering facilities, we encourage you to review, but not exclusively rely upon, ratings or customer feedback. Often this information highlights the best and worst experience. It’s best to use the feedback to formulate questions — and then reach out by email or telephone for answers.

All boarding facilities in the county must be licensed and require that your pet be in good health and current on all vaccinations — including rabies, Bordetella, canine influenza, and others. You should be prepared to provide these documents along with our contact information.


Luxurious Cat Accomodations

Before booking a facility, you should visit it. Everything should look and smell clean. The rooms should be reasonably sized, comfortable (from a temperature perspective), have plenty of light, provide a comfortable sleeping area off the floor, and offer plenty of separation between the food/water bowls and any litter area. Your pet should have access, either directly or indirectly, to an exercise area.

Importantly, ensure different types of animals are housed away from each other (i.e., cats and dogs, small and large dogs, etc.) as well as those pets that may be sick.

The staff should be friendly, caring, professional, and able to deal with both routine and emergencies. Pets should be fed and receive fresh water on a regular schedule. You should be able to bring your pet’s own food (with their name on it) along with their medicines in their original container. Ensure there is access to veterinary services for emergencies, and individuals qualified to administer medication.

Once you’re satisfied with the facility, ensure your requested dates are available. Good facilities fill up quickly, particularly around holidays, so be sure to schedule in advance. Leaving your pet will be difficult, so give your pet a kiss and don’t prolong the goodbye. Remember, they are in good hands and you can likely watch from afar with a web camera!

Friends and Family
Leaving your pet with a friend or family member may also be a good lower-stress alternative, particularly if they enjoy the company of your pet. Despite the convenience, many of the same guidelines above apply to ensure your pet remains healthy, happy and comfortable. It’s important that whoever watches your pet takes full responsibility for their feeding, watering, exercise and health.


Pets Staying with Family and Friends

As your pet may be in another’s “territory,” be sure your pet gets along with all others in the household. This may require a separate eating or sleeping area, and/or toys. Just as with boarding facilities, your friend/family should have our telephone number, more than enough food, treats and medicine to last the duration of your trip, and a detailed list of medicines and how they should be administered.

Pet Walker or Sitter
Another alternative is a pet sitter — someone who visits your home several times daily or stays in your home while you’re traveling. Selecting a pet sitter can reduce the stress upon your pet as they remain in their own environment, but it requires greater diligence.

Some “free lance” pet sitters are unlicensed, and not only must they be trustworthy, they must feel comfortable with your pet and be responsible with them — and your home.


Pets and Walk Walker/House Sitter

Your search for a pet sitter will be similar to that for a boarding facility. Ask for referrals from friends, family members, Kirkwood Animal Hospital or your groomer. You can also visit sites like Rover.com or Care.com and search by geographic area.

Be sure to ask for and verify at least three references, ensure they work for licensed and bonded company (if not independent operators), and have passed a criminal background check. Then, review their experience and arrange a meeting with your pet to ensure there is a “connection.” During your meeting, you should inquire about their current workload/schedule and observe their passion for pets and their ability to follow instructions. Once you’ve found a trusted pet sitter, consider them part of the family. Treat them well, pay them well, and check in while you’re traveling. Remember, they are caring for your beloved pet in your absence.

Call Us
If you need assistance exploring accommodations for your pet, please give us a call. Please ensure those that care for your pet have our telephone number and a complete list of medications (and instructions) for your pet.

Enjoy your trip!