Throughout the year, those of us who have pets that allow us to live with them, periodically go through the routine of needing to make arrangements for someone to oversee their activities while we are away.
Are you planning a vacation to visit family? Have you scheduled a well deserved weekend get away to do a little shopping or possibly some skiing? Will a business deal take you from your home for a few days or longer? Maybe you just want a break from the rigors of daily life to bake in a sauna or sit at a spa. Whatever the reason, pet owners wanting to get away need to plan for the care of their furry housemates. The following are points to consider when selecting a boarding facility, or if you wish, hiring someone that will come to your home at scheduled times to care for your pet, aka a “pet sitter”.
Pet sitters are becoming quite popular. They are contracted to go directly to your abode. Generally visits occur one or more times a day. They walk, feed, and water pets. Many are also able to administer medications and do physical therapy. Some pet sitters will also do other things to take care of your home while you are away such as bring in the mail. You will want to have a clear idea of what you want done while you are away and evaluate the amount of time and attention you want the pet sitter to provide for your pets during your absence.
It is a very good idea for you to check their credentials and references. Presently there are no federal or state guidelines or requirements to become a pet sitter. However, some local municipalities have enacted laws governing such enterprises. I would certainly ask the sitter to provide you with three or more references. Because pet sitters come into your home, you want to be sure that you have a level of trust with that individual.
Be certain to call them. This is your chance to check their relative competency and reliability. Ask them if they will be doing all of the work themselves or if they have helpers. You may want to know if they have some form of liability insurance. If the pet sitter is on the ball they will ask that you contact your veterinarian and authorize treatment of your pet should there be a situation that requires immediate medical attention. It would also be a good idea for you to give them your itinerary. An emergency contact number is always helpful. Having this information ahead of time makes it much less likely that it will be needed (Murphy’s Law).
When boarding your pet consider the following. Visit the actual location where the pet will be staying. They should welcome the opportunity to show off their facility. It may not be the newest in town, however, it should be clean, neat, and odor free.
Every boarding and training facility should require all pets to be current on their immunizations! Cats need Distemper, Rhino and Calici virus protection. Some facilities may require cats have a Rabies vaccination. If they have an open area where feline boarders are able to interact face-to-face (I am NOT a fan of this) Leukemia vaccination may be required. Dogs need their Distemper, Parainfluenza, Hepatitis, Parvovirus, and Lepto vaccinations. All canine boarders should have a Kennel Cough (Bordetella) vaccine not less than once a year. Dogs more than 12 weeks of age should be Rabies vaccinated.
Some facilities may require a recent stool exam. Others will want your pet to be flea, tick, and heartworm protected. These requirements are for your pets’ health as well as minimizing other boarders to exposure.
Check to see what brand of pet food they are providing. Some will want you to bring your pet’s regular food. Don’t get the idea that they are trying to be cheap, rather this may be a good idea as the chances of them developing diarrhea due to a sudden diet change are reduced.
Is exercise encouraged? Your canine companions need not run a marathon while you are away, however they should get out of their kennel two or more times a day to stretch their legs.
Will your pet receive a bath and be brushed? Some facilities do a complimentary bath and brush after a pet has stayed a certain number of days. This is not a groom. If they are going to bathe your pet and you are using a topical flea and heartworm preventive, be certain they are not using a detergent shampoo! These products will remove the insecticide that is protecting your pet. Should the facility offer grooming, is this an option at the time they are boarded? Again, inquire as to the type of shampoo they use.
Have you signed an Emergency Treatment Release form? Do they record any medical condition for which your pet is currently being treated? Do they have a way for you to provide them with your pet’s general medical health background?
Is your pet taking medication for a medical condition for example, epilepsy or heart failure? Might they be taking an antibiotic or need topical treatment? Is the facility able and willing to medicate your pet according to the schedule you provide?
What are their hours of operation? Are they flexible? Is it possible for you to pick up your pet after hours? Is there a fee for them having to open their doors during off hours? How much advance notice do you need to give if your plans change? Is there a discount for boarding multiple pets together?
It is not uncommon for quality facilities to be full to capacity at certain times of the year. It would behoove you to make your reservation well in advance of your scheduled departure. The highest volume times of the year are: Christmas, New Year’s Day, Spring break, Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving Day. Of course many of the weekends during the summer months are also times when the better boarding facilities are full.
Asking these and other questions will help you not only enjoy your time away knowing that your pet is in good care. It will also help your pet to enjoy being in the safe and attentive care of others while they anxiously await your return!