If you share your life with a pet, you can’t just get up and go for a holiday: you need to plan the animal’s arrangements too. The number of options available has increased significantly with the advent of the internet but the bottom line remains the same: you have to find holiday arrangements for your pet which keep them safe, secure, stress-free and comfortable.
Just as many people book holiday flights and accommodation many months in advance, so it makes sense to do the same with pet care. Pet related services are busy in the summer months, whether pet-friendly accommodation, pet travel specialists, pet sitters, boarding kennels or other holiday-related pet activities. Sort out your plans as early as possible to give yourself the widest range of options and the best value.
2. Taking your pet with you is easier than ever
The recognition of the “pet pound” has led to a proliferation of pet friendly holiday destinations
in the UK and abroad. If planning to leave the UK, you do need to get a pet passport for your dog or cat, with rabies vaccinations being given at least 3 weeks before your departure date, but once you get the paperwork in place, there are few restrictions on where you can go.
3. If travelling with your pet, do your research first
Plan properly: think about what will be involved with your pet when you are away, and make sure that you have checked on the important details. Is the accommodation definitely suitable for your particular type of pet? Where will they sleep at night? How will you spend your days with your animal? What will you feed your pet while you are there? What will you do with your pet if you are engaged in other holiday activities? Make sure that there are no surprises when you reach your destination
4. Don’t forget your pet’s health care
Just as humans can fall ill on holiday, so can pets. Check your pet insurance details to find out what sort of cover you will have at your destination (are trips overseas included?) Are there local diseases that you should be aware of? Do you need to take extra preventive care, such as tick control, sand fly repellants, protection against mosquitoes or different types of parasite control (such as anti-heartworm medication)? Talk to your local vet before you go if you are not sure.
Remember to check your pet insurance details to find out what sort of cover you will have at your destination
You may have heard about pet deaths while being carried in airline cargo. This type of disastrous outcome may be very rare, but whether transporting your pet in the back of your car, on a ferry or by air, make sure that your pet’s comfort and safety are fully taken into account. Find out exactly what’s going to be involved so that you can make necessary adjustments (e.g. where, precisely, will your cat be during the ferry journey? A wire cage beside barking dogs would be highly stressful for most cats).
6. Boarding kennels may be old fashioned but they can still work well
Boarding kennels and catteries are the traditional form of pet care over holiday periods, and a well run kennel can be a positive, enjoyable experience for a dog or cat. Plan as far as possible in advance: the best establishments are fully booked for the summer season. If you leave it too late, you won\'t have the same level of choice of places to use. If using kennels, double check that your pets\' vaccines are up to date, especially for Kennel Cough. If vaccines have gone out of date, you could be refused entry to the boarding premises at the last minute.
7. Having a pet minded in a home environment can be a good alternative
Your pet dog or cat is used to living life in a family type of set up, with freedom to go where they wish, when they wish, in the home, and with people continually interacting with them. Many people now dislike the idea of removing pets from this type of relaxed scenario and placing them into the smaller, restricted, isolated space that’s typical of many boarding kennels. For this reason, more and more pet owners are looking for home-based pet care. This can be in someone else’s home, or ideally perhaps, in your own home.
You may wish to ask a friend or relative to care for a pet, and this can work well, especially for independent-minded cats in their own home, or for sociable dogs who are easy for people to look after in their own homes. Do remember, however, that this is a big “ask”, carrying responsibility and a burden of care. Assistance of this type should not be taken for granted: a token box of chocolates from the airport on the way home doesn’t cover it.
8. Internet-enabled pet sitters are easier, cheaper and safer than ever
“Sharing economy” type of websites now connect pet owners with dog-loving members of the public who are happy to mind pets in their own home. This is a growing trend that started in the USA a decade ago, with Europe now beginning to catch up.
There are two types of customers who use these websites. First, there are people who want to earn cash by minding pets. A wide range of people sign up as pet minders - from professional petsitters to veterinary students and nurses to members of the public who are experienced dog owners. They all have two things in common: they enjoy the company of dogs and they are able to fit an extra dog into their home and lifestyle.
The second type of customer is the dog owner who is looking for an alternative to boarding kennels for their pet. For these people the process is simple: they type in the area where they live, and the dates when they want to have their pet minded. A list of potential minders then pops up: they click on the minder of their choice, and the booking is made.
Most home pet care websites have reassuring security aspects built into the system: for example, pet minders may be covered by free emergency veterinary insurance in case of accident or illness. Online review systems allow pet minders to develop track records of reliability that can be verified. Most people make sure they meet a new minder first (perhaps going for a short dog walk together), and ideally they arrange a \'trial stay\' for a couple of hours or overnight, so that they can thoroughly check the minder and their home out before leaving them there for a longer period.
Pet sitters will walk your dog and some look after your home too
9. You can have your house minded as well as your pet - for free
For pet owners who have more than one dog or cat, rather than leaving them to be cared in someone else\'s house, it can make more sense to have a pet sitter come to live in your own home while you are away. You can set this up informally, with a friend, you can employ a professional pet and house sitter, or you can use a new online service which has been growing rapidly in recent years. The Trustedhousesitters.com website allows you to have your pets minded "for free" by experienced pet sitters. The deal works like this: in return for your pet and property being cared for while you are away on holiday, you offer the opportunity to live in your house, and perhaps even use your car. If you live in an area that people from other countries wish to visit, this allows them to have free accommodation in return for looking after your pets.
The website also works the other way, of course: if you are a pet lover seeking cheap accommodation when you go on holiday, you can register at the website,search through interesting properties (and pets) around the world, and stay there for free in return for dog walking and cat minding duties.
10. Whatever system of pet care you choose, do a trial weekend first
A typical holiday is two weeks long: if your pet is placed in an environment that is not working out, this is too long for them, causing undue stress and psychological trauma. To minimise this risk, try to set up a trial weekend, whether with a pet sitter, a boarding kennel or cattery, or whatever. If the weekend goes well, there’s a good chance that a full fortnight will go equally well. The ideal that you are seeking, and which you should be able to find, is that your pet ends up having as enjoyable holiday break as yourself. If you plan carefully and thoughtfully, this is a realistic goal.
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