Believe me, when I tell you, I love my cats. For me, the term, ‘Cat Lady,’ isn’t an insult, it’s a career goal and life aspiration. My 10-year plan is to bring as many cats as hygienically possible into my home and love them forever. That’s the thing about pets, they become part of your family and you love the little critters so much you just want them to feel safe and loved all the time, even when you aren’t there. So, what do you do with them when you want to travel? It’s a problem Matt and I faced and know a lot of other travel-lovers face too. To help you navigate the problem, here are a few suggestions on what to do with your pets when you travel.
1. Find a trusted house and pet sitter
This is the best and our preferred option, especially with cats. When we’re going away for long stretches of time we love to find someone we know and completely trust to stay in our house and take care of our pets. There are a few ways to do find someone, we usually put a call out to our close friends and family and see if anyone can do it. If that doesn’t work for you, there are quite a few websites where you can find dedicated house and pet sitters, including Trusted Housesitters and Aussie House Sitters.
2. Neighbourhood pet swap
Do you have neighbours? Do they have pets? Everyone loves to take holidays during the year, why not talk to your neighbours about working together to help each other out with your pets. We do this with our neighbours and it works really well! If they’re going away we just pop over each day to spend some time with their cat, scoop the poop and make sure he’s got plenty of food and fresh water and vice versa. Reach out to your neighbours, with pets, and see if they’d be keen to work something out with you, a sort of neighbourhood pet collective. Start a Facebook group and help each other out – that way you all know your pets are being taken care of and are with people you can trust.
3. House visits
There are pet sitters who offer in-house visits, which is a good option if you’re going away for a few days and/or have a pet who doesn’t fret when left alone overnight. Basically, you just pay per house visit and someone comes out once or twice a day to check on your pets and do things like taking them for a walk, changing kitty litter, refilling food and water, taking out your bins and bringing in your mail. To find someone who offers this service, just do a google search for pet sitters offering home visits in your local area.
4. Pet sitting exchange
I’ve seen quite a few pet sitting exchange websites pop up, where you create a profile and offer your services as a free pet sitter. The idea, from my understanding, is we all work together to help each other. So, I take care of someone’s dog and then they take care of my cat, or, someone who doesn’t have a pet, but loves animals, takes care of your dog while you’re away. I tried one of these sites, but all I got was a lot of people asking me to help them out but being TOTALLY unwilling to help me out. If this option works out for you, that’s cool, but I found it to be a massive time waster.
5. Pet sitters
Where pet sitting exchange websites are free, pet sitters are not, which is why I’m listing these two options separately. Basically, there’s been a rise lately in, well, Airbnb-style pet sitting websites where people offer up their services as a pet sitter. It’s a cool idea because it’s a great way for animal lovers to make a little extra cash with very little output and they get the company of your lovely pet! I haven’t used this service personally, but it seems a little more viable than the free ones (I always believe you get what you pay for!) and the user reviews can put your mind at ease. You might like to check out Pet Cloud, Mad Paws, Paw Shake or Pet Home Stay.
6. Pet hotel
This would be one of my last resorts, only because I worry about the spread of disease, like kennel cough and cat flu. That said, there are plenty of reputable pet hotels and boarding kennels around with strategies in place for stress management and disease control. Pet hotels or kennels can be an expensive option, but if you’re rollin in stacks, you’ll be fine. Before you go down this road, I’d recommend reading these two articles: How to choose a boarding kennel for your pet, and, 11 questions to ask when picking a kennel. It’s also a good idea to ask your friends and family for pet hotel recommendations.
7. Boarding at the Vet
If you have an animal who is unwell, has health issues or requires close attention from someone who knows what they’re doing, boarding them at the vet could be a good option. This is going to be of particular benefit to anyone with an animal that needs regular medication, administered properly. That said, it’s going to be a stressful environment for your pet, so you’d really only want to use this option as a last resort and for a short period of time.
8. Friends and family
One of the easiest and most obvious things to do, especially for pets like dogs and small birds, is to have a friend or family member take them into their home and care for them while you’re gone. It’s not so easy if you have cats, but can still be done (we’ve had some of our wonderful friends care for one of our cats a few times).
Whatever you decide, just make sure you feel 100% comfortable with the situation. If you feel weird about it, don’t do it! There are plenty of options out there and it’s important to take enough time to make sure you find a safe, secure and loving situation for your pet. It’s also important to make sure your pet is micro-chipped and the contact information is current before you go away.