By Laura Amann
HAVING A PET makes going on vacation, or
even going away for the weekend, a little trickier.
Bringing Buster or Socks along isn’t always an
option, and finding an alternative that fits your
budget, your pet’s temperament and both you
and your pet’s comfort level can be complicated.
Kennels, pet sitters and friends all offer
certain benefits … and drawbacks.
Today’s kennels offer more amenities
than in the past. In addition to food, shelter
and medication, some kennels offer perks
such as daily walks, canine massage, swimming pools, and even training and grooming.
And kennels aren’t just for cats and dogs.
“We’ve kept rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils, reptiles, ferrets, fish and birds,” says Charlotte
Biggs, a Costco member and owner of Stay-N-Play Pet Ranch in Dripping Springs, Texas.
When you look for a boarding facility,
Biggs recommends considering what makes
you and your pet most comfortable. Decide if
playtime and walks are important to you or
not. See if the facility offers one-on-one playtime with your cat.
Some facilities don’t take older pets or animals with special needs, such as diabetes, epilepsy or arthritis. If they do, make sure the
staff is trained and the facility can handle
those special needs.
And don’t forget the shots. Kennels
require that all pet vaccinations are up to date.
If you have more than one pet, most ken-
Options for your pets when
you head off on vacation
nels will allow you to board two pets together.
The only thing that no boarding facility will
let you do is board together two different
types of animals—e.g., a dog and a cat, or a cat
and a rabbit, as it’s too disruptive for the other
animals in the kennel.
Many vet clinics board pets. If you have
health concerns regarding your pet, you’re
guaranteed that the people looking after it
not only know your animal, but know to
administer meds, etc.
Pet sitters play a role similar to babysitters.
They take care of your pets in your own home,
allowing them to be in a familiar environment.
For anxious pets, elderly pets or pets with
behavioral challenges such as barking or housebreaking, pet sitting can be a perfect alternative.
“We feed pets, dispense medicine, give
attention, offer playtime and go on walks,”
says Sherry Suhosky, owner of Animal Aunts
4 Pets in Placitas, New Mexico. “Dogs are
extremely social, and a lot of them like the
There are other benefits as well. “A pet sit-
ter doesn’t only take care of pets, but also your
home and property,” says Suhosky. Her com-
pany waters plants, brings in the mail, adjusts
lighting and lets you know if an aquarium
pump stops or the furnace goes out.
Most clients opt for daily visits, but overnight visits are possible with some sitters,
especially if families are out of town for an
Suhosky recommends that people make
sure any pet sitter is licensed (if required),
bonded and carries insurance specific to pet
sitters. Many are trained in pet CPR and first
aid, and some also do training and grooming.
Friends and family
Leaving your pets with friends and family
is the most affordable and convenient option.
But it can be the most problematic option if
you don’t have well-trained critters or animal-loving friends.
Chicago-area Costco member Lee Priester
and his family have kept friends’ and family
members’ pets for the past 10 years. They’ve
watched everything from dogs to turtles, snakes
to guinea pigs. “We’ve gone back and forth
about getting a dog ourselves,” Priester says.
“But I travel a lot, so this is fun.”
Make sure that whoever you ask is aware of
your pet’s personality and needs. Let the care-
givers know if your cat isn’t fully litter-box
trained or if your dog is prone to barking when-
ever a car goes by. And keep in mind that with
an arrangement like this, you can’t expect the
caregivers to necessarily follow your pet’s rou-
tine: Your dog might not get walked twice a day
and your cat may not be allowed to sleep in bed.
Whatever option you decide on, be calm
and patient when leaving your pet. Many animals can sense anxiety and worry and pick up
those emotions. C
Costco member Laura Amann is a Chicago-based writer with a variety of pets in her home.
Sit, stay, go
ALWAYS LEAVE a little extra medication
and food in case your flight gets delayed
or something gets dropped. For caged
pets, leave extra bedding.
For dogs and cats, bring something
from home—a favorite toy, blanket or a
T-shirt of yours—so they have your smell.
Try a day test. Most kennels and pet
sitters offer day visits where you can get
an idea of how your pet will adapt and
your pet will get used to the facility or per-
son. As boarding kennel owner Charlotte
Biggs points out, “The pet has then experi-
enced that, when you leave them, you do
For tips on finding a kennel, visit the
International Boarding & Pet Services
www.ibpsa.com) or The
Humane Society (
For assistance finding a pet sitter, visit
the National Association of Professional Pet