It’s vacay season and today, I’m getting ready for a weekend away. I don’t know about you, but one of the most stressful parts of traveling for me is leaving my animals. It’s not just that separation anxiety goes both ways (which it absolutely does). It’s the logistics of it all. Where are your pets when you travel?
For my upcoming trip, I’ve chosen three different pet-sitting options for my different animals because they all have different needs. My adult dog will be boarding at her daycare. My cats will have a pet-sitter check in on them daily. My puppy, who needs more focused care, will be with a trusted friend. We at 4-Legged Kids have a variety of pet-sitting options to suit a wide range of needs, so check out our menu of services! But while you can let us take care of finding a sitter you can trust, there are still things you can do to prepare for your time away.
First, make a list of local contacts. This includes your veterinarian’s office in case of emergency and a trusted local contact who has keys to your home. You may want to leave multiple contacts for multiple issues. For example, you might trust your next-door neighbor to keep a house key on hand in case your pet-sitter gets locked out, but not to help out if your persnickety plumbing acts up or if your dog is hurt. Or perhaps there’s nobody you’d trust more to help with time-sensitive health-related questions than your dog’s former foster, but they live 40 minutes away and it would be silly to, say, ask them to step in and help if a large branch falls across your driveway.
Make your pet care instructions as detailed as you can. There might be such a thing as too detailed, but I’ve never seen it myself! Write out your pet’s routines (or in our case, update your online profile!)- how much they eat and when, what times they’re used to being walked or let out, and a detailed list of medications. Do they have any health conditions that your pet-sitter needs to be aware of, including allergies? Including their quirks lets your sitter know what’s normal for your pet so that they can be on the lookout for problems and report anything out of the ordinary. For example, does your dog climb the fence if you turn your back on him? Is it fairly normal for your cat to apparently vanish into an alternate universe and then nonchalantly stroll out hours later? Is your dog especially sensitive to heat? A poo-eater? A resource guarder? Are they never allowed on the good couch, but will still get up there if they think they can get away with it?
For dogs in particular, it’s especially important to make your caretakers aware of any known behaviors that might be a potential safety concern. All dogs are good dogs, but some may be reactive to strangers on leash or might be unsafe around cats or toddlers. Even if you don’t think it will come up, letting your pet-sitter know about these things could help avoid a bad situation.
You should be absolutely comfortable with the company (or person) you’re trusting to look after your best friend and if you’re not, there’s no shame in switching. The last thing you want is to be getting on an airplane to Morocco and thinking “did she really say she was going to show my 16-year-old pomeranian who was the alpha? I’m not so sure about this.”
Make sure your pet sitter is a legitimate company that is legally registered as a business with your city and state and has bonding and insurance. If they are willing to cut corners on legalities, don’t you think they will probably cut corners elsewhere?
Apart from pet care, let your pet-sitter know if you’d like them to take care of basic household tasks. This might include watering plants, taking the trash bin to the curb, picking up the mail or newspaper, or making sure the porch lights are turned on at night and off during the day. Also, make sure to tell them if there’s anyone who might enter the house at any point, such as a scheduled house cleaner or a neighbor or relative who might pop by unannounced. Just as your dog can’t tell who’s an intruder and who’s a welcome guest without some input from you, your pet-sitter has no way of knowing that the total stranger who just suddenly walked through the door is actually your adult son and it’s cool with you if he grabs the Macbook on the counter and leaves with it.
Once you’ve got your pet-sitter fully informed, make sure your pet is also ready! If they will be boarding, if possible, leave them for daycare a few times before you leave town. That way, they can get adjusted to the facility and the staff and will be less anxious when left overnight. Make sure all prescriptions are filled. If your pet has an intermittent problem, such as occasional joint pain or diarrhea, consider getting a just-in-case round of medication for that. Make sure you have plenty of food and at least a few treats. You may want to leave a special treat for the pet-sitter to give in order to make their presence fun and exciting for your pets.
Before you leave, make sure safety measures are in place to keep your pets from getting away. Make sure all gates are secure and check your fence for weak spots. Check that all collars are well-fitted and in decent shape and that all tags are up to date. If your microchip or your pet tags track back to a veterinarian or shelter, give them a heads-up that you will be out of town and your pets will be with a sitter. Even if your pet has never shown signs of wanting to go on an adventure before, remember that pets can sometimes behave in unpredictable ways then their routine is interrupted or if they’re stressed out. It’s scary enough to think that your pet might get away, but it would be even worse if it happened while you were in Barcelona and couldn’t do anything but worry.
Most of all, relax! Trust that your pet is in good hands and probably making a new best friend. Don’t be afraid to ask for photos or updates. And enjoy your trip!
Looking for a sitter you know you can trust? That’s kind of our whole thing! Check out our Bed & Breakfast service for some extra attention in the mornings and evenings!