How to Care for Your Pets When Traveling During the Holidays

How to Care for Your Pets When Traveling During the Holidays

by Kylie Ora Lobell, November 2014

This holiday season, if you’re taking a trip back home to visit family and are worried about leaving your pets behind, don’t. There are a number of options available for your furry friend(s) while you’re away.

Following are a few holiday pet safety tips to ensure your pets are safe and sound whether you’re on a trip over the holidays or any time of year.

Board Your Pet

A kennel is a place where, most often, several professionals will be looking after your pet throughout the day and making sure they’re eating and drinking, taking their medicine, getting enough exercise and going to the bathroom.

When deciding on a kennel, there are a few things to look for. Importantly, you’ll want to find one that it requires proof of current vaccinations. That means they’re concerned about all the pets’ health and safety, which will give you peace of mind. Make sure all the employees caring for the dogs are certified pet care technicians and are certified in First Aid and CPR.

Next, check out the space. Is it large enough for dogs to comfortably get exercise? Do they keep small and large dogs separate? Do they sleep in traditional kennels or is it cage-free? Ask what the daily routine is, whether or not they’ll play with the other pets, how much and how often they’re fed and taken outside, and what hours of the day their workers are there.

With so many people pampering their pets these days, some kennels even boast onsite grooming and spa, and provide a mobile service to pick up and drop off your pets.

If your pet is well socialized and you want a place where they’ll receive a lot of attention, a kennel is the way to go. Visit the facility beforehand, and check online reviews to make sure that it’s the right place for your pet. You might be surprised, your pet might be happy to go!

Hire an In-home Pet Sitter

A professional pet sitter is traditionally less expensive than a kennel, and allows your pet to stay in the comfort of their own home. Some dogs, cats and other critters may become agitated and anxious in a kennel because it’s a new environment. In-home pet sitting is also a great option if your pet isn’t used to other animals or if you have several pets.

A qualified pet sitter will know what to do. Typically, pet sitters work two ways: they’ll either stay at your house or visit a few times per day to feed, walk and play with your pet.

To find the best person available, reach out to your veterinarian or friends with pets for pet sitter recommendations. You can also sign up on, post an ad on Craigslist, or call the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (856-439-0324) or Pet Sitters International (336-983-9222).

Make sure you check references and hire somebody with ample experience. You should always ask sitters if they are insured and bonded and what they’d do in an emergency. If they don’t already have one, you might want to come up with a pet sitting agreement, which spells out exactly what you expect from the sitter. You can also use the agreement to record all the pet responsibilities in one place so that he or she is clear about your pet’s needs.

Ask a Friend, Family Member or Neighbor for Help

If you’ve gone out of town before and had a friend, reliable family member or neighbor to look after your pet, start there. If he or she is available and willing, go with that person again.

If you’ve never asked someone you know for help, start by asking a person who has a pet. Another pet owner will likely know what you’re going through and can offer some suggestions on where to turn for help.

Hiring a friend, family member or neighbor to pet sit can be the least expensive option; the question is, will you feel comfortable with their level of care? Not all pets are created equal and it’s important that you find someone who will understand your particular pet’s personality traits and know how to respond appropriately. Will your dog bolt out the door if it’s slightly open? Do your cats need to be separated when they eat? Do your animals have a routine they are comfortable with? Does your friend or family member know proper protocol for passing another dog on a leash on a sidewalk (hint: move to the other side of the street). We’ve all heard horror stories and the last thing you want to have is a disaster upon your return. Weighing the pros and cons of who to care for your pet while you’re away can be a weighty decision.

When to Figure Out Arrangements

Even if you’re not leaving town for a few weeks, it’s always a good idea to start looking early as kennels fill up fast, and it might take some time to find a pet sitter you’re comfortable with. If you end up going with a friend, family member or neighbor to help, it’s important to set guidelines so that everyone understands when to expect and you’re both protected if anything happens. You’ll also want to decide on a fee for services beforehand so you don’t get into an awkward situation when you get back from your trip. A pet sitting agreement can help.

Your pet deserves the best, and you want to make sure you are both content while you travel.

LegalZoom’s Pet Sitting Agreement outlines the services to be rendered, the owner’s obligations, compensation, authorization for emergency medical care, and more. It comes with a blank form and step-by-step instructions on filling out each section.