Boarding and Pet Sitting

When you can't take your dog or cat with you

We all love our pets, but that doesn’t mean we can (or should) take them everywhere.

Sometimes we go on vacation or business trips, and hotel and airline restrictions make it hard to travel with a pet. Plus, our pets aren’t always good travelers: they can become sick or anxious, especially in unfamiliar situations. And of course there are family emergencies and illnesses when it might be hard to pay proper attention to your pet.

Sometimes, the best option may be to leave your pet under the care of someone else for a few days or weeks. Here are some things to think about when boarding or kenneling your pet.

Put your pet first
The most important thing to think about is your furry friend’s specific needs. Does your pet like being around other pets? Is your pet lazy or active? Does your dog need a lot of space? Is your cat nervous? How does your pet interact with others? Is your pet on a special diet or have special medical needs? A general rule of thumb is to always make sure that you leave your pet with someone who understands and can take care of your pet’s special needs.

Pet-sitters can be a great option for pets who might be nervous in new places and need a familiar environment. One way to find a pet-sitter is to ask for a recommendation from your veterinarian. Someone who has a good reputation or professional relationship with your vet can provide you with peace of mind in case of a medical emergency. When considering a pet-sitter, it’s important to verify their qualifications. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has a great and comprehensive list of qualifications you can use to screen a potential pet-sitter. You should also ask for references – especially from regular clients. As an alternative, there are a few agencies that certify pet-sitters such as the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters and Pet Sitters International.

It’s also a good idea to give your pets a try-out with potential pet sitters to see how they act together. Finally, you should ask your pet sitter if he or she is able to provide back-up housing in case he or she suddenly can’t care for your pet. Finding a pet-sitter affiliated with a boarding facility or veterinary practice can be helpful.  

Boarding: Kennels or Clinics?There are a few different options to consider if you’re thinking about boarding your pet.  One option is a professional boarding kennel, a facility designed specifically to care for your furry friend. Most are geared towards dogs and cats, but some take in exotics like birds and reptiles. 

Boarding kennels can be great if your pet doesn’t do well with boredom. There’s usually a lot of room to run around, as well as a lot of activities to keep your dog occupied. However, because kennels often let pets hang out with each other, there’s always the risk of your pet getting sick from another animal, so being up-to-date on vaccinations is very important.

Another option is to board your pet at a veterinary practice. Because medical care is more readily available than with a pet-sitter or even a kennel, this can be a great option for a pet with special needs.

However, what you gain in ready access to healthcare you might lose in space for your pet to roam around and socialize with other animals. If your pet is a sedentary cat, this might not be much of a problem – but a big goofy puppy might be miserable if he’s in a cage for a long time.

Choosing a Facility

The first thing you should do is visit a few facilities. Before you choose a boarding facility, you should lay eyes on it: get a tour, talk to those who would be responsible for caring for your pet, and get a good feel for day-to-day operations. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself and the facility staff as you shop around:

  • How much supervision will my pet receive?
  • How sanitary is the facility?
  • Is veterinary care readily available? Think about clean water, good food, the staff’s willingness to accommodate your pet’s special needs diet, medication policies/procedures, and the amount of time your pet will be in an unattended facility (overnight or weekends, forexample).
  • What are the vaccination requirements? Every legitimate kennel or veterinary practice will require boarding animals to be updated on routine vaccines
  • How much space is there for my pet to move around or rest?

Finally, no matter which type of facility you choose, you’ll want to make sure you leave accurate contact information in the event of an emergency. This is important – if there actually is an emergency, many veterinarians will not treat a pet without the owner’s consent.

If you’re going to be out of contact, you need to either designate someone to act on behalf of your pet or clearly authorize the boarding or veterinary facility to do so.

If you need help making a decision, be sure to ask your veterinarian. As always, he or she is the best resource when it comes to keeping your pet healthy and happy.

The opinions and views expressed in this post are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent the beliefs, policies or positions of, IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. or its affiliates and partner companies.