10 Tips for Finding Pet Care Before You Go on Vacation

10 Tips for Finding Pet Care Before You Go on Vacation

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10 Tips for Finding Pet Care Before You Go on Vacation

Give Paws

Bringing the family pet on vacation may seem appealing, but it can inflate costs dramatically. Airlines and other transit providers charge up to $200 one way for traveling with all but the biggest animals, while fees at hotels that allow animals can hit $100 a day. Once at the destination, you may be limited in choice of attractions, forcing you to make decisions based on restrictions rather than interests. Moreover, travel can be nerve-wracking for pets, and there's always the risk of the animal getting sick or wandering away. In other words, make alternate plans for your pet.

Related: Traveling With Pets: 12 Need-to-Know Tips

Not Home Alone
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Not Home Alone

Although it's cheaper to travel without your pet, leaving a cat or dog home alone is not an option. The absence of human company can cause stress and anxiety for animals. They can't regulate their food or water intake or help themselves in an emergency. And they might destroy furniture or objects out of frustration or panic. If you prefer to keep your pet in a familiar environment (that would be your home), enlist a trustworthy person or team of people to care for the animal while you're away.

Related: 14 Cheap Pets That Are Easy to Take Care Of

Board With a Professional Pet Sitter
Sergii Gnatiuk/istockphoto

Board With a Professional Pet Sitter

Find an animal lover who boards pets in their home as a profession. Make arrangements through a reputable matching service, interview the sitter, and check online reviews. Dogvacay or Rover.com are partnered pet-sitting services that claim more than 300,000 sitters charging an average of less than $40 daily (though bargains can still be found). The services can be contracted independently or through Petco. The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters maintains a list of pet sitters, as well. Don't forget your own network; ask friends and family for referrals and be sure to check for reviews at sites such as Yelp. 

Bring a Pet Sitter Home

Bring a Pet Sitter Home

An inexpensive option that lets your pet stay in his own comfort zone is to hire someone to move in for the duration or visit several times a day to manage feeding, watering, walking, and companionship. The person might be a professional pet sitter or a relative or friend. A career pet watcher might charge $25 a visit, according to Thumbtack (though others might charge just $30 to stop by two or three times a day). Overnight pet-sitting  might get up to $85, Thumbtack says. Engaging someone you know personally may be cheaper; or you could exchange a favor and not spend anything. While you may feel more secure with a familiar person in your home, professionals are probably better in emergencies — some even hold pet-sitter insurance. And with a contractual agreement, you have guaranteed reliability and accountability.

Related: 50 Great Jobs for Retirees

Board at a Kennel

Board at a Kennel

Kennels and catteries are staffed buildings for sheltering pets while owners are away. Kennels, many of which also house cats, are not cheap; figure about $40 a day for reputable care, although some start as low as $25 a day. BoardingKennels.org, which advises, helps build, and helps pet owners find kennels, cautions that the very cheapest shelters may have low standards. So your research, online and on-site. Look for cleanliness, temperature and noise control, safety measures, staffing levels, and in-house veterinarians. Also check on feeding and watering routines, separation between dogs and cats and between same-species pets of different sizes and temperaments. And ask what fees cover. For help formulating questions, check online for sample questionnaires; some are dog-specific and others are designed for cats.


Board With a Vet

Many veterinary offices and animal hospitals offer boarding. Dog boarding costs around $35 to $45 a night, according to HomeGuide (expect cats to cost $10 to $15 less). Boarding with vets means the animals' health and safety are monitored by medical professionals, making this a good option for pets with specific medical needs — though boarding a pet that needs extra attention will likely cost a little more. On the other hand, some clinics keep pets caged most of the time, which you may not want; ask how the animals spend their days. Particularly sensitive pets may be traumatized by proximity to sick animals, and there is some, albeit small, risk of infection from patients.

Related: 10 Ways to Save Money on Vet Care

Dog Groomer
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Board With a Pet Groomer

Do you and your pet adore the grooming salon and staff? It's possible that the groomer offers reasonably priced boarding on the premises. Grooming professionals are often gregarious animal lovers, and if your pet is already comfortable in the store, and you're comfortable leaving him there, it's worth considering. The first day and night generally costs $15 to $30, with rates sometimes falling for additional nights and additional pets. Like kennels and catteries, the boarding facilities at grooming shops vary widely, so ask specific questions about daily routines and emergency procedures, medical services, safety, and staffing.

Related: Must Love Dogs: 14 Unexpected Jobs for Animal Lovers

Hire Dog Walker

Hire the Dog Walker

If you already rely on a dog walker, here's a professional who may be up for some extra employment. The walker knows your dog's habits and might be willing to keep the pup at his or her home or add lots more time for feeding, watering, and love to the established routine. Offer to pay more than the usual rate — about twice as much seems right, but it really depends on current arrangements and how much extra work you're requesting. If you don't have a walker, ask friends and acquaintances for recommendations or check bulletin boards at coffee shops and pet-care stores.

Related: 19 Small Businesses You Can Start With Less Than $1,000

Find a College Kid

Find a College Kid, or New Grad

If you live in a city where housing is even slightly expensive, you can bet that college students — or recent grads who have just recently entered the workforce — have a roommate. Or two. Or more. And the chance to have a place to themselves, save for a hopefully adorable pet, might be just enough inducement to uproot themselves briefly. Some pet owners may have to decide how comfortable they are with a youthful, amateur pet-sitter, and what rules they need to set about use of the place while they're away. In some cases, freedom to have people over will make pet-sitting seem less like work and can reduce a cash payment. You may have to network through neighbors or at work, post flyers, or go online to find your guest sitter.

Related30 Cities Where Today's College Grads Can Actually Make a Living

The Neighbors

The Neighbors and Their Kids

Moving down in age but moving up in convenience — what about the neighbors? Or, more realistically, what about the neighbors' kids? Bringing in people next door or down the street to help can increase your sense of community and build your local network; meanwhile, the neighbors' kids might enjoy hanging out at your place or even sleeping over while their parents are just next door in case of an emergency. If you don't already know your neighbors, this is a good excuse to knock on some doors (or at least post on a neighborhood listserv such as Nextdoor). Though you might expect some snooping to take place.

Related: These Are Some of the Nicest Neighbors Ever

Prep Work

Prep Work

Whichever vacation pet-care arrangement you choose, prepare the caregiver thoroughly. Provide your itinerary and contact information, and that of the regular vet or one closest to where the pet will be staying. Patricia McConnell, author of “The Other End of the Leash,” even suggests leaving a copy of your will with directives about what should happen to your animals in the event of a tragedy. Beyond that, it's essential to leave detailed notes about feeding instructions, daily and nightly habits, temperament, and, of course, special needs and health concerns. All in all, plan ahead to save money and avoid stress — for you and your animal companion.