In the excitement of preparing for a holiday or weekend away, don't forget to make arrangements for your pets. If you're not taking your pet with you, they will still need to be looked after when you're not there. It can take time to sort out care arrangements for your pet and so you should always do this well in advance.
Never leave your pet on their own without a responsible person to care for them. They too have a legal responsibility to ensure your pet's welfare. You should make sure that they understand your pet's needs and any special requirements that he or she may have.
The best pet sitting option
There are a number of options to ensure your pet is well cared for when you're away. The best option is to have a friend or family member look after them. If this isn't possible you could use a pet sitter or take them to a boarding establishment.
When leaving your pet in the care of someone else make sure that you:
- Are confident that they will care for your pet properly
- Give them clear instructions on how to care for your pet
- Leave the name, number of your vet and an emergency contact for you
- Keep your pet's vaccinations and flea and worming treatments up-to-date.
Friends or family to help
Pets can get stressed when you're away, as it means a change to their normal routine. Having someone look after them in your home is usually best, as it allows you to keep things as familiar as possible for them.
This is especially true if you've got a cat, rabbit or small animal, as they won't be familiar with travelling and visiting new places. For dogs, it depends on the individual dog as to whether they'd be happier to stay in their home or go to a friend or family member.
Holiday checklist for people looking after your pets
Use this checklist to make sure whoever is looking after your pet has everything they need:
- Details of your pet's usual routine and the importance of trying to stick to this as much as possible
- Their usual food and treats with feeding instructions - if your pet needs fresh food, leave details of where to buy it
- Contact details - your emergency contact details and those of your vet (including their out-of-hours service)
- Familiar-smelling items - if your pet isn't staying in your home, provide for dogs and cats, something like a blanket or a worn item of your clothing. For rabbits and small animals, some used, unsoiled nesting material will help them feel comfortable in an unfamiliar place
- Health information - if and when they may need any medication and how to administer
- Behaviour information - about your pet's personality and how to socialise with them
- Exercise needs - details about how and when to exercise them
- Supplies such as leads, collars, litter trays, scratching posts and toys.
Using a pet sitter
If you can't find a friend or family member to look after your pet, think about getting a pet sitter. Someone who'll stay in your home to care for your pet usually works best.
Finding the right person can be a daunting task, as you want to make sure your pet (and property) is looked after properly. The National Association of Registered Pet Sitters can provide you with a list of its members.
Choosing a pet-sitter
- Meet them before employing them so you're confident that they can care for your pet's needs
- Ask to see a copy of their DBS certificate to check that they don't have a criminal background
- Check their references
- Check that they have insurance to cover your pet in case of an emergency
- 'Introductory sessions' with your pet's new carer before you go away will help them settle in for when you're on holiday.
Make sure to give your pet carer all the information they need to care for your pet - see our holiday checklist above.
Animal boarding and dog kennels
If you can't find a friend, family or pet sitter, then an alternative option is to find a good dog kennel, cattery or small animal boarder.
It's important to take the time to find a place that's suitable for your pet, as each one will vary and the environment can be stressful. If it's your first time choosing an animal boarding place, ask your vet or friends for recommendations. You can also contact local councils or search online for local places. Always visit the boarder before choosing one.
Choosing an animal boarder
Here's a checklist of things to consider when choosing an animal boarder:
- Licence - do they have an up-to-date licence?
- Insurance cover - do they have this in case your pet needs emergency care?
- Good facilities - are facilities clean, dry, draught-free, secure and providing shade?
- Exercise - will they exercise your pet and give them the space they need to act normally?
- Social contact - will the staff spend time with your dog each day and give them the social contact they need?
- Monitoring - do they have a suitable system to monitor pets in the day and evening?
- Separation - they'll need to keep predator and prey species separately to prevent stress
- Vaccination proof - do they ask for proof of vaccination? This is important to stop the spread of contagious diseases
- Number of staff - are there enough people to look after all the animals?
- Asking the right questions - do they ask about your pet's diet and health?
- Medical issues - can they accommodate any medical issues your pet has?
- Welcoming - do you feel welcome and do the animals in their care look clean, happy and healthy?
- Parasite treatments - are all dogs and cats up to date with flea and worm treatment?
If the boarding establishment isn't happy to answer your questions or you're not satisfied they'll be able to care for your pet properly, keep looking for a reputable boarder until you find one you feel happy with.