Pet Care Options While Traveling

If you can’t take your furry friend with you when you leave town, options for care include hiring a pet sitter, asking a friend to let Rex break down for a few days, or booking a boarding kennel.

By visiting, Inquirer readers have free access to the non-profit Delaware Valley Consumer Checkbook’s unbiased quality and price ratings for local kennels through July 5. To help start your pet care search, here are some options to consider.

There are several advantages to traveling with your pet. You’ll share your experience with them, knowing they’ll be cared for, relieved of the stress of separation from them (and yourself), and avoided the expense and hassle of a babysitter or kennel.

But bringing your pets may not be possible. You might fly to work; pets might not be allowed on your vacation digs; pets might be inconvenient. What do you do with Mr. Sprinkles when you’re out to dinner, a museum or a show, let alone a business meeting?

There are also risks. Pets may be frightened or injured if they are treated roughly by airline baggage handlers. Some have been stuck in airline handling areas for hours or shipped to the wrong destination. Dog dies of heatstroke in airplane luggage compartment.

If your pet is not used to car travel, it may become anxious. On top of that, your pet can become distracted, disoriented, and lost forever. Finally, you can’t leave your pet alone in the car, even briefly.

If you want to bring a dog, check out the AAA Travel with Your Pet website for a list of hotels and motels that can accommodate puppies.

Another option is to leave your pet with a friend or pet sitter. Your pet won’t be left alone overnight, and you’ll avoid some inconvenience and expense. But this arrangement can add to the friend’s responsibilities, and the pet can be stressed by being separated from you and the usual environment.

There are great advantages to having a pet sitter come to your home. Your pet will stay in a familiar environment and continue familiar daily activities. Your pet will not experience the stress of being around other animals. Additionally, babysitters can provide services such as picking up mail, watering plants, and making your house look occupied.

But pet sitters also have their downsides. Whether a sitter is from a commercial pet sitter service or a neighbor, you can’t be sure of the skills, knowledge, or diligence they bring to the job. Your pet will remain alone for extended periods of time unless you schedule overnight care. If you use a commercial pet sitting service, you can let strangers into your home. And the cost of care can be high.

Much of what Checkbook has heard from pet sitting customers has been positive, but there are enough negatives to warrant caution.

Most kennels used to be dull places. Dogs are usually kept in isolation; cats spend most of their time in cages. Kennels focus on keeping small animals safe by keeping them separate.

No longer; most kennels are now operated as resorts. They are decorated and designed to be cheerful, fun getaways. During the day, dogs party together in a large common area or are divided into smaller groups based on their size or temperament. Cats often also have play areas. Have a pet that doesn’t get along well with others or has runaway anxiety? Some facilities will still house the facility separately, but many will suggest you find another location for your gruff or irritable Spot.

The great thing about booking kennel accommodation is that, assuming all goes well, your pet will be taken care of, will never be left alone, and you won’t have to worry about last-minute fouls. Serious health problems will be discovered and referred to a veterinarian. And you don’t have to impose it on anyone.

But using a kennel can be expensive and inconvenient. In addition to potentially making your pet sick, staying in the kennel can also lead to separation anxiety in your pet. Many kennels largely avoid these problems by employing caring, attentive staff and maintaining comfortable, clean and stress-free facilities. But based on the large number of serious complaints Checkbook has received from consumers, you should exercise caution when choosing a kennel.

Checkbook’s secret price shoppers also found that prices vary widely between local kennels. For example, fostering a medium-sized dog for a week can cost anywhere from $200 to over $500. This is just basic boarding. In some kennels, the extra costs can add up quickly: Taking a pill can cost an extra $3 a day; scheduling extra attention or exercise can cost $10 or more a day.

Also, some kennels have extremely limited pick-up times, so it’s hard to avoid spending an extra day. This can all make up a significant portion of your vacation budget. Fortunately, some highly rated kennels charge less than average.

  • Be wary of kennels that won’t let you unannounced inspections of their facilities during normal hours.

  • Where will your dog stay? During the day or at scheduled times, pets often hang out in public play areas. At night, animals were immobilized in their own rooms, running or in crates. When left alone, pets should have separate areas. In Checkbook’s survey of pet owners, kennels with communal night runs and spaces — mostly hospitals and clinics with limited space — were generally significantly lower than those with separate facilities.

  • What if your dog doesn’t get along with others? Some facilities have additional charges if your dog cannot participate in group play.

  • If you host a cat, does the facility have a separate space for it to use? Kennels can harm cats who are not used to barking constantly.

  • Check for appropriate health protection measures. Note that facilities are clean, indoor spaces are maintained at reasonable temperatures, all pets have proof of proper vaccinations, and sick animals are quarantined.

  • Adjust the size of the staff. Do they answer your question? Do they have feelings for animals? Are they available 24/7?

  • Determine when the kennel is open for drop off and pickup.

  • Ask about veterinary care arrangements in case your pet gets sick. Will the kennel get injections or medication if your pet takes regular medication?

  • Can you check on your pet when you are out? Many kennels now have webcams that allow customers to monitor their pets.

Delaware Valley Consumer Checkbook Magazine and is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help consumers get the best service and lowest price. It is consumer-supported and does not charge any fees from the service providers evaluated.


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