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Is Pet Boarding Your Best Vacation Option?

Find the Right Vacation Care for Your Pet


Is Pet Boarding Your Best Vacation Option?
Photo © Jenny Rollo

Pet owners who love to travel face a difficult choice when vacation time rolls around. Should Fido come along on the trip, or is it best to leave beloved pets at home? Pet boarding is one of the most popular options for travelers whose pets dislike hitting the road with their humans.

You can find pet boarding kennels, now often called pet resorts or pet hotels, in your own town or in a nearby city. Most pet boarding kennels accept dogs and cats, although some take only dogs. If you have a bird, reptile or more exotic pet, you may have trouble finding a pet boarding facility. Ask your veterinarian about exotic pet kennels if you're not sure where to begin your search.

Advantages of Pet Boarding

  • Professional attention. Trained staffers will care for your pet. In case of emergency, they will know how to administer medicine and give your pet approved treatments while they wait for you to return home.

  • Medical care. If your pet takes medications every day, a pet boarding kennel may be the best place to leave your pet while you travel. Trained employees will give your pet each dose of medicine.

  • Proper exercise and diet. Pets, especially dogs, need daily exercise and good nutrition. A well-run pet boarding kennel will offer exercise time and be willing to work with you if your pet is on a special diet.

  • Safety. You'll be able to travel knowing your pet is unlikely to escape into the streets.

Disadvantages of Pet Boarding

  • Exposure to disease. The best ways to keep your pet healthy in a pet boarding kennel are to keep vaccinations up to date and to make sure the kennel requires all animals to be properly vaccinated.

  • Unfamiliar environment. Your pets may become stressed because they are away from home. While some pets tolerate change well, others, particularly cats, prefer to stay in the same place. You'll need to carefully consider your pets' personalities before you choose a pet boarding kennel.

  • Other animals. Pets who become nervous around other animals may not like staying at a pet boarding kennel.

  • Schedule changes. If your pets are used to being fed and exercised at specific times, they may become stressed if the pet boarding facility's schedule doesn't match their daily routines.

  • Behavior issues. Some pets have behavior issues that don't mesh well with the environment of a pet boarding kennel.

  • Cost. Boarding your pet doesn't come cheap. In my area, pet boarding kennels charge about $15 per night for a cat and $21 - $32 per night for a dog. Special services, such as leashed walks, administration of medication and baths, cost extra.

Choosing a Pet Boarding Kennel

  • Get recommendations. Ask family, friends and pet professionals for their suggestions. Ask them which pet boarding kennels to avoid; you definitely want to know about potential problems before you make a reservation for your pet.

  • Do your homework. Once you have a list of recommended kennels, investigate each one. Read online reviews. Check with your local Better Business Bureau for negative reports.

  • Visit the pet boarding facility. Do not skip this step. Allow plenty of time to tour the kennel and ask questions. Find out about schedules, exercise times, meals and vaccination requirements. Ask for a price list. Make sure the kennel is clean and spacious. Check the cage sizes to make sure your pet will fit comfortably. If the pet boarding kennel staff will not allow you to see the areas where pets are kept, do not board your pet there.

  • Make a trial run. If you are planning a long trip, try boarding your pet for one night, well in advance of your departure date, to see how your pet reacts to the experience.

Alternatives to Pet Boarding

If boarding your pet is not an option, for health or other reasons, consider these alternatives:

  • Ask a friend or neighbor to watch your pet in your home.

  • Use a professional pet sitter.

  • Take your pet along on your trip.
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