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Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Preparing for Vacation: 5 Steps to Non-Stressed Pets

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By Kristin Masters

With all the packing and travel planning that accompany a vacation, it is easy to forget that the most lovable members of the family usually have to stay behind. Although they may be staying at home, pets should be properly prepared for vacations as well.

Most pet owners know to leave emergency numbers for the veterinarian and a trusted neighbor, along with detailed pet-care directions.He's already sad you're leaving - make sure your pets are cared for while on vacation. But what many pet owners overlook is that pets grow used to their daily routines, which are often uprooted by boarding or pet sitters. Pet owners should take a few simple steps to preserve their animals’ daily routines and to ensure that their pets feel safe and comfortable.

  1. Choose a familiar face as the pet sitter: Pets are more likely to stick to their usual routines if they feel comfortable with the person providing their care. Extended family members, close friends, and friendly neighbors make great pet sitters, because they already know the pet’s disposition, habits, and quirks. If a professional pet sitter or other new face will be coming in, schedule a few meetings before leaving, so that the pet can acclimate to the new person.

  2. Maintain routines regarding food and water: Ensure that food portions remain the same size with electric pet feeders, which are available for weekends or even full weeks. Both pet and caregiver will appreciate this step: not only will steady, regular portions curtail the pet’s stomach upset, but the pet sitter won’t have to worry about measuring meals accurately. Automate pet care even further with a pet water cooler, which will provide fresh cool water for several days. If your pet waterer uses a filter, be sure to change the filter before long trips.

  3. Make sleeping arrangements comfortable: Wash any pet beds and place them in the usual location. If the pet sitter will be staying in a guest room, provide a heated pet bed there, as well. This is especially important for older dogs; they often prefer to sleep in the same room as their caregivers, but may also suffer from stiffness or arthritis, which makes sleeping on the floor painful. The heat is especially therapeutic, and has been shown to ease separation anxiety in pets. For the warmer months, simply unplug it or consider an all-season pet bed, which can cool them down and warm them up. For both dogs and cats, place a t-shirt or other article of clothing in or near the pet bed. The familiar scent is calming if the animal gets distressed or anxious.

  4. Ensure easy outdoor access: For pets that are used to having a dog or cat door, be sure to check that the door is unobstructed. Remove any items that could become dislodged, fall, or otherwise become a pet-door blockade, such as dangling tree limbs or stray outdoor toys. Electric pet doors give both cats and dogs greater freedom to go in and out, if the pet sitter cannot stay home or must be gone for long periods of time. They also prevent other garden pests and neighborhood pets from entering your home.

  5. Make cleaning up a breeze: The least appealing part of pet sitting is the clean up. The kitty’s litter box can have a strong, off-putting odor, and picking up after the dog is equally unpleasant. An automatic litter box means that the pet sitter does not have to worry about daily scooping.

For a truly carefree vacation, it is critical to make pet care stress free for both the pet and its caretaker. By preserving routines and providing easy-to-use tools, pet owners can rest assured that pets will be comfortable and safe in their absence.

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