Summer's just about here and most people are planning a vacation of some sort. One part of the checklist that seems to get sorely neglected is the care of their pets in their absence. Every pet owner needs to budget in the cost of boarding or a petsitter as part of their vacation expenses.
If you choose to board, get references and inspect the facility before leaving your pet with them. Make sure they have what you need, and be sure that what is important (a large run for a large dog, for example) will be provided.
If you choose to have a pet sitter come to your home, make sure they are licensed (check) and also check their references. This is a stranger to you and your pet, make sure you know enough about them before you hand them the keys to your kingdom.
If you use a family member, friend, neighbor, etc, choose wisely. I've seen many long time relationships lost over petsitting deals. Choose someone whose standard of pet care is as good or better than your own.
DO-If you have a pet that is medically not well or has special needs, is an escape artist or a biter, consider boarding that pet with a reliable facility or your vet's office. I once had a very sweet dog that I didn't find out until a short day trip that she wouldn't let anyone, even people she knew, in our yard without me present. She was also a master escape artist during firework season. I started boarding her during our vacations and life was much easier for everyone.
DO- Arrange a meet and greet with your petsitter, even if it's one you use frequently. Make sure to go over what you expect them to do while you're gone, what time to feed, etc.
DO- Put everything in writing. What food goes to which pet, which pet has special needs or quirks.
DO- Include in writing descriptions of your pets, names, ages, vaccines, license tag or chip numbers, special dietary needs and allergies. Including a recent picture is a good idea in case the pet gets lost.
DO-leave a list of veterinarians that you use, directions to their office, and phone numbers. Also leave contact information of at least one friend or family member who knows your pets and can act in your absence.
DO-Leave a signed written consent form for your petsitter to seek veterinary attention or euthanasia in your absence. This is crucial. Because of this litigious society, most vets won't touch an animal brought in in the owner's absence without written consent. Accidents happen, and you don't want Fido or Fluffy suffering because you're out of cell phone range.
DO-Leave plenty of food and supplies. I leave double the amount needed for the time I'm gone. Planes get delayed and cars break down, sometimes we don't get home when we expect to.
DO-Clearly label and go over instructions of any medications or special supplements. A daily pill minder from the dollar store makes life easier for Fido or Fluffy's meds. Dobbin's powdered supplements can be put in a baggie with his name and day and feeding time so all the petsitter has to do is dump it in the feeder.
DO-Make sure you are clear about what you want the petsitter to do about poop. If you want her to scoop poop, make sure that the tools are in good working order and easily accessible and the waste receptacles are where they need to be.
DON'T- leave without written instructions. If something is forgotten, it's there in black and white. If a veterinary visit is necessary in your absence, the short history you've left will be valuable to someone who hasn't seen your pet before.
DON'T- make changes to diet or routine before you leave unless it's medically necessary. Your vacation may be relaxing, but your absence is still stressful to your pet. Wait until you get home to make changes.
DON'T-Leave a mess and expect your petsitter to deal with it. Leave the cats with fresh litter in their boxes before you go, scoop up poop in the backyard, clean Dobbin's stall. Leaving your petsitter to deal with Bandini mountain means that next time you go you won't have a petsitter.
DON'T- Expect your petsitter to automatically know everything about your pet, even if she is very experienced. If Fluffy usually only eats half of her food or won't poop in a used litter box let the sitter know. Also be sure she knows what is usual, and unusual, habits of your pet. Tell her what to watch for and what is considered an emergency.
DON'T-Leave and expect the sitter to supply necessities. If Fido will only take his seizure meds with peanut butter, make sure it's available. If Dobbin gets a carrot daily, supply it. Everything your pets need in your absence is on you.
Have a great vacation!!
Coming soon: The Cranky Catwranglers Mis-Adventures in Petsitting