It’s not always possible to take our pets with us when we go away for business or on vacation. And what to do with Fido or Tibbles is often a major stressor for pet owners who worry about their beloved furry friends while they’re away.
Unless you have a trusted friend or relative to care for your pets while you’re out of town, most dog and cat owners use a pet sitter or pet boarding facility. But which option is the best choice for your animals?
Read this comparison article for some helpful advice.
Pet Boarding Facilities
Pet boarding kennels have long been the most popular option for cat and dog owners who have to leave their pets behind.
Those facilities were traditionally associated with wire mesh runs, cold concrete, plastic or steel crates, and no provision for social interaction. Dogs with separation anxiety could spend hours on end barking until they became hoarse. The whole scenario was somewhat depressing for both the dogs and their owners.
But in recent decades, things have changed for the better. Now, your dog or cat can enjoy staying in a warm, comfortable pet hotel!
Dogs can enjoy a luxurious doggy cot set in a stylish plexiglass run with DogTV to entertain them. Most kennels offer socialization sessions where non-aggressive dogs can play and interact in a safe, contained, supervised environment. Your dog might even enjoy a session at the doggy swimming pool, have fun on a one-to-one play date, or even enjoy a bath and massage.
Dogs that don’t like to mix with other pups can usually enjoy a one-to-one walk with one of the facility’s staff. You can choose for your dog to have his own crate, too, which can be helpful if you need a large kennel for Great Danes, for example.
Cats are treated to plush cat climbing towers, fleecy beds, central heating, and a view of the outdoors from a windowsill in their kitty cabin. Tibbles might even get to enjoy catnip bubbles or laser playtime before chilling out in front of TV programs featuring mice and birds feeding and chirping quietly in the background.
Most pet boarding facilities provide your pet with their usual food, and they will give your dog or cat any drug therapy that might be required. Many kennels offer a bathing and grooming service for dogs so that you can come home to a fragrant, shiny pup.
Many boarding centers are out of town, but they offer a pickup and drop-off shuttle service for your convenience.
A relatively new concept in pet boarding involves individuals caring for dogs in their own homes rather than at a boarding facility.
Many of these doggy daycare facilities will take your dog for the day while you’re out at work, as well as offer overnight or weekend boarding. Dogs are expected to mix as part of the household, so your pup must be friendly and sociable. Usually, the dogs will be walked and exercised in a group.
Doggy daycare tends to be very expensive, depending on the amenities available and what extra services you require. However, if you want your pet to enjoy a home-from-home experience while you’re away, this kind of boarding facility is probably the best choice for you.
Veterinary Center Boarding
Some veterinary centers offer pet boarding. Although that might seem like a good idea, as your pet will have immediate access to veterinary care, most vet center boarding facilities are rather cold and sterile. Your pet won’t get much attention or exercise either.
Downsides Of Pet Boarding
The biggest problem with any form of boarding for pets is stress. Cats, in particular, can become highly stressed when taken out of their familiar environment.
Stress can cause vomiting, diarrhea, fear, and timidity for the duration of the stay. That often results in a loss of appetite and weight loss. There’s also the risk of injury being sustained by dogs if interactive play sessions get out of hand.
Pet sitting is a growing part of the so-called “gig economy.” There are two forms of pet sitting service:
- A pet sitter comes to your home at pre-agreed times to feed, exercise, and spend time with your pet.
- The pet sitter comes to live at your home while you’re away. The pet enjoys companionship, which is especially important for dogs that suffer from separation anxiety and similar stress-related conditions.
Pet sitting service prices tend to vary widely but are generally in line with basic boarding facility levels.
Advantages of Pet Sitters
The main advantage of using pet sitting services is that your pet doesn’t have the stress of being in an unfamiliar environment while you’re away.
Most pet sitters will take phone messages, run the vacuum around, care for your houseplants and water your garden if necessary while you’re away. I used a pet sitter once who even left me a home-cooked meal in the fridge and bought me orange juice and milk so that I had food to eat when I arrived home from my vacation.
Having someone around rather than leaving your house empty is also a great burglar deterrent. Also, if your pet becomes unwell, the sitter will be on hand to get veterinary assistance from your regular vet.
Disadvantages of Pet Sitting Services
The main downside of using a pet sitting service is the cost. If the sitter is living-in, the cost per day usually includes their food, pushing the price up. That said, pet sitters are usually cheaper than boarding facilities.
Not all animals appreciate having a stranger in their home, and that can be somewhat stressful for your pets until they get used to the sitter.
So, what’s the best option for your dog or cat – pet boarding or pet sitting?
We think that keeping your pet’s environment as close to their normal one as possible is the best way to keep your dog or cat happy while you’re away. For that reason, a pet sitter is the best choice. Of course, if you’re concerned that your pet might run away while you’re not home to supervise them, pet boarding is the better bet.