It’s that time of year again when we’re all starting to plan and look forward to our yearly holiday away from the hustle and bustle of work and home. But what about your pets? I usually get quite a few phone calls around this time of year from concerned pet owners who want to know about the best option for their pets’ holiday care. Should they kennel their dog, or get a house sitter? What about the cat? Do they prefer staying at home, and if so, is it safe to leave your cat alone?
The short answer is usually “it depends”. Many people prefer knowing that their pets are being cared for by professionals in a safe and secure environment, but at the same time, not all boarding kennels and catteries are necessarily great. So how can you tell the difference, and which option would your pet prefer?
Your cat’s pyjamas
Cats are generally quite sensitive creatures and many do not like strangers living in their homes. If your cat is not well socialised and not keen on having an unfamiliar person living there, it might be a good idea to rather put him in a cattery for the duration of your holiday. This is a step necessary for safety reasons: You don’t want your cat leaving home because your house sitter and your cat don’t agree on whose house it is!
If there is any doubt, rather put kitty in a suitable boarding facility. In the perfect cattery, cats should have access outside to lounge in the sun, but they also need their safe spaces and each cat should have a shelter in their individual cattery units. So when you’re looking for a cattery, be sure to go and visit the facilities and look out for clean litter boxes, access to food and water, trained staff and neat, clean cattery units. Look at the cats who are there – do they look relaxed and happy or do they look stressed and anxious? Ask about grooming and emergency procedures – do they have a vet on standby and do they have someone on the property 24/7, even when it’s a public holiday? Who administers medication to the cats in the cattery, and is that person trained in basic handling techniques to make the process stress-free for your cat? In today’s age of modern technology, it is an added bonus if the cattery has a webcam in each cattery run so you can log in any time to view your cat.
Of course, if your cat is social and not particularly worried by visitors, he may prefer staying home, in which case you want someone to live-in instead. A visiting house sitter who comes in twice a day to feed your cat may result in a lonely cat who will probably go looking for company.
In the dog box
As for dogs, if the property is secure, they are unlikely to escape, unless of course they already have a habit of doing so. If there’s any doubt, make sure that your property is 100% safe before making your choice. When choosing a house sitter, be sure to invite him/her around a few times so your dogs get to know her. Ask him/her to start staying with you at least one day before your departure so he/she can familiarise him/herself with your routine with your pets, and make sure he/she understands that Fido is not to be walked in the park off-lead because he runs away every time he has the chance!
If you’re going to board your pet, visit the boarding kennels and check for cleanliness and access to safe playing areas. Check if they allow dogs to run around loose, and if so, is there a screening process to decide if the dogs are social – this is crucial, especially if your dogs are going to be playing with other dogs during their visit. Make sure that all pets are up to date with vaccinations and parasite control, and ask if you can leave your pet’s toys with him to keep him occupied in his kennel run. A blanket or pet bed might also help make him feel at home. Of course, 24/7 supervision is also a must have, especially if the dogs are allowed to socialise with unfamiliar dogs.
Even though it’s always difficult, try to keep a happy face when saying goodbye. Pets are very sensitive to our moods and if you’re crying like there is no tomorrow when you drop off Fido at the kennels, you might make him very worried. A quick cuddle and a super yummy chew toy should help make the parting process a little easier for him. If you’re at all worried about your pet’s health before you go away, it is definitely a good idea to take them to your veterinarian for a check-up before you leave for holiday.
Who is Karin Pienaar?
Animal behaviour guru, Karin Pienaar, has been working in the field of animal behaviour and behaviour therapy in South Africa since 1997. She completed her Diploma in Animal Behaviour in the UK, through the Centre of Applied Pet Ethology (COAPE) and is a qualified Practitioner member of the COAPE Association of Pet Behaviourists & Trainers (CAPBT) in the UK and South Africa.
For more info visit: http://coapesa.com/