It’s a common holiday-season dilemma: what to do with your pet when you’re going away.
It can be stressful and awkward to have to ask friends and family, and many pet owners feel uncomfortable using kennels and catteries.
We spoke to a vet and three dog owners to find out how to keep pets happy, comfortable and well looked after over the holidays.
Holiday pet care tips from a vet
Visit kennels or catteries before booking
While friends and neighbours might be able care for your pet over a weekend, longer trips may require a kennel or cattery.
“If you can, visit those catteries or kennels to see if you’re pleased with the conditions. If you have friends or neighbours with pets, get some word-of-mouth feedback,” says veterinarian Leanne Pinfold, who works at Melbourne’s Lort Smith Animal Hospital.
Another tip: bringing toys, a dog bed or something familiar could help your pet adjust to their new surrounds.
Cats fare better when left alone compared to dogs
While dogs can cause problems even when left alone for short periods, cats tend to fare better, Dr Pinfold says.
“They would really just need someone to come in and make sure they have plenty of food and water and their litter tray is clean. As long as that’s provided, they’re probably quite content to just be home by themselves.”
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If you have an unusual pet, your options are limited
While dog and cat owners are spoiled for choice, if you have a lizard, fish or other unusual pet you often are left with one option: friends or family, Dr Pinfold says.
“Unfortunately, I’m not aware of anywhere you can take unusual pets for long-term boarding,” she says.
If pets are staying together, make sure they get along
Jo Gardiner lives in Melbourne with Teddy, a golden retriever. She likes to travel when she can, but she isn’t comfortable leaving him at a kennel.
Teddy sometimes stays with Jo’s friends and their pet poodle Beau.(
Supplied: Jo Gardiner
“I want to trust the person he’s with. If there are 10 other dogs [at the kennel], are they sick? Would they attack him? There are too many unknowns, so I go to great lengths to plan ahead,” she says.
Teddy will usually stay with family, but Jo’s advice is to make sure any pets that are staying together get along before making arrangements.
“I did have one issue … my sister-in-law rang and said Teddy couldn’t stay because her dog was harassing him. I was going to Noosa that day, so I had to ring my friend … and that really stressed me out,” she says.
In busy holiday periods, many people are travelling, and kennels and catteries are often booked out well in advance. It’s why Jo suggests planning early and thinking about your pet before booking accommodation or making travel arrangements.
Last Christmas, Jo and Teddy played host to a good friend called Archie (right).(
Supplied: Jo Gardiner
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How to find house sitters you can trust
Julie Ross lives on a five-acre property in Alice Springs with her family and Archie, a miniature poodle.
Julie tends to rely on house minders when she goes away, but she once had an experience that would horrify many pet owners.
“We had a bird aviary, a Siamese cat and a German Shepherd and this person was supposed to stay in our house that whole time we were away, and they didn’t,” she says.
“When we got back, there were 25 packets of food. The pets hadn’t been fed for two weeks.
“It was a real let-down. I still haven’t forgiven that person and that was about 25 years ago.”
Julie had a bad experience with a house minder, so she’s very careful who she lets look after Archie.(
Supplied: Julie Ross
Thankfully Julie’s neighbours knew what was going on: they threw bones over the fence for the dog and sprayed water into the aviary and the dog’s bowl.
All the animals survived, but Julie’s cat wasn’t in a good way.
Here are some of Julie’s tips for finding the right house minder:
- If you can, ask someone you know, ideally with their own pets.
- Julie tends to look in her social circles for responsible teenagers. “You’ve already seen them in their family environment with their own pets,” she says.
- If you have friends with pets, they are more likely to be interested, especially if you can repay the favour down the track.
Lately, Julie has been trying to bring Archie on holidays whenever she can.
Archie has come on camping trips, and Julie has booked pet-friendly motels for an upcoming road trip to Port Lincoln, which is 1,500 kilometres from Alice.
Archie, the miniature poodle, sometimes comes camping with Julie and her husband.(
Supplied: Julie Ross
Why Mark takes Meer with him whenever he can
Mark Ewins has a special relationship with his dog, Meer — short for Meerkat.
When he’s travelling for work or to see friends in Sydney, Mark tries to bring Meer along. Last time, it only cost him $90 extra, because Meer weighed under 10 kilograms with her crate.
After six or seven hours alone on a plane, Meer was a bit stressed out, but she quickly recovered.
“As soon as she saw me, I got her out, and one of the guys [at the airport] was smiling, she sat on my lap and we walked back to the car and everything was cool,” he says.
Meer is a regular at the Pilates studio where Mark works, and he often leaves her with his clients.(
Supplied: Mark Ewins
Meer was a rescue dog and came into Mark’s life about six months after his mum died. She follows him everywhere — even to the Pilates studio in Darwin where he works.
Because Meer and Mark are inseparable, many of his friends and clients share a close bond with the dog and he often gets offers from people to look after her.
Most of the time, Meer stays with one of Mark’s older clients who has dogs of her own.
“I wouldn’t give Meer to someone I didn’t know or someone who hasn’t spent time with her before,” he says.
“l would generally pick people who have an experience with the dog. If everything’s worked out okay, I put them on the list.”
Posted 29 NovNovember 2019FriFriday 29 NovNovember 2019 at 8:34pm, updated 1 DecDecember 2019SunSunday 1 DecDecember 2019 at 9:55pm