Planning a getaway? If you’re one of the 57% of UK households with a pet, you’ll need to consider who will take care of your furry friend while you’re gone.
Whether you hire a pet sitter or check your pet into a pet boarding house, there are a few things to consider to ensure your pet is kept safe and happy while you’re away. Making the right decision will ensure you can enjoy your trip with the peace of mind of knowing your pet is being well cared for back at home.
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What is a Pet Sitter?
A pet sitter is a person hired to mind your pet while you are away – much like a babysitter but for animals! Usually, they’ll come to your home and stay there while you’re gone, providing food and water, as well as companionship, exercise, medication, and grooming as relevant for your dog or cat. Pet sitters can provide services for any length of time, from just a day to a few nights, or even months.
Pet Sitter Qualifications and Certifications
There are no formal training or certification requirements for pet sitters in the UK. However, many great pet sitters hold relevant qualifications in areas like animal behaviour and pet first aid. There are even specialised training courses in pet sitting that some keen pet sitters and pet walkers choose to undertake. Many pet sitters are training to become vets or vet nurses, and have chosen to make some extra income while putting their love for animals to good use. These are all great signs to look for when choosing your pet sitter!
Benefits of Hiring a Pet Sitter
Pet sitting is booming in the UK, with more pet owners choosing the service now than ever before. Companies are reporting a growth in service demand between 30-150% since the pandemic – and for good reason. Hiring a pet sitter is a great care option if your cat or dog finds environmental changes distressing or prefers to keep to themself. It’s also a great option if you’ll be going away for an extended period and don’t want to leave your home unattended, since the service comes with the added benefit of having someone in your home to keep an eye on things while you’re gone. It can also be a very cost-effective option, with pet-sitting services often coming in cheaper than many boarding facilities.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Pet Sitter
When choosing a pet sitter, it’s important to do your research to ensure you choose the right service and individual to suit your pet’s needs. Things to consider include:
Your pet’s temperament
Firstly, you should consider whether in-home pet sitting is right for your pet at all. While many animals will thrive with one-on-one care in their home environment, some pets will fare better in the social, structured environment that a boarding facility offers.
Consider how long they’ve been in business, and what training or credentials they hold that will enable them to provide good care for your pet.
How much do they charge? While daytime pet sitters are often a cheaper option compared to pet boarding facilities, overnight stays can become costly.
What are people saying online? Is the pet sitter forthcoming with references and endorsements?=
Are they properly insured should anything happen while you’re away?
How well do they get along with your pet, and vice versa? It’s crucial to arrange a face-to-face meet-and-greet before hiring a potential candidate to ensure compatibility.
What to Ask a Potential Pet Sitter
You’ll be trusting your pet sitter not only with your beloved furry friend but also your entire home. It’s therefore essential to interview them first to determine whether you’re the right fit for each other.
Consider asking a potential candidate the following questions:
- How long have you been pet-sitting?
- What experience do you have with specific pet breeds, medical conditions, temperaments, and behavioural issues (as relevant to our pet)?
- What services do you typically provide, and are there any that you won’t provide?
- What relevant qualifications or training do you hold?
- Are you insured?
- How do you plan to deal with emergencies? What’s your contingency plan if anything happens to you while we’re away that prevents you from caring for our pet?
- Do you have any references (and can I contact them)?
- How much do you charge?
What is Pet Boarding?
Pet boarding differs from pet sitting in that you take your pet to an out-of-home facility where they’ll be housed and cared for while you’re away – a bit like daycare, but for pets! Boarding is suitable for short-term or longer-term stays, and there are a variety of options out there. Some pet boarding businesses are operated out of the carer’s home, referred to as home boarding, but most reputable facilities are larger-scale and provide boarding at a specialised facility.
What are the Pros of Pet Boarding?
While costs do vary widely between establishments, pet boarding often comes in at a relatively cheap rate when compared to higher-end dog hotels, making it an especially good option for longer-term stays.
The staff hired to work at pet boarding facilities have often chosen a career in pet care, meaning they’re likely to have undergone training and hold certifications that will benefit your pet. This is especially important if your pet has special needs or medical requirements.
Out of home
Not everyone likes the idea of a stranger coming into their home to look after their pets while they’re away – if you choose to board, your pet will be cared for out of your home, and you can rest assured that no one will be entering your dwelling unsupervised.
Your pet will be in an environment with lots of other humans and non-human animals to play with. For social, adventurous pets, they’ll feel like they’re the ones getting a vacation!
What are the Cons of Pet Boarding?
Risk of communicable diseases
Since your pet will be staying in close proximity to other pets, there is a chance that they will acquire an infectious disease. Many boarding facilities will require proof of vaccination against certain diseases in a bid to minimise this risk.
The costs of pet boarding facilities vary greatly. Some facilities can be costly, especially those offering premium, hotel-style amenities.
Stressful environment for some pets
While some animals thrive in social environments, others find proximity to unfamiliar animals and humans to be anxiety-provoking. Similarly, a new environment can be overwhelming for some pets. If your pet suffers from social anxiety or struggles to adapt to new surroundings, a boarding facility might not be right for them.
Catteries are a type of pet boarding facility that specifically caters to cats. Catteries provide care and boarding for cats for both short- and long-term stays. Setups vary, but usually, each cat is given an individual unit for the duration of their stay. Due to the territorial nature of many cats, there is usually much less emphasis on social play compared to dog boarding facilities.
Benefits of Catteries
Catteries can be a great low-cost option to ensure your cat is well looked after while you’re on holiday. There are regulations in place in the UK that catteries must observe that ensure minimum hygiene and safety requirements are met, so you can rest assured that your cat will be in good hands during its stay.
Drawbacks of Catteries
Many cats prefer not to socialise with other cats, which can make a stay at a cattery an anxiety-inducing experience. Even though many catteries opt to keep cats separated, sensitive cats may still be bothered by the many new smells and sounds they’ll be surrounded by. There’s also the issue of transport – many cats don’t enjoy travel, which will be a necessity to get them to the facility, even if it’s relatively local.
Kennels are a type of pet boarding facility that caters specifically to dogs. Sometimes they are differentiated from boarding services as places that tend to offer shorter-term accommodation, such as for a few hours while you’re at work during the day. However, many businesses that refer to themselves as kennels provide identical services to dog boarding facilities, including long-term and overnight stays.
Benefits of Kennels
Like all dog boarding services, kennels can provide a stimulating, fun-filled environment for dogs who enjoy socialising. They’ll benefit from staying close to a bunch of other pets and interacting with kennel staff. Kennels also provide the benefit of professional care being on hand at all times, so you can rest assured that your pooch’s needs will be attended to while you’re away.
Drawbacks of Kennels
Some people consider kennels to be a budget version of a regular dog boarding facility, and they have a reputation for providing less space and less premium care. However, this is not always the case: some self-described kennels offer a high level of personalised care, and often the only difference is the naming choice that has been made. As with all out-of-home boarding options, a kennel might not be a suitable environment for your pet if they struggle to socialize with unfamiliar animals and people, or if they prefer to stick to their familiar home territory.
True to its name, a dog hotel is similar to a dog kennel or boarding facility, but with added luxuries. You can expect to pay a premium for an elevated standard of care, amenities, and service. Many dog hotels offer added perks like personalised play arrangements depending on your dog’s temperament, grooming services, and even doggy training classes so they can brush up on their skills during their stay.
Benefits of Dog Hotels
The main benefits dog hotels offer are the added creature comforts. If your dog thrives on personalised service and one-to-one care, a dog hotel is a good choice. As a premium service, dog hotels tend to offer more in the way of tailoring their service for each animal, so the amount of socialising, play, rest, exercise, and grooming, as well as the types of meals your dog receives, can all be personalised to suit your dog’s needs. Dog hotels also tend to offer more space and comfortable bedding arrangements.
Drawbacks of Dog Hotels
Just like other dog boarding facilities, dog hotels can be stressful for dogs who experience social anxiety or who struggle to adapt to new environments. They tend to attract a higher price tag than regular boarding facilities, so if you’re working to a budget, the cost can be a prohibitive factor.
Comparing Pet Sitting and Boarding
If you’re tossing up between pet sitting and pet boarding for your furry friend, it helps to look at the pros and cons of each.
Pet sitting gives your pet the benefit of personalised, one-on-one care without needing to leave their familiar home environment. It also means someone will be around to look after your house while you’re gone, which can make this a cost-effective option. On the other hand, hiring a pet sitter means you’re placing your trust in a single person to care for your pet while you’re away, which can be nerve-wracking, especially if your pet has high needs.
Pet boarding can be a great option for extended stays, and your pet will enjoy the benefit of being surrounded by professional staff to cater to its needs. Boarding is perfect for pets who love making new friends and taking on new adventures. These days, there are a myriad of options, including luxury pet hotels that practically offer a vacation for your pet! On the other hand, the social setting can be less fun for pets who are socially anxious, and the new environment can be challenging for pets who prefer not to stray too far from the comfort of their home.
Choose What’s Best for Your Pet
Deciding between in-home pet sitting and the various out-of-home boarding options can be a difficult choice, but in the end, it comes down to considering your pet and your circumstances. If your pet is a creature of habit who prefers to stay within their familiar environment, in-home service is probably best – and most cats will probably fall into this category. If your pet loves socialising, exploring, and making new friends, then a boarding centre is a great choice that will feel like they’re taking a vacation too!
The cost and availability of services in your area will of course also shape your decision. Many loving pet owners feel guilt about leaving their pets behind to go on holiday but know that it is common and often unavoidable. As long as you ensure that you’re leaving your pet in safe and capable hands, you have nothing to worry about.
How to Prepare Your Pet for Pet Sitting
One of the main perks of hiring a pet sitter to look after your furry friend while you go away is that you won’t need to do a whole lot to prepare for it. With no travel involved, you won’t need to worry about transporting your pet or packing its things for an out-of-home stay. All they need to do is stay put and have the care come to them.
Leave Comforts, Enough Food and Treats
However, you do need to make sure that you provide your pet sitter with everything they need to be able to take good care of your pet during their stay. Make sure you leave enough food, including treats, as well as medication to see your pet through your time away. You should also make sure your pet’s special creature comforts, such as favourite toys and blankets, are easily accessible – these will be extra important if your pet is missing you while you’re gone.
Leave Care Instructions
You should always leave a detailed note with care instructions for your pet sitter, outlining your pet’s routines, needs, and preferences. The great thing about pet sitters is that they’re able to give your pet one-on-one personalised care, so you might as well make the most of it!
Don’t Forget Your Details!
You should also provide your pet sitter with your contact details, as well as contact details for your vet, a friend or neighbour who’ll be nearby while you’re gone, and your local emergency services – just in case the worst were to happen. If you haven’t already done so before hiring your pet sitter, you should confirm that they are properly insured before leaving them with your home and pet.
How to Prepare Your Pet for Pet Boarding
Getting your pet ready for a stay at a boarding facility can take a bit of planning – it’s a bit like getting yourself prepared for a vacation! Here are some tips on what to do to prepare your pet for boarding:
Talk with the Facility Staff
The first thing you should do is talk with the staff at the facility you’re planning to use for your pet’s boarding. Ensure they’re aware of any special needs your pet has, and that they’re equipped to meet them. If possible, book your pet in for a trial day or overnight stay – this will help familiarise them with the staff and environment before a longer stay.
Ensure Your Pet is Up-to-date with Vaccinations
Well ahead of time, you should ensure that your pet is up to date with vaccinations. Since boarding facilities are high-risk settings for infectious diseases, most require that dogs and cats arrive vaccinated against a range of specified diseases. For some vaccinations, there is a set timeframe that needs to pass from the date of vaccination before they will be accepted, so book in with your vet as soon as you know you’ll be going away.
Pack a Bag of Essentials and Home Comforts
To make your pet’s stay as comfortable as possible, you should pack a bag with essentials and creature comforts to drop off with them. Make sure to include enough of any regular medication they take to last their stay, along with clear administration instructions for staff to follow.
Pack More than Enough Food and Treats, with Instructions for Feeding
The same goes for food and treats – there’s enough environmental change going on during a stay at a boarding house without your pet needing to adapt to a new diet too. You should pack enough food and extras to last the stay, along with instructions detailing the amount and frequency for staff to follow.
Give them a Toy, Blanket or Piece of Clothing to Remember you by
Finally, be sure to send your pet off with something to remember you by while you’re gone – a favourite blanket or comfort toy imbued with the smell of home will help them adjust to their temporary new home, easing any separation anxiety they might be feeling.
Having to leave your furry best friend behind while you’re going away can be difficult for pet lovers, but it doesn’t have to be distressing. Between pet sitting and pet boarding facilities, there are more options in the UK than ever; with a bit of research, you can be confident that you’ll find an option that suits your pet to a tee. Knowing that your pet is in safe, reputable, loving hands means you can sit back and truly enjoy your time away.