By Dr Eugene Brink
One of the biggest concerns of many pet lovers and owners is what to do with their beloved animals when they go on holiday and cannot take their pets along.
Journalist Kedibone Modise says, “If you can’t travel with your pet(s), a prime option is to ask a friend or family member to pet-sit at your home while you are away. Pets, especially dogs and cats, would be more comfortable if you leave them with a familiar person in a familiar environment.”
Entrusting your pet with someone who you know cares about them just as much as you do, will give you peace of mind while you’re on vacation. Also, ensure that the sitter continues with their usual routines such as walking your pet.
Travel blogger Charles Kosman says that this is usually the cheapest option, and is especially good if your pet is familiar with the sitter. “If you ask a neighbour or a friend who lives nearby, they can probably come over more often than a paid professional. The downside, however, is that if your sitter sees it more as a favour than a job, they might not be as responsible as someone that is being paid.”
If you want to make their job a little easier, consider getting an automatic water or food dispenser for your pet.
Although many people pet-sit full-time or in their spare time, just make sure that they are trustworthy and phone a reference or two before you assign them this all-important task. According to Modise, professional pet sitters cost anything between R150 and R450 per day, depending on the area and the type of pet. Visit Petbacker.com for more details.
If it isn’t too much of an inconvenience, you could also leave your pet with a friend or relative. This way, they don’t have to leave their house too often to care for your pet.
That being said, this route is more advisable if it is a small, older or docile animal and not a big, frisky or mischievous dog. In the case of the latter, the animal might cause damage and havoc such as digging up gardens or chewing on furniture and ruining your sitter’s peacefulness and time of rest when they need it most. This could result in an amicable relationship turning testy.
Of course, you could just hire a house sitter for the entire period. This is a double whammy: someone who can look after the house and your pet(s) all at once. “Because a house sitter lives in your house while you’re away, you would need to be comfortable with them having full access to all of your things. This is generally an affordable option, as you’re trading accommodation for pet care, though some pet sitters are paid extra,” says Kosman.
With all of these options, you must leave detailed care instructions – preferably in writing. An animal is not a plant and requires much more than just water. “Whether you board your pet in a boarding kennel or have someone come over to take care of them, you want to leave clear, detailed instructions so that there is no confusion or guess work involved. Leave a note specifying exactly how much food your pet gets for every meal, including how many treats to feed them,” says dog lover Kathleen McCafferty.
“If your pet(s) are on some kind of medicine, leave instructions of how much they need to take, the best method to give it to them (i.e. slather the pill in peanut butter) and any other important information. It is a good idea to have your home pet-sitter come over in advance of pet-sitting so that you can walk them through your routine, show them where everything is, and introduce them to your pet if they haven’t met already.”
Charles Kosman, 2012, “What to do with your pets when you go on vacation”, https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/info/what-to-do-with-your-pets-when-you-go-on-vacation/.
Kathleen McCafferty, 2021, “6 Tips for Pet Care When You’re Away on Vacation”, https://www.dogtagart.com/blog/6-tips-pet-care-when-you%E2%80%99re-away-vacation.
Kedibone Modise, 2 December 2020, “What to do with your pets when you go on holiday”, https://www.iol.co.za/travel/travel-tips/what-to-do-with-your-pets-when-you-go-on-holiday-8769d091-a3b9-40b5-b7e8-79cd8e99ae7e.