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Leaving Your Pet

Traveling over the holidays? Make sure your pet gets the best care while you're gone.

This season, families across the country will hit the road to visit loved ones. Since four-legged friends can’t always tag along, you need to plan ahead. We’ve examined three options for when you leave town without your pet in tow.

Boarding Facility

Cost: $15-$65 a day

Benefits: Trained professionals look after your pet 24 hours a day. Some facilities make animals feel extra welcome by offering social playtime, grooming services, or luxury beds. Check out the American Boarding Kennels Association to find a kennel near you (abka.com).

Watch out for: “Some pets don’t board well,” says Jim Krack, executive director of ABKA. An older pet that has never been to a kennel before or an aggressive animal that doesn’t get along with others shouldn’t stay at a boarding facility.

Know before you go: “Good kennel operators will keep stress levels down and comfort levels up,” says Krack. “The facility should also look clean and orderly.” Be sure your pet’s immunizations are up-to-date or he won’t be admitted. And indicate whether you will be reachable in case of emergency, or if the kennel should call someone else.

What to ask: If your pet requires medication, is someone on staff qualified to administer it? Inquire about the type of food they provide; some kennels have many brands, while others want you to bring your own. And check that their disaster preparedness plan is current.

FC Tip: Kennels and pet-sitters are busiest during the holidays, so be sure to book early.

Professional Pet-Sitter

Cost: $15-$22 per pet, per visit

Benefits: “Allowing your pet to stay in familiar surroundings will help keep him calm,” says Candance Labane-Godfrey, a board member for the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. Sitters may also water plants or pick up mail.

Watch out for: It can be costly to maintain the schedule of a pet that goes on three walks a day. And skip the sitter if your pet requires constant supervision.

Know before you go: Hire a professional who is bonded and insured (petsitters.org). Take her on an in-house run-through of her responsibilities. Sign a contract and a Vet Notification Form, so she can make medical decisions.

What to ask: Check her references, says Labane-Godfrey. Make sure that the same person cares for your pet each day so your animal learns to trust her. Sitters should also keep a record of your pet’s diet, attitude, and activities.

A Pet-Loving Friend

Benefits: A pal who’s fond of your pet may not mind checking on him. “If your animal feels comfortable around someone, use her as a resource,” says animal behaviorist Peter Borchelt, PhD.

Watch out for: Because your friend is not a professional pet-sitter, she’ll need detailed instructions about pet care, especially feeding and walking routines.

Know before you go: Invite her to spend time with your pet before you leave. Encourage her to do a test run.

What to ask: How much time can she spend at your house? It’s best that she comes by more often than just mealtimes. And be up front about money: Some people will help out as a favor, while others want compensation, says Borchelt.