What You Need to Know About Boarding Your Pet

Cat in carrier
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Making plans to leave your dog or cat behind when you travel can sometimes be stressful and confusing. Who will take care of your beloved pet while you’re away? Luckily, dog and cat boarding facilities are abundant, with varied services and cost. Let’s look at your options.

Vet Boarding Services

Some veterinary hospitals offer in-clinic boarding services. Dogs are typically housed in large cages or kennel runs. Cats generally stay separately from dogs in smaller cages or “kitty condos” (multi-level enclosures). Boarded pets are housed separately from sick pets. Clinic staff feeds and walks or plays with the boarded dogs and cats several times a day, and keeps their kennels or cages clean. For pet's that require special medical care, discuss with your vet if they recommend boarding at their office where staff may know your pet or finding a trusted petsitter to come to your home. This discussion with your vet is important especially for pets, such as diabetic pets who get daily insulin injections, pets receiving multiple medications, pets with mobility issues, or those with medical issues that require close supervision.

Kennel Boarding Facilities 

With a little searching, you’re likely to find various pet boarding facilities in your area. You can find facilities that accept all pets and some that only accept dogs or only accept cats. Many boarding facilities offer a “cage-free” boarding experience, where the dogs or cats can hang out in a safely enclosed play area during the day, returning to kennels or cages for naps and bedtime. Dogs are generally separated by size and/or age so that large, rowdy dogs aren’t trampling over smaller, more timid dogs. At most facilities that offer free play time, staff members stay in the play areas with the pets to ensure all animals are safe and having a good time. Some boarding facilities like this even use video monitors so you can log on to their website and watch your pet having a great time, which can give a worried pet parent much peace of mind.

High-End Boarding Facilities 

As people continue to treat their pets more like family than animals, high-end pet boarding facilities are more prevalent. Such facilities, which are marketed to feel more like hotels than kennels, provide a level of comfort and care that exceeds your typical cage or kennel run, with huge pet suites outfitted like “home,” complete with queen-sized beds, couches, TVs, webcams and even two-way video chat so you can see and talk to your pet. These days, it seems the sky’s the limit with posh boarding facilities.

Extra Services

Whatever type of pet boarding facility you choose, most offer add-on services that you can choose for your pet, either during their stay or just before you go home. Some examples include:

  • Extra walks or play time outside
  • Special treats
  • Extra one-on-one time and cuddling with a staff member
  • Bath before going home
  • Full grooming services

Making a Reservation 

Although it’s sometimes possible to find boarding accommodations at the last minute, many places fill up on weekends. Holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Fourth of July can be booked solid many weeks or even months in advance. It’s always best to call ahead and make a reservation when you know you will be away. If you haven’t taken your pet to the facility before, ask if you can take a tour (usually without your pet). 

What to Bring When Boarding Your Pet

Bring your pet’s food with feeding instructions and any medications with instructions. Some places ask you to bring your pet’s collar, ID tag, and leash; others use their own collars and tags. You can also bring special treats, and your pet’s bed, special blanket, or toys, but keep in mind that such things could become soiled and even destroyed in a boarding situation. Don’t send your pet’s one-of-a-kind, can’t-live-without toy or bed. It’s often best to use the bedding provided by the boarding facility. Ask for advice when making your pet’s reservation. 

Don’t forget to make sure your pet is up to date on his vaccines. Call ahead to find out which vaccines are required. Bring proof with you from your veterinarian. Most boarding facilities ask that you update your pet’s vaccines well in advance of their stay.