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How To Choose A Petsitter Or Kennel For Your Pet


Puppy in carrier - Getty Images/Lew Robertson

Puppy in carrier

Getty Images/Lew Robertson
Finding someone to take care of our pets as well as we do can be a tough job. For me, the most stressful part about traveling isn't the travel itself; making sure my pets are well cared for in my absence is the stressful part. Here's how to start your research and find the best option for your pets when away from home.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Varies

Here's How:

  1. Decide if an in-home care giver or boarding kennel is more appropriate for your pet (and you). Would your pet prefer the activity and company of other pets as in a kennel situation, or does your pet do better in the comfort of their home and routine? Does your pet have any special medical needs (arthritis, diabetes) that would help determine what type of care would be best?
  2. Ask your veterinarian, friends, and family who they recommend for pet care. Follow up and call them to find out if they are satisfied and if there is anything that you should address or watch out for. Most veterinary offices carry brochures or have personal recommendations for pet care personnel and boarding facilities. They may also be able to assist in deciding what type of care would be best for your pet.
  3. Call the Better Business Bureau for prior to the final decision and make sure that there aren't any open or previous disputes or problems with the pet care business that you are considering.
  4. If using a boarding kennel, ask for a tour of the boarding facilities. A walk-through tour should be welcomed prior to making the final plans. Check for overall cleanliness, staff friendliness and knowledge, feeding and exercise schedules, and how willing the staff is to accommodate any special pet needs or emergency situations.
  5. If using an in-home pet care giver, follow up on personal references and schedule an introductory meeting at your home to meet the pet(s) and discuss care and schedule visits. Some things to look for: promptness, interaction with pet, knowledge of animal care, willingness to accommodate pet's schedule and care needs, and what protocol is followed in the event of an emergency.
  6. Make sure that your pet's vaccinations are up to date well in advance of your departure. Vaccinating on the day that you leave may satisfy kennel requirements, but may not be the most optimal disease protection for your pet.
  7. Once the type of pet care is determined, let your veterinarian know the name and phone number of who is taking care of your pet (as well as leaving complete contact information of your veterinarian with the care giver). You may also want to discuss what type of payment coverage will be arranged in the event of an emergency while you are away.
  8. Determine diet and feeding schedules in advance. If the pet has a specific amount of food or any other dietary needs that must be adhered to, it is best to pre-proportion the meals in containers or sandwich bags. I have returned from trips more than once to discover that much more cat food was eaten in my absence that usual, and heavier kitties as a result!
  9. Have a written schedule (to be checked off by kennel or care giver) of any medications that are to be administered.
  10. Create an exercise schedule for your pet (if applicable). Regular walks or time in outdoor runs will help approximate your normal schedule and help your pet adjust to the routine while you are away.


  1. Bring your pet's own food to a kennel. This may reduce the chance of diarrhea or upset stomach.
  2. Find out what kennel vaccination requirements are and schedule any needed vaccinations with your vet well in advance of your departure. If your pet is current on vaccinations, be sure to have the necessary proof (paperwork) in hand before dropping off at the kennel.
  3. Check to see if the kennel allows you to bring any special toys, blankets, treats, or bedding for your pet.
  4. Making an appointment for a bath early on the day of your return is often a useful time saver.
  5. If you are happy with the care giver or kennel, tell others. If you are dissatisfied, it is important to let the kennel or caregiver know the reasons for your dissatisfaction.

What You Need

  • Proof of current vaccinations.
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