Preparing Your Pets for the Holidays

chloeThe holidays are finally upon us, and with Thanksgiving less than a week away, I was unsurprised to find a mile long to-do list greeting me.  We’re travelling by car to visit’s the hubby’s family, and for some crazy reason, we agreed to bring the dog with us.

Yet between taking the dog on a 12-hour road trip and leaving the cat, 16 fish, and 70k or so bees at home, there are lots of last-minute to-dos to remember that relate specifically to our furry friends.  I’ve gathered my list here, in hopes that it might be useful for others.

If You’re Leaving Your Pets With a Pet Sitter

1.  Do a home visit with the sitter before you leave. 

If your pet sitter (whether a friend or a professional) is new to caring for your pets or just hasn’t been by in a while, schedule an in-home visit with them before you leave.  Walk them through all the tasks they’ll be asked to do, and make sure the spare key actually works in your door.  This will make it much easier for them to find their way around while in your house while you’re gone, leaving more time for them to spend cuddling your pets.

red2.  Leave a copy of instructions and contact info – even if you already emailed it to them.

We’ve been using the same pet sitter for nearly three years, and even so, we always leave a copy of care instructions for every animal, all of our contact and emergency numbers, in our house. It helps eliminate any confusion, whether over just how much food Fido gets (“he still looks hungry…maybe it was supposed to be two scoops?”) to where things are located (if you clearly tell your sitter the treats are in the cabinet to the right of the stove, she won’t have to rifle through your messy tupperware drawer trying to find them.)  And, unlike the email you sent a couple weeks beforehand, a hard copy in situ can’t be accidentally “deleted”.

3.  Clean your house!

Don’t be gross.  Clean your house before you leave on your trip.  Not only will it be easier for your pet sitter to find and tend for your pets, but they’ll also be more likely to agree to sit for you again.  Leave any needed accessories (like scoops, leashes, litter, trash bags, treats, extra food) out in the open.  And bonus- you’ll get to come home to a clean house as well.

If You’re Taking Your Pets With You

1.  Get documentation

Talk to your vet pre-trip to get a Certificate of Good Health.  You’ll need this if you’re flying, but it’s good to have for car travel as well, just in case.  This document shows that your pet is up to date on his/her vaccines, and can prevent hiccups at borders. While you’re at the vet, you can also discuss whether or not your pet needs a sedative for the trip.

2. Prep for potty breaks

Plan out when and how you’ll give your animals the chance to do their business.  If you’re driving with dogs, take extra poop bags to clean up rest areas. If you’re driving with cats, think about getting a large kennel (like the size for a large dog) and setting up a small litter area she can utilize on the go.  If you’re flying with either animal, identify where the pet relief areas are in the airport, and line your carrier with disposable puppy pads to prevent messes.

3. Make sure you’ve considered your destination

I’m just going to come out and say it.  My dog isn’t very smart. He can’t go up stairs that don’t have backs on them, and he can’t walk on slippery hard wood floors.  My brother-in-law’s house features beautiful, turn-of-the-century, refinished hardwood floors throughout the entire house.  So when we visit the brother, we either don’t take the dog or we make other accommodations.  Consider if your pet has any of the same neuroses, and plan accordingly.  This statement also is a good reminder to make sure any hotels you’ll be visiting accepts pets – quite a few won’t allow them, or have breed specific rules. And if you’re road tripping it, best to plan out your overnight stops specifically around which pet-friendly hotels are along your route.

So that’s it. 6 tips that will hopefully keep your fur-children happy and healthy wherever the holidays take you.  Tell me in the comments what tips you have!