Boarding cats and dogs can cost between $20 and $32 a night at a national chain such as PetSmart PetsHotel, and can climb to $150 a night for an ultra-luxe Wag Hotel Ultra Suite. That's a big chunk of the average American household's $1,415 travel budget, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Smart pet owners like Jacqui Linder know to look to their neighbors for an inexpensive alternative to boarding.
“We all have keys to each other’s houses, so any of us can take care of the others’ animals while they are gone on vacation,” Linder explained, noting that her neighbors have trained in the care of tropical fish to assist each other. “And everyone knows Pez [Linder's dog] has to go out more now that she is an old dog.”
Another option: local pet groomers, veterinarian technicians, and dog walkers might be available to feed and exercise your pet while your away. You can return the favor, pay them for their time, or bring back a small gift from your travels.
Ready to sign up your neighbors for pet-sitting? Consider these tips from Theisen before you hit the road:
- Be comfortable with your choice. Make sure your pet sitter is someone who you are comfortable having in your home and that the sitter is someone you trust to care for your pet consistently.
- Ask about your neighbor's allergies. Even mild allergies are a dealbreaker. “You don’t want [neighbors] getting sick or [being] unable to care for the animal while you’re away,” Theisen said.
- Decide if your pet is too high maintenance for a neighbor. While neighbors may be more familiar caring for a cat or dog, reptiles and amphibians might best be left with a professional.
- Train your pet sitter. If your pet needs medication or has unique feeding or grooming instructions, demonstrate the process at least twice for the pet sitter. “Once when the owner shows them how to do it, and again when the sitter does it while the owner is there to observe,” Theisen explained. “So you can make sure your pet is comfortable and the person is comfortable doing it.”