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Vacation Solution: Alternative Pet Sitting Options

Not interested in dropping big bucks on a pet hotel or boarding while you travel? Consider asking a neighbor for some help.

What will you do with your dog when you go on vacation? Photo provided by A New Chance Animal Rescue.
What will you do with your dog when you go on vacation? Photo provided by A New Chance Animal Rescue.
You’ve bought the plane tickets and already started your packing list when it hits you: What will you do with your pet while you’re on vacation?

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.

If the cost of boarding doesn't sit well with you, you’re not alone. “That’s the biggest question,” said KC Theisen, director of pet care issues at The Humane Society of the United States

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.”
Have you ever asked someone to watch your pet while you traveled? How did it go? Tell us about your experiences in the comments section below.
sprite August 07, 2013 at 06:46 PM
I've always used my Vet (med issues) or a friend of my daughters' to stay in the home and paid them very well.....Stocked the refrigerator, good pay, etc.... I've always had wonderful success. Now, I live (we moved out of state) where we only have the Vet. Don't know my neighbors well, and they don't want to be known. (Not the friendliest of neighbors after 9 moves) So, I did pick a Vet that does boarding and I have a great relationship with. Not ideal for my babies.....but, they are safe and secure and loved.

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