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How to Travel When you Have Pets: Pet Sitting Services

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I’m a travel addict blogger owned by several pets (3 dogs and a cat). In order to enjoy my travels fully without worry, it’s important for me to find pet sitting services that I am confident in.

Perhaps you are also “owned” and can relate! This will be the first post in a series about traveling when you have animals, specifically addressing pet care when you travel and cannot bring them.

I will unabashedly include lots of pictures of them in this post doing what they do best, lying around looking adorable.

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Noel Cat Napping

Some links in this article may be affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through them, I receive a small commission. This will never cost you extra. Please read the disclosures to learn more.

Trusted Care Options

It’s critical to have trusted care for your pets when you’re traveling, especially when you are out of the country and a distance away. This is also important when you may have spotty coverage where you cannot be in regular contact. There are options to consider for coverage, including boarding, family, and friends visiting, and pet sitting.

Pet Boarding

I have never used a pet boarding facility for my pets. I’m not opposed to them, but when you have multiple-pet homes as I do, it’s often not cost-effective. And, dogs tend to board better than cats, who generally prefer to stay at home. Definitely, do your homework to get references and visit in advance to talk with the staff.

I like the idea of facilities with a webcam so you can see your pet while you’re away. I do have friends who use boarding facilities (and some with doggy daycare) who rave about them.

dog boarding, doggy daycare
Ginger and Travis at Camp Bow Wow, courtesy of Letitia Shotlow-Stellern
dog daycare, dog boarding, doggy daycare
Travis and a friend at Camp Bow Wow, courtesy of Letitia Shotlow-Stellern

Considerations for Pet Boarding

There are a number of things you’ll want to think about and to prepare for when you are going to board your pets. Here are some of the most important ones.

  • Talk with your vet about the vaccinations that they should get and find out about any medical requirements the facility has. Many boarding facilities require certain vaccinations like Bordetella, or kennel cough, and require proof of vaccination.
  • If your pet takes medication, consider if the facility will be able to administer to your pet.
  • Be sure to pack the medication bottles and clearly label all items including food, meds, and other personal items.
  • Make sure to have an emergency contact in case you are not reachable. Send your pet with a name tag,  and provide your vet’s contact information in case of an emergency.
  • Bringing items from home that are familiar to your pets may help their adjustment, though check with the facility to see what they allow.
  • It’s also a good idea to do a trial run for a day or two before you head out of town on vacation. This way you make sure your pet is happy with the accommodations.

I found many lists online with recommendations, and this list appears to be pretty robust with a lot of good information. Boarding costs vary widely based on area, services provided, and other factors. You can expect to pay $24 – $45 a night per dog on average, and a little less for cats.

Though many dogs do tend to do well in boarding, cats often have a tough time with it. If you have felines, consider a cat-sitting service in your home, especially if you don’t think they’ll do well away from home.

Challenges for Pet Boarding

When you board your pet at a boarding facility, they may have exposure to other animals. This may be great if your pet loves other animals, but it can be stressful if they don’t.

And exposure to other animals may come with some risk. You’re trusting that they will be actively supervised. And though most boarding facilities require shots, there are some illnesses that may still be spread.

When you board your pets, they are also not in the comfort of their home. That can be stressful for some animals, particularly cats.

Friends and Family Visits

Having friends and family visit your pets when you’re away can be a good option. It’s can be free or at a reduced cost, which is budget-friendly. And often, your pets know the people well who will be taking care of them. You have the option to have the person visit your house, or to have your pets stay at their house.

Challenges with Friends and Family Visits

The downside is that it can be a lot to ask someone to do two visits a day to your house typically. Even if your pet goes to their house, it can be a lot of work. They will be managing additional pets in their home if they have other animals or learning to live with an animal if they do not. As much as we do love our pets, they are a lot of work!

If you have older pets or an animal with a medical condition taking medications, it can also be a challenge. I have a love for senior animals so that often comes with managing some medical conditions.

Will your friends and family be up to the task of pilling your dog, or giving your cat shots? Will they remember all of the medications and when to give them? I definitely recommend a practice run to be sure and to have a backup plan if needed.

Pet Sitting Services: Professional Pet Sitters

Another option is to consider pet sitting services, and there are options: hiring professional pet sitters or hiring a person who offers pet sitting.

The distinction I’m making is professional pet sitters belong to a professional association like the National Association of Professional Petsitters . Professional pet sitters often work full-time doing this work, or it is a primary source of income.

Only once have I have used a professional pet sitter (from an association group). At the time, I had four senior animals that were all on medications where it was essential that they not skip a dose.

The petsitter had the start date in her calendar wrong, even though it was documented in my paperwork. An honest mistake, but given the visit cost and the service expectation, I was very upset.

Thankfully, everything turned out ok as one of my neighbors contacted me. She was keeping an eye out and she hadn’t seen the new sitter at the house. I reached out to the pet sitter to check-in and to make sure she visited. That’s when we learned of the mistake. I got lucky (as did she).

Pet sitters range in cost, but are often $20 – $30 a visit. Visits may range from around 15 minutes to 30. Some pet sitters also offer overnight visits and those are generally two to three times the cost.

Pet Sitting Services: Vet Tech Visits

Another option is to use vet techs or vet office staff who do pet sitting as a part-time job. I have had much more success with pet sitting services going with Certified Vet Techs (CVT) that my vet recommends from the office they work at.

CVTs have medical training, loads of experience, and they love animals. They work incredibly hard for a salary not commensurate for their efforts and they do so because they love animals.

Some advantages are that they are often less costly than sitters affiliated with an association as they don’t have fees to pay. Additionally, they have your vet’s cell phone. When I leave my pets in my sitter’s care, they are literally, in better hands than when I’m home. I’m not joking.

What I especially love about using a vet tech for pet sitting services is that my pets remain in our home where they are most comfortable. Not only is someone looking after my house while I’m away, but my pets get to sleep on their bed, eat in their own kitchen, and potty in their yard. Some pet sitters do sleepovers!

I joke with my pet sitter all the time when I’m traveling, asking her if they have packed me up and moved me out yet. So far, so good!

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Che and Dutchess Snoozing

Challenges with Pet Sitters

When you invite a pet sitter into your home, it takes an amount of trust. You are welcoming a person you don’t know into your home based on a referral. This may either be through an association or a recommendation from your vet. You are not only trusting the care of your animals, but also, your home.

You are also trusting that they will visit when they say they will and will do the things they commit to. If you have a pet with a medical condition on medication, for example, this can be disconcerting. This is, in part, why I love having vet tech pet sitters, as they truly understand the importance of this and the potential impact.

If you have any concerns or just want some line of sight to how things are going when you’re away, you have a couple of options. You can ask someone you trust to pop in periodically to check on your animals and your house. If you do, it’s a good idea to let your sitter know that someone will stop by periodically. Otherwise, they could run into them or even be concerned someone broke into your house.

Another option is to pick up a camera to place in your home when you’re gone. I like this monitor. You get an almost 360° view that you can operate remotely with your phone. It has night vision, cloud storage, and you can even have two-way communications through it! It’s a great little camera.

In Case of Emergency

Trusted care when you are traveling is so important because emergencies happen. I have had a couple, and I can’t begin to say how grateful I am that I had someone caring for my pets that were responsible, knowledgeable, and cared.

The first time we had a major issue when I was traveling was during my first trip to Asia. On my trip home, I landed in Los Angeles to pick up several messages of increasing urgency. My dog was lethargic and wasn’t eating, so my sitter took him home with her so she could observe him.

The next morning he was worse, so she left me a second voicemail and took him to my vet. My vet ran bloodwork and learned that his liver was failing (third voicemail). She urged me to go directly to the vet’s office and to call on the way when I landed.

This is well above and beyond what many might do. Because of her quick thinking and kindness, they were able to stabilize him so I could spend some time with him before saying goodbye. I will be forever grateful to her.

dog, dogs snoozing, professional pet sitter, dog sitting services

A Second Issue My Pet Sitter Handled

Another recent time with my current sitter, my dog had an extreme allergic reaction, and her face swelled up. My pet sitter knew how to treat it. She brought her home to supervise her to make sure she continued to be able to breathe, as this could get serious. If she had struggled, she would have rushed her to the emergency vet.

She tried to contact me, but due to the time difference, we didn’t connect. The symptoms improved the next day, and she turned out to be ok and didn’t need treatment. Thankfully, she knew how to treat this and knew when to consider it an emergency and rush her in for care had she needed it.

dog swollen face, my poor sweet Dutchess' swollen face
Dutchess’ Swollen Face

There have been several other incidents ranging in severity, and each time my pet sitters have done an amazing job, treating my pets as if they were their own. I love traveling and would go so far as to say that I need it.

As much as I love traveling, I do miss my pets. However, I don’t worry about them when they are in my sitter’s care. As I said before, I know they are in better hands than when I’m home, and for that peace of mind, I’m so grateful.


House sitting is another great opportunity to take care of your pet(s) when you travel. It has been around for a number of years now, and though there are many organizations that coordinate this at a local or regional level, one really stands out at a national level: Trusted Housesitters.

Just create a profile on a reputable house-sitting site like Trusted Housesitters. Share your dates of travel, and approved sitters will apply for the opportunity. Then, select the one you want based on your criteria and travel knowing your pets are in great hands!

This post is all about the experience from a house sitter’s perspective, which will be helpful for you to know when considering this. It’s a win: win—pet owners feel confident in their animal’s care while they’re gone, and the sitters get a “pet fix” while traveling along with free accommodation!

What You Should Do for Any Pet Sitter

There are a few things that I have always done for my pet sitters, and I think they are a good idea for anyone. I leave the following whenever I travel:

  1. A note with any special instructions. This includes directions for food, medications, and anything else I want them to do. It includes things like if I need them to clean ears, brush, etc. It’s especially important if your pets are on medications to review this to ensure it’s current.
  2. A letter authorizing them to make decisions for my animals’ care if I am not reachable. If there is an emergency, you need them to be able to get your animals’ medical care. It’s a good idea to notify your vet as well. However, if there is an issue off-hour and your vet’s office is closed, they also need a letter providing authorization. And, in the case of a true emergency, having the letter means the vet’s office doesn’t have to take the time to look up the authorization.
  3. A list of emergency numbers. I ask them to try my cell first. If I’m not reachable, I provide who they should try in an emergency and provide a neighbor’s number as well. I also include my vet’s office number and cell phone number. Last, I let her know that if there is an emergency, so please don’t hesitate to go to the emergency room. Additionally, we have discussed the level of care I would want. If you have any financial limitations or things that you would not want to do, let your sitter know that.
  4. Any days and times when I know I will not be accessible. If you’re going to a country where your cell phone won’t work, or if you have a long flight, it’s a good idea to share that with your sitter.

Authorization Letter

The letter you leave for your sitter to authorize care for your pets can say something like this:

To Whom it May Concern:

I authorize [person’s name] to approve any medical care they deem necessary for my animals if I am not reachable: [pet names]. I will be responsible for payment either with the credit card I leave or immediately upon my return.


[Your signature]

Additionally, I discuss with them how much I am able or willing to spend and leave a credit card in a secure place. A vet’s office may not accept payment with your credit card if you aren’t there, so this is something you’ll want to discuss with your sitter before you go.

Your regular vet’s office is more likely to, or they will just pend the charge until you return if you have a relationship with them. An emergency vet may be less likely to.

I generally leave some cash in a safe place and ask the sitter if they would be willing and able to cover expenses. Additionally, I offer that if they must, I will send them money immediately (by Venmo or PayPal).

Trusted Vet

I should add that having a vet that you trust who not only knows the level of care you are willing and able to provide your animals is also important.  In the case above, where my dog went into liver failure, my vet knew I would do anything reasonable to care for him. He began the work of stabilizing him. My sitter knows my vet and can reach him in an emergency.

Additionally, I have empowered my sitter to make decisions for care if I am not reachable, and have a letter at my vet’s office stating this and committing to making payment on any charges incurred while I’m traveling.

It does require faith in your sitter and your vet. However, the alternative of your pet not receiving the care needed is worse in my opinion.

My Pet Care

I’m blessed to have my current pet sitter for eight years. She (and her wife) are amazing and through my fur “kids,” they are now friends.

They love every one of my animals and celebrate welcoming them into my home and our extended family. They mourn with me when it’s time to say goodbye. I am so very grateful for them—their love and extraordinary care. I appreciate the gift of peace of mind knowing my pets are in loving hands when I’m traveling.

pet sitting services, professional pet sitter, dog sitting services
Trilby and “our” dog, Che

Pet Care When You Travel

Pet care is such an important part of trip planning. Making sure our responsibilities are taken care of, our appointments are canceled, and our pets are in safe and responsible hands is as important as booking our flights.

Weigh your options, do your research, ask questions and go with your gut. Your pets depend on you and the decisions you make for their care.  Your peace of mind during your trip is worth the time you invest to make these decisions.

If you decide to take your pet with you while you travel, read these posts on flying, driving, and dining with your pet. Here’s a handy downloadable packing list to make sure you have everything you need to keep your pets happy and safe.

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One Comment

  1. Che told me you can just leave him at Ohso with your credit card next time you go away.

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