5 Alternatives to Pet Boarding

When your pet is like family, it's tough to board it at the kennel. See more pet pictures.
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You're pumped for your next vacation. You've bought your plane tickets, booked your hotel room and packed your suitcases. The only thing that you aren't so excited about is leaving an important member of your family behind -- your pet.

­To make sure that your pooch or kitty is taken care of while you're away, you consider boarding it. But you c­an't bear the thought of leaving your pet -- a pet that's accustomed to sleeping in the comfort of your bed every night -- with strangers in an unfamiliar place. Plus, the costs­ of boarding can add up. Pet boarding costs range from about $15 to $35 per day, depending on the quality of the facility and the services it offers.


So, what are some alternatives to pet boarding that will leave you and your furry friend anxiety-free without emptying your wallet?

5: Hire a House Sitter

There are dual benefits to hiring a house sitter: Someone will be watching over your home and caring for your pet while you're away. Your pet's routine won't be disrupted much, and it'll have the comfort of a familiar setting while you're away. It won't experience the stress it might feel at a boarding facility.

The downside to a house sitter is the cost. While some house sitters offer their services in exchange for rent-free living, others charge a fee. Another potential pitfall is that you simply might not feel uncomfortable having someone live in your house while you're away. Most professional house sitters, however, can offer you some references in order to guarantee your house and pet will be safe.


4: Have Someone Check on Your Pet

Asking a friend to stop by frequently to check in on your pet could be an easy way to avoid boarding your pet. This alternative works best with cats because they don't need the same level of upkeep as dogs. You could have a friend stop by once a day to feed your cat and take care of the litter box.

A dog can be a bit trickier because some dogs require frequent walking and need a bit more attention than cats. Some breeds of dogs might need a more vigorous walking routine than a friend could provide when he or she is just checking in for a few minutes at a time. However, if you've got a pretty mellow dog, and you're only going away for a short period of time -- say, two days -- your pooch should be just fine if a friend stops by two or three times a day.


3: Take Your Pet With You

Your dog might enjoy a camping trip.
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­Many hotels welcome pets. Call ahead to see if your hotel is pet friendly. If you take your pet with you, you won't have to worry about hiring someone to care for it or place it in an unfamiliar place for an extended period of time. If you're going on an outdoorsy vacation, your pet might enjoy that kind of retreat.

Taking your pet along for the ride is only a good alternative when it fits your pet's temperament. If you've got a low-key dog or a cat, this option might be ideal. But you won't be able to kick back and relax if you have to worry about a puppy tearing up your four-star hotel room. You'll also want to take into account the distance you'll be traveling to your destination -- a long car ride or flight might stress out your pet.


2: Hire a Professional Dog Walker

You can hire a dog walker to exercise your pup a few times a day.
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­If you want to leave your pup in your home while you're on vacation, you could hire a professional dog walker to stop in and take Fido for a walk. These experienced canine profes­sionals have the training to guarantee that your pet will get the TLC it needs while you're away. Many dog walkers are insured and bonded. In fact, the International Association of Canine Professionals requires that all dog walkers are insured.

The only downside is the price. Depending on your location and their experience, professional dog walkers could charge anywhere from $15 to $40 per visit. This could easily add up to more than it would cost you to board your pet. But the peace of mind of having your dog taken care of by a professional while staying in the comfort of your own home might be worth it.


1: Leave Your Pet with a Friend

If you can't find someone to stay with your pet in your own home, you could ask a friend to keep your pet at his or her home. That way your furry friend is cared for around ­the clock and isn't left unattended for long periods of time.

A potential downside is that your pet's in an unfamiliar setting. But you can resolve this problem by taking your pet to your friend's home a few times before you leave town. This will allow your pet to get used to the sights, smells and sounds of its temporary home. You might also save some money with this option. Since your friend won't be terribly inconvenienced, you simply could bring him or her a gift from your vacation spot as a token of appreciation.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • "Caring for Pets While You Travel." The Humane Society of the United States.http://www.hsus.org/pets/pet_care/caring_for_pets_when_you_travel/
  • "Choosing a Boarding Kennel." The Humane Society of the United States.http://www.hsus.org/pets/pet_care/choosing_a_boarding_kennel.html
  • "Choosing a Pet Sitter." The Humane Society of the United States.http://www.hsus.org/pets/pet_care/choosing_a_pet_sitter/
  • "FAQs: Pet Sitters/Boarding." The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animalshttp://www.aspca.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_faq_boarding
  • National Association of Professional Pet Sitters.http://www.petsitters.org/
  • Pet Care Services Association.http://www.petcareservices.org
  • "Tips on Hiring a Professional Dog Walker." International Association of Canine Professionals.http://www.dogpro.org/index.php?pageID=215