It can be hard to decide between having someone come into your home while you are away, or boarding your friend at someone else’s home. If your animal stays at home, will they get enough interaction, or get bored and lonely? Will the trip to the new place be traumatic? Will the smells and sounds of a strange house upset them? There are pros and cons in both situations.
Make sure the caregiver is an expert and understands the specific needs for your rabbit, guinea pig, or chinchilla. Many pet sitters do not know signs of illness, or cannot identify an emergency symptom for tiny animals like ours. Don’t feel bad about grilling any potential caretaker – if they are knowledgeable professionals, they will welcome the chance to put your mind at rest, and will even encourage you to ask more. They will overshare. They will bore you with details. This is what you want!
Make sure the pet sitter can answer these things about your rabbit’s accommodations:
Will your animal be in his own room? (There is a potential for infection if your animal is kept with other animals not already part of your family.)
Will your animal have human company? How much each day? How much free play time out of the pen will your animal get?
Are there any other animals in the house? What kinds? How are the spaces managed so the animals don’t scare or hurt each other?
What is EC and what are the signs? (Correct answer: muscle weakness in hind end, oddly turned neck, lethargy, not eating as much, and so on)
What are the signs of shock, and what would the pet sitter do? (Correct answer: fast, shallow breathing, pale gums, possibly head thrown back, ears and paws cool. Drop everything and go to vet immediately.)
What would the pet sitter do if your animal quit eating for one day? (Correct answer: try to call you, but get animal to the vet right away.)
What are the two biggest signs of an EMERGENCY? (Correct answer: not eating, shock.)
Where would the pet sitter take your animal if an emergency occurs? Is there a doctor there who specializes in exotics?
Is the pet sitter willing to pick up fresh greens every three days for your animal? (Correct answer: SURE! I’ll just add the time to your invoice. Do you want only organic produce? Do you have a list of certain greens?)
Is your pet sitter able to do some extra things, like clip nails?
Ask to see the space where your animal will be – don’t just take the pet sitter’s word for it. Little animals don’t like change very much, so take your animal’s own pen, litter box, toys, hay, bowls…anything to make the temporary place feel and smell more like home. Help your animal move in. Get them settled. You know better than anyone just where they want their water bowl, and what corner the litter box should be in. If your friend is upset by the whole process, try some Zen Tranquility. You may even want to leave it there with your rabbit, and include it in feeding/treat instructions.
With answers to all of the above, you can now find the perfect boarding situation for your friend, and that means you can get on with your business trip or enjoy your vacation in peace. There are truly great boarding places out there…take your time to find the right one.
Big hint: some rescues do offer boarding care with volunteer fosters as a way of raising money for the rescue. This is terrific for everyone: your animal is with someone who knows their stuff and is associated with a rescue, so has a good network of help should trouble arise. Rabbit Wranglers, in the Pittsburgh PA area, is a really well-done example of such a program. Look in your own area, and you may find something similar.