With special thanks to Wolf
It can be hard to decide between having someone come into your home while you are away or boarding your pet 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 pet boarding facility be traumatic? Will the smells and sounds of a strange house upset them? There are pros and cons in both situations, but we’ve got some considerations to help you make the best choice for your furbaby.
Are they an expert for your pet's species?
Make sure the caregiver is an expert and understands the specific needs of your rabbit, guinea pig, chinchilla, etc. Many pet sitters do not know signs of illness or 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. They will even encourage you to ask more. They will overshare. They will bore you with details. This is what you want!
Can they answer the following questions to your satisfaction?
- Will your animal be in his own room at the pet boarding facility?
- Do they supply webcams so you can see your pet?
- Will your animal have human company? How much each day? How much free playtime 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?
- How often do they clean your baby’s area?
- Give examples of health emergencies for your pet’s species and ask what they would do. For example, if you have a rabbit, you might ask:
- What is E.cuniculi, and what are the signs? (Correct answer: muscle weakness in the 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 to the touch. Drop everything and go to the vet immediately.)
- What would the pet sitter do if your animal quit eating for one day? (Correct answer: try to call you, but get the animal to the vet right away.)
- What are the two most significant signs of an EMERGENCY? (Correct answer: not eating, shock.)
- Where would the pet sitter take your animal if an emergency occurred? 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?
Pay a personal visit
Ask to see the space where your animal will be at the pet boarding location – don’t just take the pet sitter’s word for it. Small mammals don’t like change very much, so take their own pen, litter box, toys, hay, bowls…anything to make the temporary place feel and smell more like home. Help your baby 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.
After you've got answers to all the above questions, you can now find the perfect pet boarding situation for your friend. This means you can get on with your business trip or enjoy your vacation in peace. There are genuinely great boarding places out there…take your time to find the right one.
Big hint: some rescues do offer pet 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, is associated with a rescue, and has a good network of help should trouble arise. Our local rabbit rescue, Rocky Mountain House Rabbit Rescue, is a well-done example of such a program. Look in your own area, and you may find something similar.
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