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Choosing a Boarding Facility For Your Pet

Updated on March 7, 2015


Every pet owner is forced to leave their pet behind at one time or another. It might be for work, vacation, or even illness, but regardless of the reason, everyone who owns a pet needs to know their options when it comes to boarding their pets.

Types of Boarding

Boarding establishments can generally be broken into three categories, Kennel, In Your Home and In a Sitter’s Home. Exploring all your options will help you choose the best establishment for your pet.

Kennel: A standard boarding situation where animals are kept in individual cages in a building that is usually separate from a residence. Kennels almost always include outdoor runs, but vary in whether they are group runs or single ones. Dogs are generally fed and watered at set times and may have very little human contact. On the other hand, some kennels are very hands on and dogs spend a lot of time out on walks, and interacting with staff. Kennels aren’t ideal for dogs with separation anxiety, and some may not be suitable for dogs with special medical, or nutritional needs.

In a sitter’s home: This is where you take your pet and allow it to stay with someone. Often, this could be a relative or friend, but there are commercial establishments provide this kind of boarding. As with kennels, there are many differences between homes. Some are cage free; others require crates. Some have fenced yards; others take dogs for walks. Some will keep your dog with their own, or other people’s animals, others will keep them separate. For a dog that requires a lot of human attention, or has special medical needs, this method of boarding is ideal, as long as you can find a knowledgeable, responsible person to take care of your pet.

In your home, visited by a sitter: Another popular method is having a sitter visit your home. This could even be beneficial for insurance purposes because someone is visiting the house every day to make sure everything is O.K. Sitters will visit one or more times a day and are usually agreeable to pick up the mail, water the plants and turn lights on and off while they’re there. For a pet that doesn’t tolerate being in a new place—most cats for instance—this is the ideal situation.

Finding a sitter

There are an abundance of pet sitters out there, but finding the one right for your needs can be difficult. Before you go looking, decide what the most important things are. Do you need someone who can give medication to your pet? If that’s the case, you might want to consider a kennel run out of a veterinary office, or a pet sitter who is a veterinary technician. Do you hate the idea of having your dog in a cage? Then you’ll need to either find someone to come to your house, or book into a cage free boarding centre. Once you know what you want, start looking for names and phone numbers – or e-mail addresses—of petsitters in your area. Consider asking your veterinarian to recommend someone, or ask friends who have pets. You can also check out the Yellow Pages, classifieds in the paper and online, but remember that not everyone who claims to be a petsitter is actually someone you want to deal with.

You love your pet, so you'll want to find a sitter who can love him as much as you do.
You love your pet, so you'll want to find a sitter who can love him as much as you do. | Source

Making the Call

How the petsitter answers the phone can tell you a lot about them, so the next step, after finding a list of people who might meet your needs, is to phone or e-mail to ask for more information. Again using your list of important features, ask the sitter how long they’ve been in operation, what their procedures are for taking care of pets, what happens if there’s an emergency, how much they charge, if they require a deposit, and if you can come for a visit.

When you visit the sitter, make sure you get to see where the pets stay. This is also the time to see how the sitter interacts with other animals that are there. Try to visualize how you’d feel having this person take care of your animal. You might want to ask for references, if you haven’t already done so.


You might decide during the visit that this is the place for your pet, or you may want to visit other places and decide later; regardless, sooner or later, you’ll have made your decision and be ready to book a space. Be aware that some petsitters take last minute bookings, others don’t. Some charge extra fees to accommodate pets on short notice. Book early if you want to be guaranteed a space with the sitter, especially if you need the service during a peak season, such as over Christmas.

Final Notes

As you search for a sitter, remember that your pet is your responsibility, even when you’re away. By doing your research, you can confidently leave your pet. You will probably miss him, but you’ll know he’s being well taken care of.


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