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How to safely leave your pet at home during the holidays

Tap into your network of friends or hire someone to keep your dog or cat safe while you're away.

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Every pet parent has to consider whether to take their furry friend along, call on a friend for help or invest a bit of money in a pet kennel during vacation. Knowing how each option works and the costs involved can help you make the best decision for you and your dog or cat.

What should I do with my pet while I’m on vacation?

If you leave your pet at home, you’ll need to find a trusted person to care for your much-loved dog or cat while you’re away. You could recruit a few different people for the task.

1. Ask a neighbor, friend or family member to check on them.

If you want to save money, ask someone that you know and trust closely to look after your pet and fill up their food and water. However, realize that caring for your pet is no small ask, and don’t get offended if that person declines.

If you don’t want to ask a friend, see if any pet owner groups meet up in your area where you can meet likeminded pet owners. Some groups will arrange pet-sitting if you agree to watch other people’s pets in exchange.

2. Find a house sitter.

If you know someone who wouldn’t mind a small retreat of their own, you could ask a friend, neighbor or college student you know to house-sit for you. You can have them take care of the pet and other small tasks like watering the plants and bringing in the mail. In exchange, you might offer some cash or free meals while they’re helping you.

3. Hire a pet sitter.

You can always hire a professional pet sitter, but you’ll have to fork out some cash. You can thumb through a number of websites with pet-sitters listed. If possible, make sure the sitters have background checks and high customer ratings, and meet the sitter ahead of time to see how your pet reacts to them.

4. Leave your pet at a kennel.

Boarding kennels typically cost anywhere from $20 to $50 per night or even more for luxury stays at pet hotels. Not all kennels are the same, so you should personally tour the space where your pet will stay. You want to find a kennel that’s clean, odor-free and includes ample roaming space. Also, you’ll need your pet’s up-to-date vaccinations and treatment records before dropping them off, including a recent kennel cough vaccination.

Does pet insurance cover vet care while I’m on vacation?

Yes, your pet insurance policy can still pay out whether you or a friend or family member takes your furry friend to the vet. If someone else is taking your pet, simply ask them to get a copy of the vet bill or have the vet email it to you. That way you can send the bill to your insurance company as proof for your vet expenses.

This works because most policies won’t pay the vet directly, requiring you to submit receipts and get reimbursed after the visit.

Should I buy pet insurance before my vacation?

You can buy pet insurance if you’re planning to use it after your vacation ends or if you’re a regular traveler. Pet insurance may not benefit you as much if you want it just during your vacation, though doing so can offer extra peace of mind.

Most pet policies have waiting periods, typically a few days for accidents and a few weeks for illnesses. For certain ongoing conditions like hip dysplasia, you may have to wait several months before using the coverage, and conditions that your pet already has are excluded.

What are my options if my pet needs emergency care?

Your actions may depend on how serious your pet’s condition is, but you have two main choices:

  • Communicate with your vet long-distance. If you feel comfortable, you can have your pet sitter take your furry companion to the vet. Your vet may need you on standby to approve a treatment or medication.
  • Cancel and come home. You can cancel your travel plans and turn your trip around to care for your sick pet. You may not get refunded for all the costs of your trip.
  • Use trip interruption benefits. Some pet insurers like 24PetWatch include trip interruption or cancellation benefits, paying for nonrefundable costs if your pet needs emergency care. Make sure you understand the types of conditions that qualify before relying on this coverage, though.

How to plan for leaving your pet behind

After you find someone to look after your dog or cat, make sure that person is equipped with everything they need for your pet’s care. Provide the caretaker with:

  • Your pet’s daily schedule for feeding and exercise
  • Your and your vet’s phone numbers
  • Vaccination records
  • Any medications and instructions to administer them
  • Plenty of pet food, treats and food and water bowls
  • Your pet’s leash and waste bags
  • Litter box and litter for cats
  • Pet bed
  • Toys and bones
  • Pet crate or carrier

A boarding kennel may have some of these items, such as a bed, so contact the kennel ahead about what to bring.

Should I leave my pet at someone else’s home?

If you leave your pet at someone’s home, take a few steps to ensure a seamless experience for everyone:

  • Make sure the home has enough indoor and outdoor space for your pet.
  • If the other person has pets, introduce the pets on a leash or through a gate to make sure they get along.
  • Consider taking your pet to the other person’s house a few times before your trip to help your pet get acclimated to the new person and home.

Compare pet insurance policies

Name Product Pets covered Seniors accepted Hereditary conditions Chronic illness
Petplan
Dogs, Cats
Cover unexpected vet bills from emergency exams, injuries, surgery and more.
Embrace
Dogs, Cats
Enjoy extra benefits with coverage for exam fees, curable conditions and wellness visit reimbursement.
Pet Assure
Dogs, Cats, Horses
Save up to 25% on all vet bills including wellness and dental visits for as little as $10/month.
PetFirst
Dogs, Cats
Get coverage starting at $9 per month for cats and $15 for dogs. Talk to an agent at 888-738-0683.
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Bottom line

If you know friends or neighbors willing to help you for free or for a small payment, you can save money on your pet’s care without taking them along on vacation. Otherwise, you can find a variety of pet kennels or sitters for hire to give your dog or cat some tender-loving care while you’re away. Either way, a pet insurance policy could help you pay for unexpected medical bills while you’re gone and when you return.

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