Pet-sitting vs. boarding: Which is right for your pet?

Young woman on couch with three dogs

Deciding who to entrust with your pet’s care while you’re away can be overwhelming, maybe even anxiety inducing. After all, our pets are family!

To help make this process as stress-free as possible, we’ve created a guide with factors to consider and questions to ask of your furry friend’s temporary caretaker or potential boarding facilities.

Choosing a pet sitter vs. boarding facility

Consider a pet sitter if: 

  • Your pet is not up to date on vaccinations  
  • Your time away is lengthy
  • Your pet suffers from separation anxiety or has trouble adapting to new spaces
  • Your pet is afraid of other animals or new people
  • Your pet has mobility issues
  • Your pet needs to be under constant supervision due to blindness, a recent surgery, health complications, behavioral issues, etc.
  • You have multiple pets (because boarding can be expensive!)

Consider a boarding facility if:

  • Your pet adapts quickly to new environments or already attends the facility for doggy daycare
  • Your pet is well-socialized and does not exhibit severe resource guarding (over food, toys, people, etc.)
  • Your pet is healthy and up to date on vaccinations
  • Your pet does well in a large kennel
  • You’ve got a short trip
  • You'd like your pet to socialize with other animals while you're away
  • Your pet does not suffer from separation anxiety

Find the right fit by asking plenty of questions

Once you’ve determined whether to book a pet sitter or facility, you’ll need to find the right match for your pet. Start by asking friends, family, and neighbors who they entrust with their pet while they’re traveling.

For more options, a simple internet search should provide plenty of nearby businesses, while services like Rover can help you find private pet sitters based on availability, proximity, and the type of care you’re looking for (in your home versus theirs, or drop-in visits).

Whether you choose an in-home sitter or a boarding facility, it's important you ask plenty of questions to ensure you and your pets don't experience any undue stress while you're away.

Questions to ask your potential pet sitter

  • Do you have animals of your own? 
  • For in-home sitters: Are you comfortable staying in my home? 
  • For sitters who provide overnight care in their own home: Do you have a fence? Are there other pets in your home?
  • Do you have references we can contact? 
  • Do you have any certifications? 
  • Are you able to accommodate my pet’s needs? (For this, you'll want to have a list of your pets needs and wants, including exercise routine, feeding schedule, medications, etc.)
  • How much do you charge? 
  • Will you provide regular updates? 
  • Can you meet my pet in advance?

Questions to ask a potential boarding facility

  • Do they have certification? 
  • In addition to seeking certification for boarding facilities, it’s good to get a feel for the environment your pet might be in, and to meet the boarding staff who will be responsible for their care. We strongly recommend that you request a tour of a boarding facility before scheduling your pet’s stay.
  • Are staff present 24/7? 
  • What's your pricing per day, including fees for enrichment? 
  • Are there specific pick-up and drop-off times? 
  • Is there a veterinarian on-site? 
  • How often do pets get one-on-one attention from staff?
  • Do they provide updates, and how? 

Make sure your emergency contact is in the know

Make sure your emergency contact is dependable, and they know they’ve been appointed as your emergency contact should anything happen to your pet while you’re away.

You’ll also want to ensure they have the information they need to make informed decisions about your pet should you be unreachable while away (like your primary veterinarian, knowledge about current health issues and medications, etc.).

Teagan, a white pit bull with brown spots, holds onto a chew toy while playing outside.

Minimize your pet's stress while you’re away

If your pet stays with a caretaker or at a boarding facility, ask if you can bring things that will remind them of home, like their bed, favorite toys, and calming treats. If a sitter cares for your pet in your home, ask them to maintain your pet’s typical routine as much as possible.

You know your pet best, so don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions while you research your options.

And remember, when the time comes to plan your much-needed vacation, start preparing for a boarding stay or sitter well in advance. Many services book up weeks, if not months ahead of time. 

In any scenario, it’s best to prepare for emergencies in advance. This includes leaving checklists, notifying neighbors of your departure, and ensuring your pet’s identification is up to date before you leave.

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