Traveling and Leaving Your Pets Behind

Travel and Pets

One of the most important and difficult decisions pet owners face when planning any type of travel is what to do with their beloved companions. Factor in the extended travel element and it becomes even more difficult. Animal lovers with extended travel agendas have an important decision to make: whether to take their beloved companions along, or leave them behind at home. Since the latter is the most realistic option, it’s worth noting as well that it is also the hardest.

As tempting as it may seem to want to take your pet with you on a trip around the world, you have to realize that most animals are very territorial and just aren’t suited for this kind of lifestyle. Sometimes even a short trip to the vet can become a stressful experience for them.

Putting their interests first is the decent thing to do. You have to go against your own instincts here and think of your companions’ needs first. You may think that your pet won’t be able to tolerate separation from you and that taking him would be the better option, however airplane travel and staying in strange places will definitely cause him a lot of stress and make him more anxious, so finding someone to take care of him and leaving him in his own home would be the better choice for sure.

Cats in particular for example do not enjoy or sometimes even tolerate change at all, so unless it’s absolutely necessary, taking them on trips is generally not a very good idea. If you are moving or going away for an extended period, try to leave your cat in somewhat familiar surroundings, maybe with your parents or family or even try to find a pet-sitter so that he will not have to experience the stress of traveling for hours or days in a crate and adjust to a new, temporary living arrangement.

Your veterinarian can be a big help in these matters, so in case you have any questions or doubts about what to do and what’s more appropriate for your little caretaker, it’s a good idea to talk to him and make sure he is up to date on all vaccinations and that the pet is in good health before you leave. A veterinary examination is also required for obtaining the legal documents required for travel, should you eventually decide to take him with you.

If your veterinarian thinks your pet is suited for travel, they may also prescribe a sedative and perhaps even recommend a trial run so you can observe the effects of the prescribed dosage, although I really advise against that, especially if your pet is a senior.

If you decide it’s best for your pet to accompany you, you’ll need to have all the items needed to keep your pet comfortable while he’s away from home, such as toys, blankets, brushes, etc… You’ll also need to familiarize yourself with any animal related restrictions or requirements of airlines, countries or hotels, etc. Also when traveling with your pet, you should keep a health certificate and medical records close at hand. If you’re traveling by plane, I strongly discourage having your pet travel in the cargo hold, where it’s cold, noisy and could potentially be terrifying for an animal that has no idea what’s going on or where he’s heading.

If, on the other hand, you decide your pet should not travel, which is the more reasonable choice, consider the following:

For extended travel: arrange for a responsible friend or relative to look after your companion at your house or theirs (personally I think your parents would be the best choice).

For short-term travel: keep your pet at a special boarding house (your vet should be able to help you with that) or hire a pet sitter. It’s always a good idea for your pets to have constant companionship as this gives them a sense of security while you are away.

If you’ve decided to go with a boarding house, it would be a good idea to ask around, get references and personally check out the boarding establishment. If you’re hiring a pet sitter, try to get to know them well, and see firsthand how they treat their own animals as well as your own. Make sure your pet has a collar with his name and your contact info on it, or better yet, try to find a collar with a GPS locator before you leave your dog or cat anywhere unfamiliar to them.

Keep in mind that your own family may be the best choice if your pet is timid, elderly, or afraid of strangers and needs the comfort of familiar surroundings while you’re gone.

If you arrange for someone to care for your pet while you’re away, give them your contact information, the name and telephone number of your veterinarian, and your pet’s medical or dietary needs. You should also make sure that your pet is comfortable with the caregiver you’ve chosen by having him come to your house for a visit a few times before you leave. If any of them require medication, make sure you detail how and when to give the meds and let him practice this before you leave and store plenty of food, litter and supplies.

Personally whenever I traveled I chose to keep my darling cat Hercules in the safety of the home he grew up in, with my family, where he remains today, resting in peace. After 18 years he sadly passed away recently, so from now on he will be traveling with me forever in my thoughts…

IN LOVING MEMORY

HERCULES

April 11, 1996 – June 3, 2014

Travel and Pets   

“Home is where the Hercs is”

4 Comments

  1. LOVE your blog! I’m the marketing manager for an animal clinic in New Jersey. I just created a video focusing on WHY we do what we do, instead of WHAT we do – so that we can reach the emotional side of the sometimes cold veterinary world. Would you mind checking it out and posting? Thanks!!!

  2. Nice post – could you write a follow up post about travelling with pets (dogs mainly) – and how to make the best of your trip with your pet. I would like to take a year or two to travel, but would take my dog with me, any advice? Thanks

    • Hey Sofia. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I would be honored to try and help you and your companion travel as safely and as comfortably as possible. Can you give me a little bit more info please? Like where will you be heading, and for how long? will you be visiting several destinations? and if so, how long are you planning on staying in each? What is the age and size of your dog?