Taking your dog or cat on holiday: the dos and don’ts
Travelling is a great way to relax and unwind for us humans. But it can be stressful figuring out if our four-legged friends can join in on the fun. If you’re not sure whether to take your cat or dog with you or if you don’t know how to go about ensuring they have a pleasant Christmas holiday, this blog is for you! These dos and don’ts offer guidance for those taking their dog or cat along and those choosing a temporary home away from home.
One of the fundamental elements affecting a feline’s contentment is the sanctity of their territory. If we introduce a cat into a new territory, such as moving house or taking a holiday, they will not find the usual reassuring references and they might end up feeling confused or stressed. It will take several days for a cat to rebuild confidence and feel at home in a new environment. Cats will do this by depositing new visual and scent markers around the property.
If you are lucky enough to have a holiday home that your kitty has been to before, then you can safely take your cat on holiday with you, as the property will already be marked as its territory. It will be a similar situation if you rent a house: in this case, however, it will be helpful to leave the cat in just one room for the first day and put pheromone diffusers in the other rooms before it explores the rest of the house, as these will provide a sense of tranquility in your cat. You should also carry some familiar household objects with you, such as your cat’s feeding bowls, bedding and toys as these will make your feline feel even more at home.
The duration of the holiday is also an important consideration: if you are only going away for short period of time, such as a weekend, the upheaval of the journey and staying in a different territory for only a couple of days could be too stressful for your cat, but if your vacation is longer, the cat has time to settle in, feel “at home” in the new location, and will enjoy the holiday as much you do.
However, the best thing for our cat would be leave him or her at their own home, where they feel safe and surrounded by reassuring spatial references. If your holiday is short, ask friends or relatives (who are preferably known by the cat) to visit a couple of times a day to serve fresh food and water and empty the litter tray and, of course, make a fuss of your cat! If no one is available however, you could hire a professional cat sitter. Alternatively, you could consider taking your cat to a cattery; either asking your vet if he knows any suitable establishments or start visiting local catteries yourself, to see which will suit your feline the best.
Our advice is to exclude mixed facilities, housing both cats and dogs, or at the very least select one in which the areas for cats are distant from to those dedicated to dogs because the noise of the dogs could be stressful to your feline friend. Also, pens are preferable to individual boxes. Either way, your cat should have a dedicated room so it is not forced to share with other cats. Even the size of the box is important: avoid facilities where the cat is locked in a small cage.
Remember to check that your cat’s vaccinations and anti-flea treatments are up to date and to bring your cat’s health card, with the contact details of your pet’s regular vet, with you so that if there are any problems he/ she can be contacted easily.
Many cat-boarding facilities also allow you to bring your cat’s ‘personal belongings’ with them to make them feel more comfortable and at home in their holiday ‘home away from home’.
Taking a dog on holiday with you is a lot easier than taking a cat. Dog are easier to entertain and they are less housebound than cats. However, there are a few things you should consider when you take them on your travels.
Always make sure that your travel destination, as well as the accommodation are dog friendly. If you are going on a beach holiday, make sure dogs are allowed on the beach and if you’re going on a ski trip, make sure they are allowed in the chalets.
Take your dog’s favourite toys. Whether you decided to take them with you on holiday or not, the first thing you should do is pack their bag. It is advisable to take a number of items that give your dog a feeling of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’. Its bed, bowls, food, toys, etc. are indispensable for the animal to understand that the place they’re going to, will be their home for the duration.
Keep sight of their dietary needs. You should pay particular attention to your pet’s diet a few months before the holiday commences; a sudden change of food may cause bowel problems and make our friend feel poorly. All this planning in advance will make the trip more comfortable for your companion and also helps to maintain their everyday routine, making the dog feel more secure in their home away from home.
Take a mandatory visit to your veterinarian. Ensure that your pet’s vaccinations and anti-pest treatments are up to date. There are areas you might visit that carry a risk of serious diseases so comprehensive vaccination coverage will provide you with peace of mind and adequate protection for your dog.
Get a pet passport when travelling abroad with your pet.
Give your dog some time to get adjusted and familiarise themselves with the new surroundings, smells and nature. This gives them time to settle in and once you are confident that they are okay, leave them off the leash to explore for themselves.
Take a note of changes in temperature. Most people don’t realise there’s a significant chance of dogs suffering heat stroke due to the dramatic change of air temperature between the inside and outside of a car. But dogs can also suffer from hypothermia in cold temperatures. Always ensure both your dog and yourself can adjust to temperature changes gradually.
Figure out how much time you will spend with your dog. Will they be able to come with you everywhere you go or will they be confined to a hotel room? Consider whether the activities you are planning are enjoyable for your dog as well. Are you planning a ski holiday with your snow loving dog? Great, but make sure you’re prepared by bringing a warm coat for instance.
If you are not sure about the above, it might be better to choose a sitter or find a top-notch pension or a kennel.
Take your time choosing a facility. If you choose the kennel option for your pet, the best way to make sure it has a relaxing stay, is to take it to visit the chosen facility two or three times before the holiday. This so that they can familiarise themselves with the location and the people who will be taking care of them. At the same time, the kennel staff will have plenty of opportunity to get to know your pet, its habits, likes and dislikes.
Do not break your dog’s routine as this could be frustrating for your pet and cause issues with their stay. Maintaining their routine, even when being looked after by other people and not by us, allows the dog to react to the separation in a calm manner.
Address and preempt separation anxiety. Just like humans, pet can suffer from being separated from their loved ones. If this is the case, prepare your dog by organising half-day stays at a small selection of kennels, making sure to build it up to an overnight stay (the most critical time for your pet).
Let them choose. Price, stylish design or snazzy advertisements are not sensible parameters for choosing a dog boarding facility. Our animal seeks moments of fun, interaction, relaxation and freedom and they will likely just ‘know’ the right facility for them. For this reason, letting them ‘choose’ their kennels would be your best option; the moment we place them in the facility, their reaction (fear or serenity) will help us understand if we made the right decision.
After having made up your mind and having made a comprehensive bullet list, the rest of your holiday should be all about relaxing and having fun.