Are you heading out of town and the pooch isn’t invited? Not a problem. Have an impromptu camping trip and the cat can’t come? No worries. From kitty condos to doggy dude ranches, pet lovers across the United States have built comfortable and secure places for our animal friends to crash while we’re away. Here are four tips to find the best boarding facilities near your hometown.
Nothing can beat a referral from a good friend or neighbor who has actually used the place before. Ask for advice from owners of similar pets—Mr. Johnson’s experience boarding his ball python will be extremely different than your attempt to locate lodging for Tito, your Toy Poodle.
If you do have a ball python, or another uncommon pet, word of mouth is a fantastic way to find a competent caregiver. Most traditional boarding facilities cater toward cats, dogs and the occasional bunny or bird. But there are options for reptiles and other pets. If you don’t know anyone with a similar animal friend, find a society or organization related to your type of pet or check with your vet.
Ask your vet
Your veterinarian specializes in the care of your furry—or not so furry—friend, and they may even offer boarding themselves. I called my cat’s vet for more detail. To board my 13-year-old, half-Siamese cat, I’d have my choice of four types of kitty condos (ranging from a single to a deluxe double combo) that cost between $26 and $55 a day. There are also add-ons such as bonus playtime and securing a condo with an aquarium view, which are great for helping my feline friend feel at ease and assuaging a bit of my guilt for leaving him behind. As a side note: many boarding facilities, especially vet-based operations, offer free upgrades during non-holiday seasons, space permitting.
Good ol’ Google
This option can be a bit dangerous for the worldwide web-o-phobic, but it can be really useful with the right key words. If you have no idea what to look for, try typing “best cat boarding in [your region]“ or “favorite dog camp in [your city].” Once you start to identify the characteristics of your ideal boarding facility you can refine your search—“55-acre, expansive doggy dude ranch with organic meals and down bedding for less than a latte.” Read reviews, pick up the phone and visit the short list in person.
Check out DogVacay.com
If you have a pooch, this site is for you. Dog lovers become Dog Vacay hosts by turning their home into a vacation retreat for other people’s dogs. Each host decides what types of dogs they are willing to take and sets their own prices and availability. You can search the site like any hotel search engine and find the hosts that most closely fit your parameters. Payment is made through DogVacay.com, which takes a 15% cut in the transaction, and there is a 100% money-back satisfaction guarantee.
Dog Vacay also promises text or email photo updates of your pooch, up to $25,000 in insurance coverage for Fido’s medical emergencies, a last-minute cancellation policy, and emergency vet care if needed. Since the site is still new, there are more hosts in some locations than others. Rates start at $15 per night, but most hosts seem to charge closer to $30.
“Homes are better than cages,” said Aaron Hirschhorn, Founder/CEO of DogVacay. “There are 46 million households with a dog in this country, and 75 percent of them vacation without their pups. We want all of them to experience the comforts of home while their families are away.”
Once you’ve narrowed down your list, head out and view the facilities in person. When you visit a boarding facility, the Humane Society of America suggests you pay particular attention to the following:
- Does the facility look and smell clean?
- Is there sufficient ventilation and light?
- Is a comfortable temperature maintained?
- Does the staff seem knowledgeable and caring?
- Are pets required to be current on their vaccinations, including the vaccine for canine kennel cough (Bordetella)? (Such a requirement helps protect your animal and others.)
- Does each dog have his own adequately sized indoor-outdoor run or an indoor run and a schedule for exercise?
- Are outdoor runs and exercise areas protected from wind, rain, and snow?
- Are resting boards and bedding provided to allow dogs to rest off the concrete floor?
- Are cats housed away from dogs?
- Is there enough space for cats to move around comfortably?
- Is there enough space between the litter box and food bowls?
- How often are pets fed?
- Can the owner bring a pet’s special food?
- What veterinary services are available?
- Are other services available such as grooming, training, bathing?
- How are rates calculated?
Ultimately, no one knows your pet better than you. So ask around, do some research, let your furry friend visit your favorite options and go with your gut. Wherever your adventures take you, remember our tips and rest assured that Wilbur and Wyatt (your pot-bellied pigs) will be happy campers while you’re gone.