Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

It takes planning to leave pets behind for holidays

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Though grandma may welcome the kids with open arms as families travel for the holidays, bringing the family pet may elicit a different response.

So what do you do when your canine buddy or feline pal can't join in the holiday fun? Here are some options:

Boarding

Boarding is particularly popular among dog owners, but pet lovers say to book early as slots in kennels and veterinarians' offices fill up early.

"I will take Gus (a bull mastiff) to Doguroo," said Stuart Krauss, a resident of Atlanta's Buckhead neighbourhood. "He likes to play and enjoys the company of other dogs, so the social environment for him when he goes there is a lot of fun."

"We are a full-service dog care facility," said Doguroo co-owner Eileen Kelly.

Kelly's company, like many others, requires boarding candidates to visit in advance to determine their compatibility in a canine group environment. Quality facilities also require proof of vaccines.

Boarding needs of a dog are different from those of a cat.

"We board both dogs and cats," said Lauren Lough, a veterinarian assistant at Briarcliff Animal Hospital. "Cats, unlike dogs, don't generally like to get out and play with other cats.

"But we do have the option of a daily 'happy hour,' if the pet owner wishes, so their cats can have exercise and interaction with a human," she said.

"Like the cats, the dogs also have time to get out. They can play in a covered run and are let out to use the bathroom -- generally twice daily -- or when needed," she said.

Professional pet sitters

Pet sitters can be found through friends or on websites.

"I have a longtime pet sitter I've worked with for many years," said Norcross resident Laura Mason, the owner of an American tabby and a border collie.

"She'll come by once daily -- or twice for a slight additional charge, if I request -- to make sure my animals have proper food and water," Mason said. "She'll take the dog for a walk, clean the cat's litter box and spend quality time with them. It works well for me and my two pets because I know they're safe at home and they're happy not having to be in a completely different environment."

Friends

A good friend who gets along well with a pet may be the most economical option, and you and your pet know the person. Just make sure the friend is aware of where the food is kept, how much the pet eats and drinks daily, and whom to call in the event of an emergency.

Taking them with you

If you do take Fido and are travelling by plane, talk with the airline about charges and potential hazards during transport. Air flight can be potentially traumatizing, and many airlines require sedation for the pet.

If you're driving, it can be fun, or a nightmare, pet owners said. Cats generally don't enjoy car rides, unless socialized from youth. If you're travelling in a car with an older, inexperienced cat, keep the cat safe in a kennel. Don't forget to bring a small portable litter box.

Generally, dogs see road trips as a fun outing.

"I always make sure I bring along doggie treats, chew toys and a (bed)," Krauss said. "Sometimes soothing music can add to the experience. I've found it helps keep my dog calm. The important thing is to try and make them feel as much at home as possible, even though they're not." Another important consideration is if you're planning any overnight stays at a hotel.

-- Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 4, 2012 C5

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