What are some of the factors that owners should consider when they are trying to decide what kind of facilities to leave their pets in?

    • Number of pets boarded in facility and ratio of number of staff to number of pets boarded. This is one indicator of the level of attention your pet may receive;
    • Whether the facility staff takes the initiative to find out about your pet’s preferences (e.g. Food, toilet preferences (grass or pee tray for dogs, type of litter for cats)), pre-existing health conditions (e.g. Arthritic pets may have special exercise requirements, pets allergic to certain foods may have specific dietary requirements), vaccination and parasite prevention status;
    • Type of space that pet will be kept in (cage or room). E.g. A small cage is not appropriate for a big dog; Are cats and small pets kept in a separate space from dogs and each other?
    • For dogs, how many times a day will they be walked and fed? Depending on your dog’s nature, activity level and temperament with other dogs, daily playtime with other dogs may be ideal;
    • Whether there are staff on the facility at night to watch the pet;
    • How often the facility is disinfected. If a pet is found to have an infectious disease or external parasites during boarding, is there an isolation facility available for quarantine?
    • Are there transport facilities to bring your pet to the vet if needed? Is the pet sitter/boarder willing to bring the pet to your regular vet if you so choose to?
    • If our pet requires daily medication or treatments, do let your potential pet sitter/boarder know and ensure that they are confident in administering them.

* If a pet sitter/boarder fulfills all the above criteria well, they are more likely to be able to provide more attentive care to your pet, but these services may come at a premium to ensure that these services are provided consistently to the desired standards.

What are some of the characteristics they should look out for in a pet sitter?

    • Experience with the species of pet you have. E.g. Handling rabbits requires specific techniques to prevent injury to the spine;
    • Ability and patience of the pet sitter to bond with YOUR pet (every pet is different);
    • As above, the questions that the pet sitter asks you to understand your pet’s needs and lifestyle.
    • If the pet sitter comes to your home to clean up after and feed your pet daily, how often can he/she come by?

What are some precautions/measures that owners should take before sending their pet to a pet sitter/boarding facility?

    • Visit the facility and speak to the people who will be caring for your pet beforehand. Take note of the cleanliness of the facility, ventilation, security of the cages, rooms and general areas (e.g. Do rooms and main entrances have closed doors/gates or are there potential routes for pets to escape?). Bring your pet along to visit the facility before hand if allowed. This helps them to familiarise themselves with the environment so there is less stress when they are left there for boarding;
    • Ask the staff all the questions you need answered and build up good rapport with them. They will be your pet’s only guardian while you are away and it is important to have a good level of trust in them;
    • Speak to several other pet owners with first hand experience with the specific pet sitter/boarder for reviews;
    • Vaccinations (including for kennel cough) should be up to date, or vaccine antibody titre blood tests (e.g. VacciCheck) should have been done in the past year to ensure sufficient protective antibody levels against common infectious diseases. If your vet recommends that vaccinations need not be done yearly based on a risk assessment, communicate this to your pet sitter/boarder and allow them to verify this with your vet if needed. A pet sitter/boarder that goes through the trouble of verifying these information is more likely a responsible one who cares for the well-being of your pet;
    • Parasite prevention should be given monthly, including for ticks, fleas and heartworm, and maintained while at boarding. Ensure to give your pet sitter/boarder sufficient doses of preventatives needed during the stay. Recognise that it is inevitable that any pet in a high density pet area is at risk of getting some external parasites, but they shouldn’t get fully infested if the staff are vigilant at checking your pet regularly;
    • Inform your vet that your pet will be at a pet sitting and boarding facility, and that they may contact the vet in the event that medical attention may be needed. Discuss with your vet about payment options for the vet bills under these circumstances;
    • If your pet has any medical condition that has not been assessed by the vet, or if it has not been to the vet for the last 6 months or longer, a check up at the vet is recommended, about 3-4 weeks prior the start of boarding. This allows your vet can attend to and recheck and medical issues, and ensures that your pet sitter/boarder does not have to worry about and attend to any sudden medical conditions that could have been managed earlier. This also helps to reduce stress that your pet may face during boarding;
    • If your pet requires medications while at boarding, ensure that sufficient quantities are brought along for the pet sitter/boarder.

What kind of instructions should owners leave with the pet sitter before they go on vacation?

    • Pet’s preferences for resting area (pet bed vs floor), ambient resting temperature (air conditioned room?), dietary and exercise requirements, toilet preferences (grass or pee tray for dogs, type of litter material for cats)), any medications to be given and specific signs to look out for that indicate the need for veterinary attention (e.g. A dog with a sensitive gastrointestinal system may need medical attention even with isolated bouts of vomiting or diarrhea that the pet sitter/ boarder may not be as worried about in other pets);
    • Contact name and number of next-of-kin that can make decisions for you in the event that your pet has a potential emergency and you are not contactable;
    • Contact details for your vet (including for after hours emergencies), ideally one who has all or most of your pet’s medical history. If you do not have a regular vet, ask your boarding facility if they have a vet they work with and the range of services that the vet provides (e.g. For laboratory diagnostics, hospitalisation, emergency and after hours care).

When it comes to food, should owners provide the sitter/boarding facility with food for their pets to ensure that there are no unwanted side effects from a sudden diet change?

    • Owners should always bring the same food that their pets eat at home along for the stay during boarding. A small diet change, together with stress in a new environment, may be enough to make your pet sick. If your pet has very strict dietary requirements, be sure to communicate this to your pet sitter/boarder.

When the owner gets their pet back from the sitter/boarding facility, are there any precautions that they should take?

    • After receiving your pet back from boarding, check your pet thoroughly for any external parasites such as ticks and fleas. If present, it is important to remove these parasites from your pet’s body immediately to ensure that it does not start to live within your home, and your pet should be brought to your vet for an assessment as these parasites can not only cause skin irritation, but they can also spread life threatening blood-borne diseases. As always, ensure that your pet is behaving normally with normal appetite, defecation and urination habits. Any deviation off normal behaviour or signs such as vomiting, lethargy, diarrhoea, requires veterinary attention.