Alternatives to kennels: Traveling with pets or leaving them with someone else

Thursday, July 8, 2010; PW15

If you use a good kennel, you will be confident that your pet will be well cared for, that it will not be left alone for long periods, that serious health problems will be spotted and referred to a veterinarian and that you will not be imposing on anyone. But there are other options, each with pros and cons.

Taking your pet with you. You'll share the experience with your pet, spare the stress of separation and avoid the expense of a kennel. But there are potential risks: Your pet may be terrified, even injured, if handled roughly by airline baggage handlers, left for long periods in handling areas or even shipped to the wrong destination. Your pet may not travel well by car and might get mildly sick from changing water supplies. Hotels might not accept your pet. And what will you do with your pet if you want to go to a movie or a ballgame?

Sending your pet to another home. Leaving your pet with a friend or neighbor means you'll be sure who will be caring for it. But you can't always be sure about the level of care. And there's always a chance that your pet will slip away to look for you or will cause damage in reaction to being left behind.

In-home pet care. Having a friend, neighbor or pet-sitter care for your pet in your home leaves the pet in familiar surroundings with its usual food and familiar routines. A sitter can also provide other services such as watering plants and picking up mail. But your pet may be alone for long stretches and, whether a sitter is a professional or a neighborhood kid, you can't be sure of the skill, knowledge or concern brought to the job. If you use a commercial pet-sitting service, you give a stranger access to your home.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company