Source: Dr. Susan Nelson, 785-532-5690, firstname.lastname@example.org
K-STATE VETERINARIAN SAYS WHEN FINDING ALTERNATIVE HOUSING FOR YOUR PET DURING THE HOLIDAYS, THERE ARE SEVERAL WAYS TO REDUCE YOUR PET'S STRESS
The holiday season can be a stressful time of year – even for your pet.
When you leave home for the holidays, it's important to choose the best housing option to ensure your pet's well-being, a Kansas State University veterinarian said.
"It can be very stressful for some pets to be away from their owners," said Dr. Susan Nelson, assistant professor of clinical sciences at K-State. "This stress also may be intensified if the time away is spent in unfamiliar surroundings, so try to prepare in advance in order to make your pet's holiday time as stress-free as possible."
Nelson said the primary options for pet care are a kennel or a pet sitter. Kennels are a good option for sociable animals that don't stress about leaving the house, and pet sitters are a good option for animals that are more at ease at home, especially cats. She said it's important to consider your pet's behavior before hiring a sitter.
"It's best to know whether your pet will be OK staying at home by itself and if it would let a stranger into the home while it's alone," Nelson said.
Some territorial and aggressive dogs don't respond well to a stranger in the home and won't allow someone unfamiliar to enter. Additionally, Nelson said dogs with extreme separation anxiety are best not left at home alone but instead taken to a kennel if there are no other options.
"These are the dogs that when left alone bark all day or have accidents in the house," she said. "They may exhibit destructive behavior and even injure themselves. Some pet sitters will watch your pet in their home, so this may be a more suitable option for certain pets."
To help pets adjust to temporary holiday housing, owners should help prepare their pet beforehand. If hiring a pet sitter, owners should schedule a greeting time when the sitter can meet and play with the pet.
"When the sitter comes to meet your pet, don't be in the house so that you'll find out how your pet will react to a
stranger without you there," Nelson said.
If your pet isn't used to you being gone, you should leave the pet alone at home for short periods of time to prepare for a longer absence. Nelson said owners shouldn't emphasize leaving and greeting their pet when they return, because this can reinforce its anxiety.
For pets going to the kennel, Nelson said owners can help their pet adjust to living in a smaller space by purchasing a crate for the home.
"You can get your pet used to the crate by having it stay in the crate a couple minutes at a time at the beginning and then slowly increasing that time," she said. "It's also helpful to feed pets when they're in the crate so they get used to confinement during a low-stress time."
To help ease your pet's anxiety at the kennel, you can arrange play dates so your pet becomes used to being around other animals, Nelson said. Owners also can bring the animal's favorite toy or something that smells like home, such as a T-shirt, to the kennel.
When choosing a pet sitter, Nelson suggests finding a family member, a friend or a professional. If hiring a professional pet sitter, pet owners should ask about the sitter's training and experience, check for proof of insurance and ask for references. She also suggests that owners have professional sitters provide a written contract of their fees and services and ask what extra services they offer, like playing with the pet. If your pet has special needs or takes medication, make sure your pet sitter will be comfortable performing those tasks.
For kennels, Nelson said it's important to reserve a spot early in the holiday season. When choosing a kennel, owners can visit the facility and see how it looks and smells. They also can see what kind of safety and security the kennel has, such as video surveillance, fire alarms and sprinkler systems. She said owners should ask how often the animals will be let out of their cages and if extra services are offered, like more playtime. Nelson said it's required by most kennels that your pet be updated on its vaccines and that you provide proof. Make sure you find out ahead of time which vaccines are required.
Whether you're leaving your pet in the care of a sitter or a kennel, Nelson said owners should provide detailed instructions for the pet's food and medications. They also should give the name of their pet's veterinarian and what to do if the pet becomes ill. Nelson recommends owners write and sign a document that allows the caretaker to bring their pet in for care. She also said the owner should talk about how finances will be handled because most veterinarians will require payment at the time of service.
"With any animal, especially if it's old or sick, the owner ought to talk about what to do in a worst-case scenario, such as if something catastrophic happens to the pet or if it dies," she said. "Owners need to discuss these things we typically don't like to think about but for which we should prepare."