A dog sitting inside a pet carrier in the grass.

You’ve booked the flight. You’ve requested the time off. And now you’re daydreaming of mai tais while relaxing on the beach. But wait … there’s one more step before jetting off on some kinds of trips: determining who will take care of your furry friend while you’re away. If you don’t have a trusted friend or family member to temporarily step into your role as leader of the pack, consider a boarding service.

Boarding your pet during your vacation could be a plus for your cat or dog, especially if they suffer from separation anxiety, need to be socialized with fellow animals or don’t travel well. Think of it like dropping a kiddo off at summer camp — boarding can be an exciting retreat for your pet.

Some facilities are free-range, offering wide open spaces for the fur babies to roam around. Some specialize in only cats or only dogs. Some even offer single-room accommodations with introverted pets in mind. It’s all about choosing the right boarding setup for your pet.


Evaluate Your Pet’s Needs

The first step in choosing a boarding option for your pet is to evaluate your pet’s needs. The following questionnaire is a good starting point.

  1. Does your pet do well with other animals?
    1. Yes
    2. No, but it’s just because they need to socialize more with fellow animals.
    3. No, absolutely not. They do not mix or mingle well.
  2. Is your pet up to date on their immunizations?
    1. Yes
    2. No
  3. Has your animal ever been boarded overnight before?
    1. Yes
    2. No
  4. In addition to boarding your pet, are you looking for behavioral training services? (Yes, some boarding facilities also provide training while you’re out.)
    1. Yes
    2. No
  5. Does your pet require special care (i.e., medicines, specialized diet, exercise, etc.)?
    1. Yes
    2. No

Diving into question number 3 for a moment: If your furry companion has never been boarded, it could be beneficial for them to spend the night there at least once before your big trip. This will help your pet get a taste of what boarding entails and it gives you a sample of the care they’ll receive while you’re out of town.

Making a List, Checking It Twice

Now that you better understand what you’re looking for in a boarding facility, let’s move onto finding great options in your area. In addition to good ol’ Google, your local veterinarian or pet groomer could be great resources to turn to for recommendations. Be sure to express what you’re looking for in your conversations with trusted sources or in the Google search bar. And lastly, take time to read the reviews.

Boarding Pointers to Consider

After you’ve compiled a list of boarding facilities, grab a pen and paper to jot down notes, then give each one a call. You’ll want to discuss:

An interior graphic listing six things that you should ask a potential pet boarder.

Tour the Boarding Facility

When touring a facility, pay attention to the cleanliness of the cages and the friendliness of the staff to give you an understanding of how their operation runs.

Possible red flags include:

  • Sick animals mingling among others
  • Animals in cages not big enough for them to move around
  • Cats and dogs placed in the same area (co-pet boarding should include separate rooms for cats and dogs to avoid unnecessary anxiety for the animal).
  • Poor ventilation in the boarding unit
  • No on-call veterinarian
  • No immunization requirements

Boarding facilities who work with an on-call veterinarian add an extra layer of comfort — in case an emergency arises while you’re away, you can rest assured knowing Fido or Mittens will receive the care they need right away.

You’ll want to choose a boarding facility that takes immunizations seriously. You do not want your fur baby to be mingling with potentially sick or unvaccinated animals for obvious reasons. Many facilities require immunizations for bordetella, feline viral rhinotracheitis, calci and panleukopenia (FVRCP), rabies, distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus and/or parainfluenza.

Compile the information you gather via phone and during the tour to assist you in making the decision that fits your pet. Employees at boarding facilities want you to feel comfortable in your decision just as much as we do. Ask questions along the way and trust your gut. You know what your pet needs best.

All Aboard

You’ve got your questions answered and your list has been narrowed down. How are you feeling? Ready to book the perfect boarding facility for your pet?

When it comes time to take your pet to the boarding facility, be sure to pack their favorite toys, food, treats and medicine if necessary. You’ve taken the right steps in making sure your pet is at the right place while you catch up on some needed R&R. Fido is already giving this plan two paws up!


RELATED POST: Don’t Leave Me: Separation Anxiety in Pets


The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.