What to do with your pets when you go on holiday

By Kedibone Modise Time of article published Dec 2, 2020

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It’s the holiday season and families are headed to the beach, safari or the countryside and as a pet owner, you may be wondering what to do with your furry friend.

There are few options to consider, including taking your pets on holiday with you, getting a pet sitter or putting them into a kennel, cattery or pet hotel.

Take note, however, that, all pets, including dogs, cats, parrots, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs and fish need proper planning, well ahead of your holiday.

While some families may consider taking their pet with them on the family vacation, many institutions including the National SPCAs do not recommend the idea of travelling with pets.

“The dreadful practise of transporting pets tied or otherwise – is unacceptable for obvious reasons. There are documented cases of accidents on the road and pets escaping or being left inside the vehicle for prolonged periods and suffering terribly,” reads the NSPCA statement.

Travel with the pet

Should you take your pet with, please consider the following:

First things first, check with your vet that your pet is healthy and safe to travel.

Ensure vaccinations, flea and worm treatments are up-to-date. Vaccinations prevent diseases that can be passed between animals and also from animals to people. Diseases prevalent in wildlife, such as rabies and distemper, can infect unvaccinated pets.

Ask your vet about pet tranquillisers. Travelling can be stressful for animals, consult your vet for advice as tranquillisers may be harmful to some animals.

Make sure you have enough room for your pet to lie in case they need to rest during the trip?

If you have a crate for your pet, ensure that it is large enough for your pet to stand and to change position comfortably. Ensure that the crate can be securely locked.

Do not put your pet in the boot of the car - they will suffocate and die.

Never let your pet roam around the car unrestrained.

Ensure that you have enough water for your pet to drink during the journey.

Bring along their favourite toys, and familiar smelling items like a blanket and treats.

Ensure that the leash is readily available so that you can ensure that your dog does not run free when you and your pet (dog or cat) stop for restroom breaks.

Never leave your pet alone in the car, not even for a brief period.

Enquire with your vacation destination, about their pet policy ahead of time - there are many pet-friendly accommodations across the country.

Be sure to search for one of them if you are hoping to take your pet on holiday. Contact them for more information to ensure your pet will be safe and well catered for.

Ask a friend or family member to pet sit

If you can’t travel with your pet, the next best option is to ask a friend or family member to pet sit.

Pets, especially dogs and cats, would be more comfortable if you leave them with a familiar person in a familiar environment.

Entrusting your pet with someone who you know cares about them as much as you do, will give you peace of mind while you’re on vacation. Also, ensure that the sitter continues with their usual routines such as walking your pet.

Hire a professional pet sitter

If you have no family member or friend to pet-sit while you’re on vacation, you may consider hiring a certified pet sitter.

This option would cost you more, but pet sitters are people who love pets so much that they made it their profession so you can be sure they would give your pet the care and attention they need.

Professional pet sitters cost anything between R150 to R450 per day, depending on the area and the type of pet you have. You can check out petbacker.com, their services are available across South Africa.

All you need to do is choose the area and various reputable and certified pet sitters will be listed. Then you can choose which is best suited for you and your pet.

Below is the checklist for pet sitting options, courtesy of the NSPCA.

  • Have you left enough food for the duration of your holiday, plus extra?
  • If the pet sitter is a professional service, how long has it been in business?
  • Have you checked on the house sitting service – is it known to your vet and is he or she willing to recommend it?
  • Have you checked on their references from previous clients?
  • What animal knowledge does the house I pet sitter have?
  • Have you made arrangements with the vet in case your animal becomes sick?
  • Does your pet have a collar and tag identification and I or a microchip?
  • Have you given clear written as well as verbal instructions for the care of your pet?
  • Does the house I pet sitter know what to do if your pet goes missing while you’re away – i.e. contact numbers for the SPCA and vets serving the area?

Taking your pet to a boarding kennel, cattery or a pet hotel

For most pet owners, kennels are a great option to ensure that their pets are cared for while they are away.

However, if you’re taking your pet to a kennel or cattery the first time, be sure to keep the following in mind.

Is your pet’s Immunisation up to date? Reputable boarding kennels require proof of your pet’s vaccination certificates.

This should be dated at least 2 weeks before your pets are admitted to boarding facilities.

Visit the kennel, cattery or pet hotel first before booking your pet.

Do not rely solely on information from the internet. Visit the place to ensure your pet’s needs and expectations will be met. Pay them an unexpected visit to observe how animals are treated.

Ensure that the food being served by the boarding kennel, cattery or hotel meets your pet’s dietary requirements.

Ensure your pet will get regular exercises.

Check that the kennel or cattery appear to be well maintained and well looked after.

Check that the place is not overcrowded.

Ensure that the kennel or cattery has a vet visit on a daily basis.

Are the staff trained to recognise animals that may not be well?

A well-run, reputable boarding kennel is normally a safe way to house your animals while you’re away.

Bring your pet’s food, blankets and toys. Most kennels will provide food, but if your pet has special dietary requirements, ensure that you buy enough food for their entire stay.

Leaving your pets with their blanket or favourite toys will help if they are prone to anxiety.

To find a reputable kennel or cattery in your area, ask family, friends or neighbours for recommendations.

Most families use the same kennel for years or search in Google, but do your own homework. Ensure that you visit the place prior to making any bookings.

There are pet hotels, you can search for the one nearest to you, for your pet’s comfort and luxury stay that include pampering and grooming. These hotels come at a price but after all luxury is costly.


Fireworks are animals’ worst nightmare. If you are going to leave your pets at home in the care of a house-sitter or professional pet sitter please make arrangements for New Year’s Eve, for your animals to be kept inside the house and have someone stay with them and ensure that they are safe and calm during this time.

Bear in mind that fireworks are 5 times louder to dogs and cats than humans.

Whether you will be leaving your pet at home, kennel or cattery, or tagging it along on your family vacation, just make sure your pet’s health and well-being are your priority.

Read the latest edition of IOL Pets here.

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