Ron and I want to take advantage of Columbus Day in October with a long weekend away as a family. But, what to do with Sydney, our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and Blake, our Cairn Terrier? It's only for the weekend, and they'd really enjoy coming along, but with the surging popularity of pet hotels, we're also considering our options.
Based on my research (and that of our editorial team), here are my tips for deciding whether hiring a sitter through Care.com or trying a pet hotel is right for your family:
Consider the Cost
One-on-one time at home with a dog walker or sitter is always the best option for your pet, and when combined with house sitting, can even save you money. But, sometimes it's hard to find overnight care (or a pet-friendly people hotel) at the last minute, so a pet hotel ($40-60 per night) is a great Plan B to save you the mental cost of stress and anxiety.
Reservations for a "Pet Palace"
Pet hotels are upscale kennels with loads of creature comforts. Private rooms ($40-60 per night) come with tons of amenities: pet masseuses, room service and play time with treadmills and swimming pools. Wow! When the vacation's over, your best friend might have a better time than you did.
Be Inspector Gadget
Wherever you decide to board, it's important to inspect the facilities in a similar way you'd look for a child's daycare. Is it clean? Is it spacious with good light? Does it smell good? Are there certifications and background checks for the employees? And, maybe most importantly, how's the food?
Know Your Pets' Limits
Not every animal is happy being away from home, no matter how posh the surroundings. We talked to Lisa Katayama, publisher of TokyoMango and a regular writer for Wired magazine who "broke" the pet hotels trend, about checking her Miniature Pinscher, Ruby, into the Wag Hotel in San Francisco. They offered a live, in-room webcam and Lisa spent most of the night watching her puppy's every move. By 2:30 a.m., Ruby was howling inconsolably and Lisa rushed to bring her home. After that experience, Lisa had enough.
"Call me a crazy dog owner," Lisa said, "but I'd rather leave her with a trusted friend than put her in solitary confinement overnight."
Camps and hotels give added peace of mind by having experts attending to your furry family members. For example, we talked to PetSmart who launched their PetsHotel offering in 2005. Each hotel has vets on site and every employee has to pass an annual safety certification with a perfect score. With constant "guest supervision," it's nice to know there's always a pair of eyes watching to make sure no one gets their little, wet nose into trouble.
Take a Test Run
Only you can decide if your puppy or kitten will be happy in a new environment. If your pet is a either total homebody or a social butterfly, perhaps they'd be better off staying at home with the personal touch of a sitter. Try checking Care.com for one in your area. If you do want to try out a pet hotel, they often provide free screenings and, in some cases, actually require one. It's a good way for everyone to test the water before booking Fido for the night.
What about you? Do you take your dogs and cats with you on vacation or go the kennel route? Share your experiences with the Care.com community by posting a comment!