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Pet Sitter or Boarding? Here’s What to Consider

A photo of a cocker spaniel looking up sadly.
Published on: December 7, 2017

When you have to leave your pet behind

In a perfect world, we would take our pets everywhere. Especially when we go on vacation! However, sometimes it’s just not possible. So who do you trust with your four-legged family member when they have to be left behind? Should you hire a pet sitter or find a good place to board? It depends on your pet and their specific needs. Here is some information on both options to consider before a trip.

Pet Sitter

A photo of a cat being pet. A pet sitter can provide one-on-one attention to your pet.Pet sitters are a great option for dogs that get anxious or don’t do well with other animals. They can also offer a range of availability for you to choose from. Some sitters stop by your house a couple of times a day to feed your pets and clean the litter box. Others can stay at your house the whole time you’re gone to give your pets constant one-on-one attention. Check out these tips to pick the pet sitter that’s right for you.

Ask around

You can look for reviews online, but the best opinions will come from friends, family or co-workers. These people will let you know about their own experiences and may already have a perfect sitter in mind. You can also ask around your local Wag N’ Wash. Many of our stores have community boards where you can find business cards for nearby sitters. If nobody has a recommendation, try the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters site.

Check their qualifications

A photo of a Lhasa Apso lying on it's back.

When you interview a potential pet sitter, ask about their previous experiences. If they’ve only dealt with small dogs, can they handle a 150 lb mastiff? Can they watch multiple pets at once? Whatever your needs, be very clear up front. This is particularly true for pets that have special needs, medical issues or behavioral problems. Ask about any additional training your pet sitter may have, like pet first aid and CPR. You only want to leave your pet if the sitter is completely confident in their ability to care for them.

Remember, this is a business

While it might be tempting to hire the inexpensive pet sitter you found on Craigslist, ask yourself what you’re really getting. A professional pet sitter should be able to provide written proof of commercial liability insurance and should be bonded. This is important in case an accident happens while you’re away. If you choose a sitter without insurance and something happens to your pet or your home, you could be on the hook for all of the costs. Better safe than sorry. Talk beforehand about expectations and costs as well. Get as many details as you can in writing. You don’t want to return home just to find out the pet sitter cost much more than expected.

A pet sitter can be a great option for pets that need very specific care. Just remember to start the process of finding a sitter well before your trip. You don’t want to be left scrambling at the last second and ending up with a sitter that can’t be trusted with your family member.

Pet Boarding

A photo of a dog happily chasing a ball.A different approach is to take your dog to a boarding kennel. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of someone having access to your house while you’re gone, then boarding is something to consider. This is great for pets that like to play and and be around other animals. Kennels usually have big play areas where your dog or cat can experience their own fun vacation. Check out these tips to find the right place to board your pet.

Again, ask around

Same as with finding a pet sitter, start by asking people you trust. Do a little research about kennels in your area and try to find people who have used them before. If nobody you know has used a kennel, try asking around the dog park or your local pet store. You can also check out sites like and to help get you started.

Check them out in person

A picture of a cat in a little wigwam.A place might have great photos online, but you find out it’s a dump in person. You don’t want to make this discovery after you’ve paid a deposit, or worse, when you’re dropping your dog off. Arrange to visit the boarding location well before you’re trip. Some places even offer specials for first-time clients that allow you to leave your pet for a few hours and see how they like it. Make sure to tour everywhere your pet might be. Are the kennels they sleep in cozy? Is the outside play area monitored and secure? Don’t be afraid to ask questions that ensure your pet’s safety and comfort.

Be clear with what you want

A lot of kennels offer a variety of packages and add-ons for additional costs. Before you ask them to do something extra for your dog, make sure it’s included in the price you’re paying. Ask them about their veterinary policies. If something happens to your pet while you’re away, which vet will provide treatment? How much is the kennel authorized to spend for care on your behalf? If your pet has special needs or requires medication, can the kennel staff guarantee it will be taken care of? Make sure you go over all of this before you agree to leave your cat or dog there.

Whether you choose a pet sitter or to board, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to find the right one. Your companion animal is a part of the family, and being separated will be hard enough on them. At the very least, the place they stay should be comforting. If you just can’t bear to leave your pet behind, check out our blog about how to travel with a pet!