Finding a holiday home for your pet

If you have small pets, you need to consider who will look after them while you are away. While there are many catteries and boarding kennels, holiday homes for guinea pigs, rabbits and rats etc are less widely promoted.

Here we suggest how to ensure your pet has a good holiday while you are away on yours!

If you are going away for longer than one night, no matter how much food or water you put in your animal’s cage, it is too long to leave them unchecked.
Finding small pet boarding in your area should not be too difficult – check the advertisement board at your vets; local pet shops; the Yellow Pages and, ask friends and neighbours.

Once you have a shortlist, you can then check out the premises yourself and make a reasoned decision based on:

  • Facilities – where will your pet be housed? If your guinea pigs live indoors for example, you will need to find an establishment that will keep your piggies indoors too
  • Visit it first to see the condition of existing animals – are they all well cared for and healthy looking? Are their food bowls and water bottles clean?
  • Always go on your first impressions – everything, including the grounds as well as the small animal boarding, should look clean and tidy
  • Check out what sort of bedding will be used – if it is not the same as what your pet is used to, either provide your own bedding or request that your pet’s cage/hutch is lined with the same product that you use
  • There should be no smell and little noise and the staff should make you feel welcome
  • Find out how knowledgeable the staff are on small animal healthcare – do you trust them to look after your pet? Ask them what vet they would use should there be a medical emergency
  • Will your pet get a chance to run around?

If possible, see how other resident small pets are handled. For instance, if the properietor will not handle your pet rat for two weeks if he or she is scared of it, then it is not the right place to board your rat!!

Things to remember when booking your small pet boarding:

  • Book as early as you can – particularly during peak periods – because a good establishment will quickly be filled. If you don’t have firm dates, you can still pencil in a booking. You can finalise the dates as soon as you have flight details
  • A good proprietor will ask for lots of information about your pet – its name, age, sex and breed; any special markings; etc. If your pet is on medication or has special dietary requirements, make sure you advise them at the time of booking, as there may be an additional charge.
  • They will also need to know your pet’s medical history, and the name and number of your regular vet as it may be necessary for them to contact your own practitioner in an emergency.
  • You will need to leave a contact name and telephone number of a friend or relative who will be able to make decisions in your absence
  • If your pet is elderly or ailing, it is wise to discuss what you would like the proprietor to do in the unhappy event of your pet dying while you are away
  • For rabbits, make sure all his/her vaccinations are up-to-date. A good establishment will not accept a rabbit where the owner cannot supply proof of vaccination.

What to pack for your pet

  • Vaccination record (if applicable)
  • A favourite toy or toys (or gnaw stick!)
  • Medication, where necessary, and any special formulation food
  • Bedding if necessary

On Arrival

Double check all the information the establishment has on your pet – eg medication, vets details etc – and reaffirm the date of your return and estimated time of collection.

You may be asked to leave a (refundable) cash deposit. This is common practice for small animal boarding as, sadly, many owners do not collect their pets once they come back from their holiday.

Should your return be delayed, do inform the establishment as soon as possible.