Traveling with Pets: How to Pack For Your Pet
PetSmart Catherine Mabe
You can’t take your pet along every time you leave town and there’s not much you can do to lessen how much you'll miss your four-legged family members when you’re away. But making sure your pet and her caretaker have everything they need for a pleasurable and safe time together can help lessen how much you worry while you’re gone. Here are some suggestions on what to include in your pet's overnight bag:
Choose the right overnight bag. Chances are you have a bag you can use on hand, but make sure it’s something you don’t mind getting dirty and can dedicate strictly to pet use. Choose a roomy bag - one that’s washable is ideal. If you can find one with multiple pockets that make organizing a cinch, that’s even better.
Don’t forget food. Pack up enough of your pet’s regular food plus some extra. Be sure you pack the same food your pet has already been eating - this isn’t the time to be switching or transitioning foods and risking stomach upset.
If you’re packing dry food, put it in pest-safe containers or zip lock baggies that will keep it fresh and don’t forget to include detailed feeding instructions. Let your caretaker know how much food your pet eats, how many times a day he eats and what those times are. Keeping your pet on her normal feeding schedule to the best of your caretaker’s ability minimizes disruption to her daily routine. And don’t forget to include treats if they’re a normal part of your pet’s day but, just as you would with food, also include information for how much and when your pet should eat them.
Also, send your pet’s food and water dish along or consider investing in a travel set specifically for overnight stays. Your caretaker may not have an extra set of dog dishes lying around and you don’t want her to have to make an unnecessary trip to the store or dip into the family china to feed Fluffy.
Give your pet the comforts of home. Send your pet off with some items that will make him feel at home even though he’s not. This can be a bed, a crate or even just a blanket from the bed you share. Also clue your caretaker in on your pet’s sleeping habits. If your cat normally slumbers under the bed for the duration of the night, let the babysitter know. Or if your dog sleeps in the crate but the door is open, mention that. Most importantly, you and your babysitter shouldn’t worry if your pet doesn’t stick to his normal sleeping routine, but it’s a good idea to set the stage for it.
Include a few toys your pet likes in his overnight bag too. Let your caretaker know which ones are favorites and which ones can be taken the park, shared (or even destroyed in the midst of fun).
Don’t forget, safety first. Include any medications or supplements your pet is on in the overnight bag. And don’t just send enough for the time you’ll be gone - include extra doses. Also leave behind information on what each medication is for, tips for administering it and contact information for your regular veterinarian. A phone number and directions from your care giver’s house to an emergency vet are also good to pack. If your pet is allergic to any medications that you know of, write it down and include that information in your overnight bag.
You also need to send your pet’s current vaccinations (or a copy of them) along for an overnight stay. This is particularly important because if anything came up for your caretaker and she had to board your pet, she would need the vaccination records in order to do it. You should also leave information on your preferred boarding place closest to your caretaker. Just in case.
Let your caretaker know how to reach you. This seems obvious, but in the mayhem of planning for a vacation, the details are often forgotten. Be sure to provide contact information for you and for at least two other family friends or friends who would be willing take over the care of your pet in the event that your chosen caretaker had an emergency (and let these folks know they’re your pet’s emergency contacts too).
Pack a thank-you surprise for your caretaker. Consider packing something in your pet’s overnight bag that your caretaker can stumble upon and enjoy. This doesn’t have to be anything elaborate - just including a thank you card from your pet in the bag can add a thoughtful touch.