Woman and suitcase

Q. My mother is very attached to her pets and doesn’t want to leave home for even an overnight stay because she is worried about having someone else take care of them. Is there anything I can tell her to make her feel better?

A. I love traveling, and I’m lucky I do because I am always on the road for conferences and media appearances. Many times my wife, Teresa, is with me, and that means our animals need to be taken care of by people other than ourselves. Fortunately, we have people who are like family to us and who consider our dogs, cats and horses as family, too. If we had to worry about our animals when we traveled, it would be very hard for us to leave.

Boarding vs. Pet-Sitting

Knowing your pets are in good hands is the most important part of being able to leave them behind. Start by figuring out whether your mother's pets would be better off cared for in her home or would enjoy being boarded. In general, cats are better off being cared for in the home while you’re away. Healthy young dogs who like other dogs and new people may be happy in a boarding situation, while shy, elderly and chronically ill dogs are less likely to want to leave home.

In my family, our small dogs, Quixote and Quora, are boarded, while our large dogs, Gracie and Shakira, are cared for at our Almost Heaven Ranch, along with the cats and the horses. Probably all four of our healthy, well-socialized dogs would be happy either being boarded or having a pet sitter, but this is just the way we’ve worked it out. And since it works so well, we haven’t changed it.

A Luxury Vacation for Your Pet

Both boarding and pet-sitting offer a range of options that were unimaginable a few years ago. Boarding now includes deluxe accommodations such as suites with real furniture, a choice of music or TV and even swimming pools. I visited one day care/boarding facility in Southern California that allowed you to pay for your dog to sleep on a person’s bed at night — talk about all the comforts of home!

Professional pet sitters have also upped the ante when it comes to service. You can hire companies that send out only registered veterinary technicians, as well as services that will have someone live in your home (as opposed to just dropping in a couple of times a day) so your pet is never lonely. Both boarding facilities and pet sitters will feed your pet’s regular diet and give any necessary medication. They’ll also have your veterinarian’s information available in case there’s an emergency.

Top-quality facilities and services all belong to trade associations and will happily provide references from satisfied customers and referring veterinarians.

Explore Your Options

I would do some research into what’s in your mother’s area and then discuss the options with her. It may be that when she sees the posh accommodations available for pets these days or meets a highly skilled professional pet sitter, she will feel better about travel.

If she doesn’t change her mind after you’ve given her all the options, however, then that’s her call. In our family, travel has always been a high priority and one of our greatest joys. I have been to almost twice as many countries as there are states in the U.S. (and I’ve been to about all of those, too), and I am always planning our next trip. But there are indeed people who don’t want to leave home, and your mother may be blaming the pets rather than admitting to you that she’s one of those people.

If that turns out to be true, then let her stay home with the pets she loves.