Cat with holiday background
For some folks, the holiday season is synonymous with travel. And if you’re a pet owner, holiday travel often involves a bit more planning than packing up some pajamas and a toothbrush — it means deciding what to do with your pet!

We know that Vetstreet’s readers and Facebook fans are full of helpful advice for pet owners, so we asked them: "What advice would you offer pet owners who are bringing their cat or dog with them while staying with friends or family over the holidays?"

Consider Leaving Them at Home

As much as we love having our animals with us, many people simply recommended that you don’t bring them along.

And that’s a fair response. Staying home with a pet sitter can be the ideal option for many animals, especially those who are anxious or uncomfortable in new situations. And we know plenty of pooches who positively love being boarded — it can be like going to summer camp. If that’s the case for your pet and a pet sitter or boarding is an option, we’d be inclined to agree that leaving your pet with a sitter or at a boarding facility might be the best choice.

However, sometimes that’s not possible — or perhaps the friends or family you’re visiting are as excited to see your pet as they are to see you! In those cases, here are a few more words of wisdom to help you with your holiday travel plans.

Be Sure to Ask

Check, confirm and then maybe even ask again to ensure your hosts (and anyone else staying in the home) are happy that your pets are coming to stay.

"First off, make sure the host and hostess are OK with that; second, make sure other guests are OK and are not allergic; third, make sure your pet behaves and does not cause damage or disturbance or inconvenience," says Vetstreet Facebook fan Mandana Navidi, who adds, "Pets are like kids… just because you love your own and find them cute it doesn’t mean the sentiment is shared by others!" 

Follow Your Host’s Rules — and Add a Few of Your Own

Even if your hosts are thrilled to have you and your menagerie visiting, that might not mean they want your 70-pound Golden Retriever to sleep in their bed with them — not to mention the fact that it might be better for your pet to have an area he can consider "home." Several people expressed the importance of keeping pets out of private rooms and providing them with a space that’s all their own.

 "…[A] dedicated room is essential for the pet/s. Not just for the sake of other guests but, most importantly IMO, to prevent your furry friends from getting too stressed out," says fan Nicky Butler. "A lot of people forget how much more acute cats’ and dogs’ senses are in terms of smells and sounds. A new environment and lots of people — especially high-energy children — is a recipe for sensory overload and extreme stress. Do them a favor and make sure they have a sanctuary they can feel safe and calm in. If possible, bring their blankets and a couple of toys from home; anything that has their [own scent] and their home scent on it."

It probably goes without saying, but other items you’ll want to make sure to bring include food, bowls (including a water bowl), a litterbox complete with litter (and a scoop with bags!) for cats and poop bags for dogs. Basically, you should not expect your hosts to provide for your pet unless this has already been offered — be as self-sufficient as possible!

Another Facebook poster, Hiawatha Hiking Arizona, warns of the dangers of a cat or dog running loose in an unfamiliar home with other people around. "Even well-meaning relatives can inadvertently let your pet escape. And that can be bad at home, but in a strange place it can be a tragedy." So make sure you discuss your concerns in advance with your host and have local numbers on your pet’s ID collar. 

Speaking of safety, exercise caution beginning with the commute. "Never, ever open your car door unless your pet is in a secure carrier or secured in some way," says fan Shari Rose.

A Few More Ideas to Consider

Our readers are smart, but it’s worth noting that we’ve covered this topic a time or two as well. Road trips with cats require slightly different planning (and gear) than hitting the road with your dog. And there are some great products on the market specifically designed to help make car travel with your pet as safe as possible.

If you’re going to a home with children and you have a dog who’s mostly been around adults, we have tips for prepping for that visit, too. And a few of these tricks for a successful stay in a hotel with your canine companion might also come in handy for your holiday travels to visit friends and family.

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