KEELY LUKE FOR HAWAIIAN HUMANE SOCIETY
Pet sitter Tammy Kubo tends to Japanese Chin dogs Kenji, Suki, Emi and Miki. A pet sitter is a viable option for those who have multiple pets, allowing the pets to stay together in their own home while the family is on vacation.
Traveling pet owners can arrange for sitters
Booking airline tickets, hotel rooms and transportation aren't the only things to do when planning a vacation. Families with pets must figure out how to ensure quality care for their animal companions.
Two basic options are available: Your animal stays home and you hire a pet sitter; or your pet is boarded at a kennel or day-care center.
Finding a sitter
While it can be stressful to be without you, your pet will probably feel be more comfortable at home in familiar surroundings, especially if you have multiple pets accustomed to living together.
If you'll only be gone for a day or so, you might ask a trusted neighbor to look after your pet, but be sure your neighbor is able to provide proper care.
Or, consider hiring a professional pet sitter -- an individual trained to care for animals. Look for one with experience with your type of animal, who agrees to spend quality time providing exercise, playtime and proper food, and who is savvy enough to recognize when your pet needs veterinary attention.
Since you'll give the pet sitter house keys, you'll have to trust him or her with your home and belongings, as well as your pets. It's not a decision to be made instantly, so begin interviews early.
Start with a recommendation from your veterinarian, a dog trainer or friend. Check the Yellow Pages under "Pet Sitting Services." Hawaii referrals are available from the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, 800-296-PETS, www. petsitters.org, and Pet Sitters International, www.petsit.com.
Tammy Kubo, owner of Hawaii Pet Nanny of Honolulu, serves on the national board of NAPPS and is a member of Pet Sitters International. She and the four sitters who work with her believe that pets are better able to cope with their families being gone if they are able to stay at home.
"You can rest easy knowing that your pets will be loved and cared for as if you were at home with them," says Kubo.
Interview pet-sitter candidates at your home and inquire about fees and what services are provided. Ask when and for how long the sitter will be with your pet, and when they will be elsewhere. Introduce your pet and watch the two interact. If your pet requires medication, make sure the sitter can handle that, too. It's a plus if the sitter is bonded and has commercial liability insurance. Call the sitters' other clients as references.
Before you go:
» Leave a clear, written list of emergency contacts, including how to reach you, your veterinarian and a neighbor with a spare key.
» Leave plenty of pet food and prescriptions, with written instructions on feeding times, amount to feed, grooming recommendations and what treats are allowed.
» Tell the sitter about your pet's favorite hiding places, likes and dislikes. For dogs, leave a map of where the dog can safely walk and what areas to avoid.
» Make sure all your pets are wearing ID tags and are current on vaccinations.
» If anyone else will have access to your home (such as family members, the exterminator or handyman), explain the pet-sitting arrangement, and vice versa.
» Give your veterinarian your vacation dates and your sitter's name and telephone number.
If the idea of allowing a stranger into your home makes you uneasy, consider boarding your cat or dog. Some kennels are adjacent to veterinary clinics and can offer medical supervision. Some offer only a small space to stay; others provide more spacious accommodations, outside runs, grooming and playtime.
Visit the kennel and review what you see and smell from your pet's perspective. Ask the same questions you would of a pet sitter, including how much exercise and attention your pet would receive, and how many staff people take care of how many animals.
Get referrals from friends and your veterinarian, and try the Yellow Pages under "Dog & Cat Kennels." Also check with the Better Business Bureau, 536-6956, for complaints against any kennel you are considering. Once you are happy with your choice, book your reservation early.
"Pet Ohana" runs the first and third Fridays of the month. The Hawaiian Humane Society is a nonprofit agency dedicated to preventing cruelty to animals. It is at 2700 Waialae Ave. Call 946-2187.