Updated 17 December 2013

You, your pet and the holidays

You're packed and ready to go. For two glorious weeks into the blue yonder. But what about your pets?


Right, you’ve been invited to go canoeing in Malawi, or you’re going to Buenos Aires on one of those unbelievable specials, or you’re just going to visit Aunty Sally in Vanwyksdorp. But what about your pets?

The sort of pet owner you are can be measured in how you take care of your animals when you go on holiday. But never going on holiday because you cannot bear to put Fifi in a kennel, is just downright silly. You need a break as well. So what do you need to keep in mind?

Pets cost money. You need to accept this when you get one. Whether you have to pay a pet sitter, or a kennel, or just someone to feed your animals every day, the cost of pet care should be budgeted into your holiday costs. Rather leave too much food than too little. Also remember to leave the name and number of your vet, another contact person for emergencies, and possibly a cheque made out to the vet in case any treatment should be needed.

Get a good pet sitter. If you go on holiday, make sure that the person who looks after your pets knows them, likes them and looks after them properly. Pets can feel disorientated when you are not at home, and can get lost more easily than usual. A good pet sitter is worth their weight in gold. Ask your vet for a recommendation in this regard.

The daily feeder. It’s not ideal, but definitely better than nothing, to get a trusted person to come in and feed your pets every day. Just make very sure that you can depend on this person to do what they are supposed to do. Pets that are left unattended can die of thirst and hunger in a few days. Fish and birds won’t even last that long. If your usual house sitter is unavailable, offer to pay him/her to drive to your house every day to feed your animals. This will also mean the pets get to see someone they like on a daily basis.

Choose a kennel carefully. Make an unannounced visit to a kennel or two and check what sort of state the animal cages are in. Is there fresh water available? Does it stink to high heaven? Do the animals look happy or miserable? Best of all, ask around and get recommendations from friends who have recently had to use kennels. Your vet should also be able to give advice. A bad kennel can be a health risk for your pet.

Taking the pets along. Not too many will consider taking cats on holiday – cats like cars about as much as they like vacuum cleaners. But many people take their dogs along. How sure are you that wherever you’re heading is pet-friendly? Is your host happy to accommodate your Rottweiler as well? It is always wise to check whether any guest houses or holiday venues are happy to receive pets. You don’t want to get a nasty shock on arrival.

Window seats. When travelling long distance, dogs like sticking their heads out of the windows. A wide open window is an invitation to disaster. Some pets can be trusted to not jump through the window, but why take the chance? Most dogs like a bit of a breeze when they are inside a car, but eight centimetres will do it. Working dogs are often transported on the backs of bakkies and pickups, but they are trained and see this as part of their job.

Long distance. When going on a long journey, remember that your dog needs to get out every now and then to answer the call of nature. Also make sure that you give your dog water whenever you stop. A flat plastic container should be kept in the car for this purpose.

Sedation. When travelling long distances with an animal that is not used to the car, save your sanity – and probably that of the animal – by going to the vet and getting a sedative before the journey. Remember also that you can get anti-nausea treatment if your animal gets carsick on long journeys.

Pet carriers. If an animal does not like travelling, then it is very dangerous to transport them in a car, unless they are in a proper pet carrier of some sort. A clawing cat, or a yelping puppy can easily distract the driver and cause an accident. Don’t use a cardboard box – it is too easy to escape from these. Pets that don’t like being a passenger in cars are also known to urinate and defecate in the car. If the pet is in a carrier, you can line the bottom with newspapers and a plastic sheet to prevent damage. Remember, a paste of bicarbonate of soda gets stains and smells out of car upholstery.

Pet partitions. When travelling with big dogs, it is a good idea to have part of the car partitioned, so that the driver cannot be distracted. One often sees this when owners travel with more than one large dog – especially if it is a smallish car. But never put an animal in the boot of the car. Many cars, especially older ones, could emit strong exhaust fumes into the boot.

Flying into the blue yonder. Depending on where you're headed, you may have to quarantine your pet, especially if you're leaving the country. Even a simple aeroplane trip involves careful planning. Many airlines require a certificate from a vet stating that your animal is fit enough to travel. You need to make a booking for your animal well in advance. Your vet should be able to help if you have any questions.

(Susan Erasmus,, April, 2006)

- Last updated: June 2010


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