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Boarding Pets vs. Sitters: What’s Best for My Pet?

Are you traveling over the holidays? When you are leaving town and can’t bring your pet along, it can be difficult to decide whether to board your pet or hire a pet sitter. Every pet and owner are different, so what works for one family might not work for another. We can’t tell you what to do, but we can lay out the pros and cons and help you to decide!


  • Pros
    • Dogs and cats require up-to-date vaccinations
    • If your dog likes other dogs, he or she will benefit from social time with other dogs.
    • Many boarding facilities have cameras so you can check in on your pet
    • Boarding facilities for both cats and dogs are plentiful; increasingly, exotic pet boarding is also available in many metropolitan areas. Many boarding facilities book up well in advance over the holidays, so plan well in advance!
  • Cons
    • Dogs may be in a kennel for longer stretches of time and may not get a lot of human interaction.
    • A new, strange place can be frightening and could lead to fear, stress, or anxiety. Anxious pets may not eat or interact as they normally would. Senior pets, cats, and exotic pets may not get as much sleep or rest as they would at home in a quieter situation. In prey species like rodents or birds, prolonged anxiety can be detrimental to their health.
    • For dogs, there is a risk of bites/wounds from unfamiliar dogs during social playtime.
    • There is also a risk of exposure to infectious diseases.

If you do choose to board your pet, make sure to tour the boarding facility and meet the staff prior to booking your pet’s stay.

Pet Sitter

  • Pros
    • Your pet will receive individualized attention.
    • If a sitter stays at your house, your pet will be in a familiar, comfortable environment. Anxious pets as well as exotics and most cats will likely do better in their own home.
    • There are several pet sitting and dog walking companies throughout the Twin Cities as well as websites that can match you with a sitter for your pet, no matter the type.
    • You can have a “meet and greet” with the potential sitter to see how your pet responds to him or her. If you will be dropping your pet off at the sitter’s house, do a trial run; if your sitter has their own pets or kids, you’ll want to make sure everyone gets along before hiring the sitter. In the case of an exotic pet, make sure the sitter is cognizant of risks to your pet, such as Teflon pans for pet birds or electrical cords for free-roaming rabbits.
      Keep in mind that many of the same cons from a boarding kennel situation will still apply if your pet is exposed to other pets.
  • Cons
    • If social time with other pets is valuable to you, your pet may not get social time unless your sitter is able to provide this.
    • No access to webcam (unless you have a camera in your home). However, you can always ask for daily photos and videos.
    • A sitter may still have to crate your dog (or rabbit) if they plan to leave the house for several hours. If your sitter has another occupation outside of the home, your pet may be in a kennel for longer stretches of time and may not get a lot of human interaction.
    • While you want to trust anyone who cares for your pet, be it a boarding kennel or pet sitter, it is particularly important to trust someone who will be living in your own home. Make sure to check references and reviews. If you’re using a sitter-matching website, see if the service has vetted or performed a background check on your candidates.

So, should you choose a sitter or a boarding facility? It depends on your pet and your family’s needs. If you’re torn about which way to go and you have plenty of advance time on your trip dates, you could book one night with a pet sitter and one night at a boarding facility before you go out of town. Additionally, ask your family veterinarian for input. If your pet has a serious illness or requires more involved medication administration, he or she may be able to ask a veterinary technician to pet sit for you. Regardless of what you choose, it’s important to provide your boarding facility or pet sitter with your pet’s medical records and instructions on what to do in a pet emergency.


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