How To Make Your Pet Feel Loved When You're On Vacation

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Don't get me wrong, I love that I have the opportunity to travel a lot, but if you have a pet, you know just how much it pulls on your heartstrings to leave them, no matter how much you're looking forward to traveling. That "how could you leave me?" look that my dog gives me as soon as I pull out my suitcase breaks my heart, every time. And, it truly makes me question whether or not I can. Alas, sometimes we've gotta leave our pets behind, and so long as they're in a safe place or with a safe sitter, everything will be OK. That said, there are definitely a few important ways to make your pet feel loved when you're on vacation that you should take the time to do.

If you're opting for a pet sitter, make sure that they come with positive reviews and solid references. Take the time to meet with your potential pet sitters in person. If you're leaving your pet with a friend or a family member, don't assume that they'll know what's best for your pet just because they're familiar with them. Treat them as you would a professional, and go over every single detail. If you choose to board your pet, make sure that you've been to the facility, met the staff, read the reviews and have at least one person you trust nearby who can check up on your pet in case of emergency.

While the logistics of assigning responsibilities are important, there's a lot of work you'll have to do with your pet on your own end before you leave, to ensure that they're as comfortable and happy as possible. The last thing you want to do is create a situation in which your pet feels punished, anxious or abandoned. Here's how to ready your pet for a big separation.

1. Prepare Them For The Event

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The first time I left my dog, I told him I loved him 55 times and kept hugging him and squeezing him before I walked out the door. In my head I was calming him and making him feel loved, but in reality I was transferring heaps of anxiety onto him, and by the time I left he was convinced I was never coming back. After talking with his vet, he advised me to practice leaving my dog a few times, just for a few hours, doing the same routine I plan to do when I leave for a few days. The most important thing to remember is that you're feeling anxious, and your pet is not. If you don't act like you're nervous to leave them, they won't be nervous when you go. So prepare your pet by spending some time apart so that they can trust that you'll always come back, and stay calm.

2. Establish That The Sitter Or Sitter's House Is Positive

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If you're having a pet sitter stay at your house, invite them over at least once before the big trip so that your pet can get to know them. Let them smell each other and establish a positive relationship. If your pet is staying at your pet sitter's home, or a kennel, take them there before the trip and give them a few special treats so that they associate the new place with a positive experience. This takes time, but it's worth it.

3. Get Something From The Sitter Before The Trip

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If you're using a sitter, ask them for shirt or sock from their home and give it to your pet to smell a few days before you leave. That way, they're be more familiar with the sitter's scent when they return. They might even be excited to see them.

4. Don't Make Big Deal Out Of it

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Whatever you do, stay calm. If you can avoid packing in front of your pet, do it. Don't give your pet more kisses or cuddles than usual before you leave, because while that might make you feel better, it will make your pet feel suspicious and uncomfortable. When you finally leave, don't do anything differently than you would if you were just going to run an errand. Say goodbye, but don't be fussy.

5. Leave Something Behind

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Make sure that whoever is watching your dog has something of yours that smells like you. You can sleep in the same T-shirt for a week or so to really get it smelling strong, or even just grab a blanket or pillow from your home that your pet is familiar with. This scent will hopefully comfort them while you are away.

6. Ensure That They Get Loads Of Exercise

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The key to your pet's happiness is exercise. If your pet is getting a lot of action while you're gone, they won't have the energy to miss you. If you have a dog, make sure that whoever is watching them is taking them on extra long walks and interacting with them more than what they're typically used to. If you have a cat, make sure that whoever is watching them is playing with them and offering them toys and giving them lots of cuddles.

If dealt with properly, your time away from your pet can be a beneficial and fun change of pace — that's the hope.