If you’re anything like me, your holidays include trekking your pets to every family affair and get-together as is reasonably possible. After all, our furry family members are just that to us: family. And, especially as a vet student, often those family members need extra care—maybe they are fragile and skittish (like my big pup, Lulu), or maybe they aren’t yet potty trained (like my newest edition, Zeus, our 10-week-old lab puppy)…and no one wants to put that burden on your family, or maybe they even need intensive medication—diabetic cats, pets recovering from surgery, recent adoptions who came from a tough background. Maybe your pets are simply nervous in the car!
Maybe, if you’re like me, you have a bird and a cat in addition to your two large breed dogs and a small car. Maybe your two dogs (old granny Lulu and crazy baby Zeus) need their space sometimes—hard to do in the cab of a vehicle. Maybe your cat likes to climb behind your shoulders like he did when we was a kitten (and also much smaller and lighter). What do you do? It is entirely possible that, even though we would never admit it because we love our fur babies so much, traveling with animals can lead to a lot of stress. There are a lot of things we can do to decrease the stress on ourselves and our pets when traveling.
- Something that people commonly do is board their pets at a boarding facility (like doggy daycares or vet clinics), but, just like every suggestion I’ll make, this is not the best solution for every person or every pet. You’ll have to judge for yourselves, based on your knowledge of your pets and their temperaments, to see which strategy will work best for you. I like to bring my pets with me everywhere I possibly can, but that can definitely get tough.
- Another option is finding a pet sitter you trust so that, even if you are gone, your pets get to stay comfortably in their own home. When I am bringing my pets with me (and luckily all of them—even the cockatiel!–are great in the car), I always have a carrier for the cat and the puppy. We have to arrange our car carefully so that the pets are all comfortable, but it is so much more possible with crate-comfortable animals to keep them happy. We also make plenty of potty stops! Another thing that helps ease the load is leaving some of their food/treats/maybe an extra bowl or litter box at my parents’ house (which is where my husband and I usually stay during the holidays). Luckily my parents don’t mind this.
- Another thing you can do is train your pets to be comfortable with car rides! “Fear-free” training is something all of us (veterinarians, pet owners, and vet students alike) could do well to put a little more effort into. Training is an amazing tool to keep you and your pet comfortable in so many situations, and especially when you are traveling to new places. This decreases the anxiety your pet may have with being in the car and can make it much easier on you to get where you need to go without incident.
I hope everyone gets to take their fur families with them during the holidays, but, most of all, we have to make sure that what we are doing with our pets works for our pets, too! That is, not only should we think of what we want for ourselves (to have our pets with us always, of course!), but we should also consider our pets’ anxieties, space constraints, and happiness in our travels as well.