Better weather is on the horizon – so what do you need to know about travelling with or without your pet?

With brighter days ahead, many pet owners will be booking a well-earned break for the summer. Whether you are taking your pet with you, or have arranged for someone else to look after your dog and/or cat while you’re away, there’s lots to consider to make sure that both you and they can relax on vacances.

Travelling with your pet

For many people, taking the furry members of the family on holiday is a natural choice, and this can include holidays abroad as well as in the UK. Dogs make better travel companions than cats because of the risk of cats wandering and becoming lost while you’re way, but, for both animals, it is important to ensure your pet is microchipped and has your contact details on their collar before you travel. And if you are travelling abroad, ensure that your pets’ vaccinations are up-to-date and that they have a valid pet passport.

When travelling with a dog, your presence is reassuring but it’s important to remember that the change in routine and the journey can be unsettling for your dog. It’s advisable to bring with you some familiar toys and blankets from home, along with their usual bed and bowls if you can. And of course, don’t forget to bring supplies of their usual pet food, especially if you are travelling to a rural location where the choice of dog food in local shops may be limited, or going abroad where their food may not be available.

It’s important to consider the weather and journey time for your trip too. If you are travelling by car, the air conditioning may keep you nice and cool at the front, but your dog may overheat in the back of the car, where solar gain can make the boot space very hot. Think about creating shade, perhaps with a sun blind that attaches to the window. You will need to factor in breaks too, for leg stretching, toilet breaks, water, and reassurance.

If you are travelling by train, your pet will be able to stay with you during the journey in the air-conditioned carriage, however, there are other potential hazards to consider. Stations can be very busy and getting on and off trains with all the unfamiliar scents and people can be alarming for dogs, so remember to provide lots of reassurance and consider using two leads for safety if your dog is nervous. It is also worth taking some trial run trips by train if your pet has never travelled this way before.

If you want to travel by air with your pet, you will need to find out which airlines allow pets in the cabin. Several airlines offer this for cats and smaller dogs, including Air France and Lufthansa, usually at an additional cost. Your pet will need to be in a pet carrier, and each airline has their own policy and restrictions for pet passengers, so it’s important to read the small print. Don’t forget to consider how your pet will cope with the experience too – if it is likely to be very stressful for your furry family member, it may be better to consider an alternative plan.

Making sure your pet is happy while you’re on holiday

If you’re leaving your pet behind while you go on holiday, there are lots of considerations too. Perhaps you have a friend or family member who regularly looks after your pets while you’re away; if that’s the case, you and your pets are lucky, because you can both feel confident and relaxed that everything will be OK. For families reliant on professional pet minding services or leaving a pet for the first time, however, the experience can be stressful for all concerned.

Following the disruption to holidays over the past couple of years, there has been a squeeze on availability for pet minding this summer, thanks to the race to get away and the increase in pet ownership. Those who did not book pet minding early have found themselves struggling for somewhere suitable to leave their pet, so it’s a good idea to book care for your pet as soon as you make your own reservations.

Alongside traditional kennels, there are a number of choices available for pet sitting. Keeping your pet in your own home with the right care is a good option. If you have a cat that can be left alone in the house, a neighbour that can pop round a couple of times a day for feeding and company may be sufficient. For a dog, you will need to have someone living in your home while you’re away and there are websites, such as Trusted Housesitters, that can match you with a house sitter if you do not have a friend or family member that can help. Remember to make sure it’s someone you can trust to maintain your dog’s routine and feed them their usual healthy diet, however; you don’t want to get back to a dog that has piled on the pounds due to too many treats and not enough exercise!

If a house sitter is not the right choice for you, many doggy day-care services also offer holiday stays. If your dog already attends doggy day care, booking them in for a stay in a familiar setting is an ideal solution, because they will already be familiar with the environment, the people, and the other dogs. This will make your time away a lot less stressful for your dog and the staff will already be familiar with your pet’s routine and feeding regime.

Pet sitters that can look after your dog or cat in their own home are another option. You may have a local dog walking service that offers this and there are also a number of apps, such as Rover, where you can find and book a pet sitter. Again, it’s important to make sure you check their credentials and meet with your pet sitter before leaving your pet to ensure the environment is right for them…and for you.

Our top tips for pets on holiday

Whether you enjoy taking your dog to the beach this summer, or you spend your evenings in the hotel bar face-timing the cat, here are our top tips for ensuring both you and they enjoy your time away.

If you are travelling with your pet:

• Make sure microchip and vaccinations are in place
• Plan your journey
• Pack plenty of your pet’s usual nutritious food

If you are travelling without your pet:

• Make arrangements as early as possible
• Familiarise your pet with their holiday home and companions
• Ensure they will have their regular routine and nutritious diet