Caitlin UltimoPet Parenting / Travel

Pros and Cons of Pet Boarding and Pet Sitting

Pet Boarding vs. Pet Sitting

Part of planning a trip is figuring out where your four-legged companion will stay. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons to decide if you should enlist a pet sitter or opt for pet boarding. Do your pets love to socialize? Or, do your pets not do well in unfamiliar environments? It’s vital to consider these factors when deciding on the best choice for your pet.

You may find that you’ll do dog boarding for one and cat sitting for the other. Every animal handles the stress of their pet parent leaving for a few days differently, and that’s okay. We’ve mapped out some pros and cons to pet boarding and pet sitting so you can check this off your vacation to-do list with confidence.

Pet Boarding

When some people think of pet boarding, they instantly think of a dog kennel. However, pet boarding or a pet resort can actually be a real treat for your fur baby. If you have a social dog who likes to be around other pets and people, dog boarding could be an excellent choice for your pup. “We take the dogs out four times a day. They have fun and really enjoy themselves. They go out in the fields, to the pool, and most importantly, they exercise,” says Dr. Monica Silva, DVM, Owner of Country Inn Pet Resort. This added feature is known as doggy daycare, and isn’t available at every dog boarding facility. If your dog is active and would benefit from this amenity, do your research to see if the dog boarding facility you’ve found includes doggy daycare. Keep in mind that “this is only a pro if your dog likes other dogs,” says Dr. Amy L. Pike, DVM, DACVB, Chief of the Behavior Medicine Division of the Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia.

Another benefit of some pet boarding facilities is that they can offer care directly from certified veterinarians. “This is especially helpful if your dog or cat has chronic medical issues which require medications and monitoring,” explains Dr. Pike. At Country Inn Pet Resort, they will board your pet on the animal hospital side of the pet resort to ensure that they’re under the supervision or care of a veterinarian, if needed. This is absolutely beneficial and will put you at ease knowing that your fur baby is in the best possible hands while you’re away. “We just had a dog here and we were required to pull blood every day for glucose. In a situation like this, we’d board the dog at the animal hospital,” explains Dr. Silva. This is also ideal if you send your dog or cat to a pet daycare and run into a medical emergency during the day.

The structure of a pet boarding facility can also be great for pets. Most dog boarding facilities will have the same routine every day to keep them on a schedule. “Our protocols include the same time for feeding, taking the dogs out, cleaning, separating doggy daycare groups, and more,” describes Dr. Silva.

Before you sign up for pet boarding, consider the fact that, for some pets, staying at a pet hotel can heighten their stress and increase their anxiety if they’re not at home. “Many cats and dogs feel extremely anxious outside of the comfort of their own home,” states Dr. Pike. In this case, having a pet sitter you trust to stay at your home may help your pet feel more comfortable and secure. 

Pet Sitting

You can make your home a personal pet hotel by choosing to go the route of a pet sitter. If you have a pet that does better staying at home and easily welcomes people in, dog sitting or cat sitting is a great choice. Dr. Silva expresses that, “If you have a good pet sitter, I definitely recommend pet sitting for cats since they love to stay home. Cats are easier to take care of than dogs. Most cats don’t like to board and would rather be at home.”

But, planning early for a pet sitter is essential. “Trying to find someone who is available during the time you wish to leave, especially during holidays and summer when everyone wishes to travel, can be difficult,” explains Dr. Pike. This makes it important to do your research ahead of time to find the perfect pet sitter for your pet, and to be certain they’re available at the time you need.

An added benefit of having a pet sitter is the luxury of having someone care for your home as well. “If the pet sitter is staying overnight, you have the additional advantage of having someone there to watch your home and property,” says Dr. Pike. This is absolutely a perk, however, it’s only a bonus if you trust the sitter at your home. “Not only will they be taking care of your babies, they will have keys and codes to your home,” expresses Dr. Pike. By building the relationship and trust beforehand, you’ll be able to feel protected that your pet sitter is taking excellent care of your pet and your home.

Dog boarding may not be best for dogs that deal with high stress and separation anxiety when their pet parents are way. “We recommend pet sitters for dogs that are extremely stressed when they board. Some dogs can get too stressed to where they won’t eat,” says Dr. Silva. While Silva explains that most dogs will get used to pet boarding, there are a select few that don’t get accustomed as easily. If this is a reason you’re veering towards pet sitting, it’s important to be sure that your four-legged companion will be okay with a pet sitter coming into their territory. “Dogs and cats who do not do well with strangers in the home could present a potential risk for aggressive behavior towards the pet sitter,” advises Dr. Pike. There are ways to slowly introduce them, like, having the “pet sitter come over ahead of time and spend time with your pet in order to ease the stress of having a new person in the home while you are gone,” says Dr. Pike.

Relieve Stress and Anxiety Beforehand

Dr. Pike provided us some helpful tips and tricks to prepare your pet for when you’re away to alleviate stress or anxiety:

  • Independence training: Teaching stay and sit commands, practicing confinement in a dog crate, and leaving your pet for longer periods of time during the day can all help to make your pet feel more independent. Also, you can go on some short overnight trips beforehand to get your pet acclimated to you leaving for a longer trip.
  • If you choose pet boarding, make sure to bring their favorite toys, foods, treats and beds if allowed. Some pets also find comfort when left with clothing that smells like their pet parent.
  • If you choose pet sitting, be sure to provide the pet sitter with your pet’s normal routine of when your pets eat, go on walks, go to bed and more. Sticking with their schedule can help reduce the anxiety that’s associated with your absence and having a new person in their home.

There are tons of anxiety- and stress-relieving products for both dogs and cats, including pheromones and supplements that can help reduce anxiety. It’s recommended to start these kinds of products a few days before your departure and continue until you return.

Lindsay Schencker, Pet Central Editorial Assistant
The moment Lindsay started her career here at Chewy, she hit the ground running in customer service; she knew that this is the company she wanted to grow with from then on. When Lindsay isn’t spending her time writing for Pet Central, she’s most likely binge-watching a Netflix series and cuddling up with her 80-pound fur baby, Dexter.