As we move towards the holidays it is important to keep our pets ever present in our minds. I know this can be difficult considering you have a billion other things to think about. Presents, dinner, scheduling, decorating - the list really goes on and on. But don't forget about your pets when you think about your holiday plans.
If you are travelling for the holiday, particularly by car, it is important to consider a few things where your pet is concerned. It is hard enough to pack up the presents, the kids (if you have them), and the luggage for your holiday road trip. But many people forget how much a pet needs when you travel with them.
Here are five things to think about when travelling with your pets this holiday.
1. Use a Crate/Carrier
No pet likes to be put in their crate or carrier, but when travelling it is one of the safest places for them. This is especially true for long car rides and in a crowded vehicle.
I know we all like to put our cats on our laps or dogs in the back seat, but if you are embarking on a car ride for several hours, consider placing your pet in their crate or carrier for the journey.
Ultimately, this is for your safety as much as theirs. Pets can be distracting to drivers and in winter weather a distraction is the last thing that you need while trying to navigate roads and holiday traffic. Additionally, if you have to stop abruptly or are in an accident, the crate or carrier will protect your pet from injury.
So keep yourself safe, your family safe, and your pet safe as you pack the car for your road trip. Use a crate or carrier and ensure that everyone arrives in the same condition that they left in.
2. Prepare for the Journey
So you are packing up the car to see your family for the holidays. You know you have over five hours of driving ahead of you. No one is happy about it, but it has to be done.
Just like you make sure the kids have gone to the bathroom before you leave and haven't had too much sugar, you need to prepare your pet in the same way. Ensure that you walk or play with your dog or cat before couping them up in a car for that long. Make sure you give them attention and exhaust their energy levels a little.
Make sure that your pets have gone to the bathroom and will not be uncomfortable during the car ride because of a full bladder. It may take a bit of patience and persuasion to convince your pet to go to the bathroom before getting into the car, but it will make the ride a great deal easier.
If your pet is known not to travel well and you have an exceptionally long trip, speak to your vet about sedation methods beforehand. Sometimes you can give your pets calming agents as opposed to medical sedatives, but consult your vet on this.
Preparation can make a trip a hundred times easier. So be sure that you take the time to prepare your pets for the road trip ahead. They will appreciate it as much as you do.
3. Bring Familiar Food/Toys
Not only are you going on a road trip, but you are taking your pet to a new place for the holidays. This change can be a lot for a pet to handle and can cause them to react in strange ways. Be sure to bring some of the comforts of home so that they have an easier time adjusting to this short-term transition.
Make sure to place familiar items in their crate or carrier to make it more comfortable for them for the road trip. Perhaps this is their bed or blanket, their favourite chew toy, or a stuffed animal they always sleep with. Whatever it is, make sure you give them a comfort item to keep them company while they travel.
Make sure to bring food and treats from home to wherever you are going for the holidays. Changing your dog or cat's diet on a road trip is not a good idea. They are already experiencing a change of overall environment so changing their food could have a drastic effect on their demeanour It could result in them getting sick or not eating at all.
Stick to a routine as much as possible, despite the change in environment. Stick to the same food. Make sure you set up a space for your pet in the new environment, even if it just means bringing their crate or carrier into the house so that they can call that home during their stay. And keep it as familiar as possible.
Your pets rely on you for comfort and consistency. The holidays can be a chaotic time but strive to give this to them. It is one of the few things they cannot provide for themselves.
4. Have a Plan
Having a plan during the holidays can reduce stress levels for you and your pets. If you begin your travels without a plan you enhance the possibility of something chaotic happening.
Ensure that your friends or family that you are visiting know that you are bringing a pet and are prepared to handle that. Ensure that they have a home that can accommodate you and your pet and are willing to do so. And ensure that your pet will be happy there and that there will be no pet on pet conflicts.
Plan your road trip based on its length to include bathroom breaks for both you and your pet. Despite preparing before leaving, both of you can only hold your bladders for so long. And your pet will appreciate a chance to stretch their legs. This is especially true for everyone travelling with dogs.
It is nice, if possible, to stop every 2-3 hours and give your pet a chance to stretch and go to the bathroom. It will make it all a nicer trip, even if it extends the drive a little. Everyone is in a hurry to get where they are going, but be sure that you respect your pets and their needs as you travel.
5. Consider Leaving Your Pet at Home
The holidays are busy times. Some of us need to travel far and wide to see family and friends for the season. Many people have more than one holiday dinner to attend and most of these are not in the same town or city. We all just accept this as part of the holiday season.
However, when you have a pet it gets a little complicated. Taking your pet with you every time you go somewhere can be a lot of stress on you and even more stress on your pet. As much as they love to be by your side and you love to have them there, sometimes it is best to just leave them home.
So as we approach the holiday season consider not travelling with your pet. If possible, consider kenneling your pet for any long journeys that you have to take. If a kennel is not possible, consider leaving your pet with friends or family while you travel all over the place. Or even hire a dog/cat sitter while you are away if you don't want to take your pet out of your home.
There are many options available if you don't travel with your pet. And although your pets will be happy to see you return when your holiday travels are done and over with, they will also be more than happy to stay home.
So as we approach the holidays remember that it is important to keep our pets in mind. Remember that travelling causes them as much stress as it does us, if not more. And as much as we love them, sometimes we can't always take them with us.
So be thoughtful, be safe, plan ahead, and do what is best for your pets this holiday season.