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12 Days of Holiday Hazards...Day 11

12/10/2008

On the eleventh day of the holidays, my true love gave to me...BEING LEFT BEHIND

Once again, not the gift we are all awaiting from our true loves. Yet during the holiday season, the fact is that a lot of people travel, and most can't take their pets. How can we ensure our pets are safe and sound when we're off to struggle with airport lines, highway traffic, and crowded train stations?

Well, let's start by talking about cats. I can tell you right now, if you're going away, the place your cat wants to be is in her or his own home. The vast majority of cats would waaaaaaay rather stay home alone than be boarded in a kennel or veterinarian's office. It's safer in some ways too - a boarding cat may pick up a respiratory or other infection from the other animals in the facility.

Does this mean you should just fill up a big bowl with dry food and wish your cat luck? No!! Well, first of all I'm not a fan of dry food anyway, but that's not the point. The best plan is to have a catsitter stop by once or twice a day while you're gone, for a number of reasons. One example: male cats can "block", a situation where the urinary tract becomes obstructed, which is rapidly fatal if not discovered early enough. Stress is suspected to be one of the factors that brings this on, so it's just not safe to leave your cat (who is probably missing you and a least a little stressed) home alone for more than 24 hours at a time.

Other mishaps can befall cats as well. We know cats - they think they're sneaky but usually to their own detriment. Imagine a cat stuck in the closet the whole time his family was away. One time my own cat somehow darted out the door as we left without us realizing it, and was trapped in the hallway of the apartment building. Boy was he sorry when he realized what a bad idea he had. It went from "I tricked Mommy!" to "MOMMY! " pretty fast, you can bet. Or imagine a cat who gets sick while her owners are away, or swallows something he or she shouldn't. No, it's definitely best to have someone checking up on kitty!

If you need a catsitter, it's easy: just stop by your vet''s office or another vet clinic in the neighborhood, and ask if any of the veterinary technicians catsit. Many do, and the nice thing is that they know how to recognize if a cat isn't doing well, or if there is cause for concern. If your cat has special needs, such as medication, a technician's training will come in especially handy.

Dogs - well, unless you have someone who can stay in your home, it's tough, since they need to be walked, and they get pretty lonely too. Many people do have friends or family willing to stay with Rover, but if not your friend may be off to the kennel. Be sure to check out any kennel carefully, including an inspection of the "back". Don't be shy; you have a right to see where your dog will be staying. If you are boarding your dog, remember that he or she may need a booster of the kennel cough vaccine; it's usualy required and a pretty good idea. It's one of those vaccines where the effects are not long-lasting, so don't think that a vaccine given two years ago will still be effective.

Whatever your plan, be sure to leave every phone number you can think of, including your cell and the number where you will be staying. Let your pet's caretakers know which vet you use, and write a note giving the vet permission to treat if you cannot be reached, if you are comfortable with this. Check ahead of time that any medications your pet needs are all stocked up as well.

Well folks, happy travels! Come back soon, your pets miss you!

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