STOP THE GUILT BEFORE IT STARTS
By Nancy Marano
Marija Kögl and friend.
Familiar pangs of worry and guilt hit you. You’re going out of town and you can’t take Fluffy and Fido with you, but, how will you ensure their safety, comfort and care while you’re gone? Anybody with companion animals has faced this question at some time. You want to make the best choice but you aren’t sure what that is. Many options are available but choosing among them isn’t always easy. When considering possibilities, it’s best to keep the needs of your particular companion animal in mind, as well as your own comfort level.
Some people are able to leave Fluffy and Fido in the loving care of a relative. Others rely on the help of a neighbor, who promises to look in daily, put down food and water, scoop out the litter box and walk the dog. But, most of us either don’t have these options or we aren’t comfortable using them.
Boarding kennels or pet sitters are two frequently used solutions. To learn the pros and cons of each of these options, I talked with Marija Kögl, who oversees the cattery at Canine Country Club and Feline Inn, and Debbie Candelaria, owner of Ears To Rears, a professional pet sitting service in the Albuquerque area.
What services do you provide?
Marija: “We provide a nice, healthy environment with lots of light and a good air-conditioning system. Each cat is fed twice a day with a quality food or special food the owner provides. “I spend a lot of time cleaning the kennels and making sure the cattery is kept odor free. That’s the first impression a visitor has. Everything should be pleasant for the cats. Each cat spends time in the playroom while I clean its kennel.
“Most cats enjoy the playroom, but for those that don’t want to leave their kennel, I let them stay in their kennel. I think it’s better to leave a cat in her own kennel than grab her and stress her out.”
Debbie: “We offer daily pet care, which includes basic house care as well. We also provide overnight stays. Day care services are for people who are away at work all day or for the elderly who need help walking their dog. We do wing, beak and nail trims for birds, and pet photography. We also offer special care, which means caring for pets with various medical conditions or injuries. This might be giving daily injections or administering subcutaneous fluids.”
What qualifications do you need to do your job?
Marija: “I’ve been at the Feline Inn for five years. When I came, I didn’t have much experience but I had a great love of cats. Now the American Boarding Kennel Association (ABKA) has certified me in cat care. To receive certification I studied their materials and passed a comprehensive test on cat care.”
Debbie: “There are no industry wide standards as yet, but Pet Sitters International and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters do have certification programs. There are no state regulations either. Most people look for pet sitters who really care about their pets. Our company belongs to Pet Sitters International and we’re insured through them for liability or negligence. We also belong to the New Mexico Professional Pet Sitters Association.”
Why should a person have you care for their companion animals?
Marija: “I’d select a boarding kennel for safety. I am positive no cats will accidentally get away. I feed them twice a day, groom them and play with them. I immediately notice if something is wrong and call the owner, the emergency contact or take the cat to the veterinarian.
“I’d be afraid that a cat at home might hide from a person it didn’t know. Then it would be difficult to tell whether it was eating and drinking properly or whether something was wrong. That couldn’t happen here.” Debbie: “The disadvantage of using a kennel is exposing your animals to other animals and possible disease. Animals are in a cage. They may or may not get played with or walked. They may not have access to the outside. It all depends on what you pay for because everything that’s done for the animal is charged separately. It depends on how people view their animals. Many people don’t think of their animals as little people the way some of us do. If you do, the thought of putting your animal in a cage for a week is horrible.
“Kenneling is good for some animals, though. If a dog is overly protective of his territory or he’s going to be outside in the heat, he should be at a kennel. If there are medical problems such as diabetes, a cat is better off being kenneled with a veterinarian. It would be difficult for the pet sitter to catch the cat to give it the required medication. But, usually the animal is better off at home.”
What should a person do before trusting an animal to the care of a kennel?
Marija: “They should look at the facility before they bring their animal. They should see what kind of attention the animals get and how they are handled. They should notice the cleanliness of the place and whether there is any odor and they should check on the staff’s training. Are they just there to clean up the cages or are they there to give the pet attention? Do they know a dog or cat every time it comes in and can they call it by name? A person should check whether the kennel is ABKA certified. All of that’s important.”
Debbie: “People should interview a pet sitter in their home and see how she relates to their animals. They should ask about the pet sitter’s experience, get references and check them out and make sure the pet sitter is insured and bonded. They should ask their veterinarian if they know about the pet sitter and what her reputation is. They should also check on what contingency plans the pet sitter has in case of personal illness or inclement weather.”
By weighing your options and checking out the possibilities ahead of time you will leave with fewer guilt feelings and know your companion animal is well cared for and enjoying its vacation, too.
Nancy Marano is a freelance writer living in Albuquerque.
Note: This article first appeared in the Fall/Winter 1999 issue.
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