You may be a devoted pet owner, but you can’t always take your pet along on your travels. If you’re travelling for business, you may be too focused on your work to give your pet the attention they deserve. Even if you’re going on a vacation, the logistics of travelling with any kind of animal can be stressful to work out. This is especially true if you have to fly, have a pet that requires special care, or aren’t going to a pet-friendly destination.
When your pet can’t come on a trip, it can be difficult to leave them behind. You may feel guilty for having fun without them, nervous about leaving them with a pet sitter, or anxious about a bad situation that happened last time you were away. Missing your pet while travelling is normal, but if you aren’t careful, these feelings can blossom into separation anxiety, making it even harder to focus on your trip.
Before you hit the road, do your best to prepare yourself and your pet for your time apart. That way, you can enjoy the trip of a lifetime and ensure your pet is as comfortable as possible while you’re gone.
Managing Your Separation Anxiety While Away
Before anything else, you have to consider your feelings about being separated from your pet. While most pet owners likely miss their pets (at least a little bit) when travelling, some experience separation anxiety. Though separation anxiety can feel different for everyone, you may experience intense feelings of distress or worry at the thought of leaving your pet alone.
It’s important to remember that many animals are attuned to human emotions. When you feel upset, there’s a good chance your pet will notice. Further, if you feel stressed, you may contribute to feelings of stress in your pet, especially if you have a cat or dog.
Simply put, if you feel anxious about leaving your pet, you could be inadvertently causing them to feel the same way. This sets a negative tone for your pet before you even leave for your trip. Managing your own emotions before leaving will help both of you feel calmer while you’re away.
Emotionally Preparing Pets Before You Travel
Your feelings aside, you should take some time to prepare your pets for your departure. They may not necessarily miss you in the same way that you miss them, but many animals — particularly cats and dogs — do experience separation anxiety. Depending on the severity of the anxiety, you may be able to help your pet cope on your own. However, it’s always best to talk to your vet to find a solution that works well for your pet.
Even if they don’t experience separation anxiety, your pet may still have a tough time being away from you. Staying in a boarding facility or at someone else’s home can be upsetting. Even if they stay in your home and someone comes over to care for them, their usual routine is disrupted, which can be distressing in and of itself.
Unfortunately, you can’t avoid that disruption or distress entirely, but, as a pet owner, it is your responsibility to try and minimize it as much as you can. Keep in mind how your pet may react when you leave, and consider what you can do to make them happy in your absence.
What You Can Do as a Pet Owner
There are several things you can do to reduce any feelings of separation anxiety — in both yourself and your pet — until you get home:
Keep Photos of Your Pets on You
Before you leave for your trip, make sure you have photos of your pet to bring with you. While you can keep photos on your smartphone, it can help to have a physical reminder of your pet. Consider printing out a picture to bring with you. If you need to save space in your luggage, you can incorporate a favourite photo into another item you have to bring with you, like your phone case or laptop cover. Then, whenever you take your phone or laptop out, you’ll be reminded of a positive moment you had with your pet.
Make Sure Your Pet Is Happy
Similarly, make sure your pet will be safe and happy while you’re gone. Not only will your pet be comfortable, but you can take comfort in the fact that they’re being cared for properly.
You know your pet best. Leave them with their favourite toys and treats, or splurge on something new for them. If possible, make sure they have access to their crate or their bed, as they may find these safe places reassuring.
Additionally, leave your pet with something that smells like you, such as a blanket from your bed or an article of your clothing. That way, they can still smell your scent, even though you’re gone.
Leave Your Pet With Someone You Know
If possible, leave your pet with someone that you and your pet know, such as a close friend or family member. This person will already know your pet, their routine and habits, and their quirks and idiosyncrasies. Your pet may even be excited to be with this person, especially if they have spent a lot of time together in the past.
You may also feel more secure if you leave your pet with someone you know and trust. Your friends and family may have a personal connection with your pet and have a greater incentive to go above and beyond in their care.
Of course, leaving your pet with someone you know isn’t always an option. You may have to hire a pet sitter or board your pet at a kennel. You can still find excellent caregivers for your pet, but it may take some time to find the right person for the job. Be patient while you look for someone that both you and your pet trust.
Set Communication Expectations
Make sure you discuss your communication expectations with your pet sitter before your trip. Let them know how frequently you want updates about your pet, and what kind of updates you prefer. Between video calling, text and email, and pictures, there are countless ways to check up on your pet during your trip.
However, be careful not to let your own separation anxiety cloud your judgment. If you begin to feel stressed about your pet while you’re gone, you may be tempted to call or text your pet sitter outside of your normal three-per-day (or whatever you’ve agreed upon prior). A quick check-in may help you feel better in the moment, but those anxious feelings are likely to crop up again, leading to another quick check-in (and another, and another).
To resist the urge for constant updates, you can leave instructions for the pet sitter on what to do and who to contact in case of an emergency. Leaving emergency contact information and instructions may not only help you feel better, but it could also be a big stress-reliever for your pet sitter as well. If anything does go wrong, they’ll know exactly what to do and can focus on fixing the situation instead of trying to get a hold of you.
Keep the Goodbye Short and Sweet
When the time comes, do your best to keep your goodbyes brief and calm. Making a big deal out of leaving will only make your pet nervous and alert them to the fact that something out of the ordinary is happening. Instead, say goodbye however you usually would, grab your suitcase, and head out.
In addition, remember that this experience may be a positive one for your pet. Saying goodbye may not be fun for your pet, but they’ll probably have a good time with the pet sitter. They may get to meet other people and animals, get extra playtime, or do other fun activities that they don’t usually get to do.
Instead of worrying, do your best to focus on the fun that both you and your pet are having. It will make your reunion that much better when you get home from your travels.