Common Sense, Common Courtesy, and Planning: Secrets to holiday travel with pets

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What’s my number one ground rule of holiday travel with pets? The person who owns the ground makes the rules.

Before packing your pooch or carting your kitty along to Grandmother’s house for the holidays, you need to make sure they’ll be welcome. In case the family and friends you’ll be visiting respond with a ho-ho-no, make sure you’ve lined up a good plan B. Most pet sitters and boarding kennels – especially the best ones – are booked months in advance during the holiday season.

But if you get the oh-so-seasonal green light, here’s how you can make the trip very merry for everyone, including your pets.

Santa wants you to be honest. If your pet has any particular idiosyncrasies, such as howling at reindeer or men in red suits, the time to share that information is when you first request to bring your four-legged family member along. And the first person you should be honest with is yourself; after all, maybe you really don’t appreciate the fine spray of cat litter your feline friend sees fit to shower the surroundings with after he does his business. In other words, wake up and smell the catnip!

The only tiny creatures stirring should be adorable mice in little mouse suits. Make sure your pets are up to date on parasite preventive measures. You definitely don’t want to be singing “Fleas Navidad” come Christmas morning.

Good manners make for happy holidays. Be extremely courteous to your hosts who were gracious enough to allow your pets to join you on your visit. Ask where your pet should potty, where you should dispose of used cat litter or potty bags, and be sure to bring a sheet to cover the bed or other furniture. Bring your own bowls and utensils, and a crate.

Familiarity breeds contentment. Even pets who love to travel will handle the trip better if you bring along familiar toys, treats, bedding, and food. Surrounded by the smells of home, eating their tried-and-true meals, and snuggling down at night in the pet bed they’ve managed, over years of pawing and circling, to get just right, will help ease any stress they might experience at all the new people, places, and things they’ll be encountering.

To combat stress, begin before you depart. Get your pet used to traveling in the car if she isn’t already. Use calming music and nutraceuticals designed to chill your pet out. If that’s not enough, speak with your veterinarian about medication for both car sickness and anxiety. Specifically request an anti-anxiety medication, not just a sedative like ace promazine that can cause your pet to feel “out of it” but doesn’t diminish anxiety. And one last tip: If your pet travels in a carrier, put something under it so it’s level, not slanted like a car seat.

Looking for more tips to help your pets have a happy, healthy home life? Visit!