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No getting away from the cost of your pet’s vacation

by Miles Brignall, 9th June 2005

A nifty piece of journalism by the Guardian’s Miles Brignall reveals how expensive it is to have your pet cared for while you’re away. That is, of course, if you haven’t discovered how to find a free live-in pet sitter through MindMyHouse yet. (But you knew I was going to say that.)

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Saturday 29 May 2004
Making sure your dog or cat lives in the manner to which they are accustomed while you are away for a couple of weeks, is a pricey business, as Miles Brignall discovered

A chauffeur-driven limo to and from your accommodation, access to 24-hour medical care, and all special dietary needs taken into account – it could be the latest luxury hotel. But this is not for you; it’s for your pets.

A Jobs & Money survey has revealed the cost of getting your pet looked after while you go away can rival the price of the holiday itself – particularly if you hire someone to come and live in your home to cosset your animal in your absence.

Even basic hotel (kennel) accommodation for your dog can cost as much as £250 if you take a two-week holiday. But you can go away safe in the knowledge that you’ll be able to access a webcam and make sure your pet is getting its beauty sleep.

Kennels and catteries

Until relatively recently these were the traditional answer to the pet/holiday conundrum. Most charge by the day and offer discounts for two family pets sharing the same – usually centrally heated – space. Prices around the country vary enormously; the cheapest we came across was £6.40 per day for a labrador, offered by the Kyber Kennels in North Yorkshire, to £20 a night at London’s exclusive Dogchester Hotel. Cats can pass a day up the Kyber for a very reasonable £4.20.

Over at the Gay Dog Boarding Kennels (it is unclear whether this is a reference to the sexuality of the dog) in Sussex, dogs are housed for £15.60 a day although you do get to use their kennel-cam facilities. Overall, standard sized dogs such as a labrador, cost an average of £10 per day, while cats cost around £6. At plenty of kennels we contacted in the South East there weren’t many spaces left for this August, and some have started charging peak-rate fees over the busiest periods such as bank holiday weekends.

One thing that varies considerably is the amount of walking offered. Some kennels promised to take the dog out for a long walk, while others said the dogs were housed in areas that comprised a run-out.

All the kennels and cateries demanded to see evidence that the pet in question’s vaccinations were up to date. Most had a vet either visiting once a day, or on-call, and some even offered insurance.

Most kennels now offer a huge range of ‘other services’ that include taxi rides and the like. Long-term residents at the Dogchester Hotel even get taken down to the owner’s other house in Devon for some country air and a long frisk around.

Care in the community

Probably the best option for cats is to let them stay in their own home and receive twice daily visits from a feeder. A whole industry has grown up offering this service and one of the best known organisations is Pet Pals. This is a franchise operation that has 29 offices round the country offering a range of pet care services. For around £6-£8 per visit it will go to the home, play with and feed the cat and even water your indoor plants. Most clients have two visits a day, so if you only have one cat this is more expensive (but less stressful for the cat) than sending it to a cattery. Pet Pals staff also offers dog walking services for people who are out at work all day, or will take your dog into their own home while you are away for some TLC.

One-on-one

If either of the above services just don’t offer enough pampering, you’ll want to opt for the ultimate service, 24-hour care in your own home with plenty of walks guaranteed. For £36.40 per day/night Pet Pals will send someone round to look after all the pets. This may sound like a lot of money but if you have several animals it could provide the most cost-effective solution.

The same goes for House Sitters. This is aimed at those who want the security of someone living in their home while they are away, with pet care an added bonus. It charges £29 per day, plus £1 per animal, and a £6-a-day food allowance – for the house sitter, not the dog – plus travel costs and a one-off admin charge. It has people all over the country ready to look after your pets and do the gardening etc. All are carefully vetted and employed by the company.

However, this comes at a price as the charges soon add up, and you only get 105 minutes work/walking per day, as part of the deal – if you need any more time there’s an extra cost.

Stressing the time factor

Who to call:

Being sent to a cattery or kennel is no holiday for your pet, according to David Appleby who runs the Pet Behaviour Centre in Defford, Worcestershire.

You have to condition a dog to being left, preferably starting at a young age. He says: ‘Start off leaving it in the kennel for an hour or two and slowly build it up. Eventually, it will accept the kennel as part of his natural environment.’

Cats, however, usually find moving to a new place much more traumatic. ‘The extent to which a dog or cat accepts the presence of another person will largely depend on how well you have prepared the animal. Everything’s possible but takes a little time – to send a pet which is very dependent on its owner away for two weeks without preparation would not be kind,’ he says.

· The Dogchester Hotel, tel: 0207 7928030

· Kyber Kennels, tel 01759 302372

· The Gay Dog Boarding Kennels, tel 01256 389233

· Petpals.com

· The National Association of Registered Pet Sitters, dogsit.com

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

About the author: Miles Brignall

Miles Brignall writes for the Guardian Newspapers group.