Pet boarding, pet sitting, pet daycare: What’s best for you?

By Tinamaria Colaizzi

If you’re planning on traveling without your pets, you may be evaluating a few different options to accommodate your trusted companion while you’re gone. Each pet has different needs, personalities, and circumstances. It’s important to take all of these into consideration before deciding between pet boarding, pet sitting, and perhaps even pet daycare options. In this article, we’ll go through the pros and cons of each choice so that you can feel confident making the best decision for your pet and family.

What are the differences between overnight pet boarding, pet sitting, and pet daycare?

The biggest difference between these three options lies in where your pet will be staying. If you opt for a pet sitting service, someone will come to your residence to spend time with your pet. Pet boarding and daycare facilities, on the other hand, are places that pets can stay for an extended amount of time (usually with other dogs or cats). For the most part, pet daycare facilities are used for short-term stays, typically during the day. Pet sitting services and boarding facilities offer the option of both short and long term care.

No matter which option you decide to use, it’s critical to ensure that your pet is microchipped and registered with your up-to-date contact information in case they should go missing while you’re away. It’s also a good idea to have a physical ID tag on your pet, such as our Lifetime Warranty ID Tags. They’ll contain your pet’s unique microchip number and your contact details - which offers another form of protection and peace of mind while you’re away from your loyal companion.

Overnight pet boarding

Pet boarding facilities are often referred to as “pet hotels” or “pet boarding kennels” and can range from traditional kennels to “pet resorts” with private suites and grooming services.

When it comes to pet boarding, planning is key. The American Kennel Club (AKC) suggests contacting kennels or pet hotels and planning an initial visit to the facility with your pet well before the date of travel. This is a good way to understand how your dog interacts with the staff and allows you to observe the space first-hand for cleanliness, safety and comfort.

This initial visit could also be the best time to make sure your dog’s immunizations are up-to-date with the facility’s requirements. Although it may be less common to keep cats in cat boarding kennels (sometimes referred to as a cattery), these guidelines apply to cats as well.

Pros and cons of overnight dog boarding

PRO: Since a dog hotel offers 24/7 attention and care, this option can keep owners’ minds at bay, knowing that their trusted companions are socializing with other pets and staff in a supervised environment. It’s also a nice option for dogs that may get into mischief when left alone, or those that require a lot of playtime and stimulation. If your dog is particularly outgoing and social, staying at a pet hotel could offer him or her an opportunity to have fun with other dogs and people.

CON: Some potential drawbacks of overnight dog boarding include the risk of contagious diseases and injury. In particular, kennel cough can be spread in areas where many dogs congregate together, including dog boarding kennels and pet hotels. While most reputable boarding facilities will require proof of vaccination against kennel cough, other injuries incurred from playing or general activity could also occur. Always check with the facility regarding their protocol and health requirements. Lastly, dog kennels may not be the best option for all dogs, especially if your companion has a nervous demeanor or is easily stressed.

Pros and cons of overnight cat boarding

PRO: Similar to the pros of overnight dog boarding, a cat hotel can be a good alternative for cats that enjoy playtime and interaction with others. If your cat is sociable, or tends to get bored when left alone, a cat hotel can be a great opportunity for them to socialize with other cats and people.

CON: Most cats are creatures of habit that tend to enjoy their daily routines and surroundings. With this in mind, there is a risk that cats may experience some stress when taken out of their environment, so it’s crucial that you do your best to acclimate your cat to its new surroundings. Taking your companion on a tour of the overnight cat boarding facility is one way to help them get used to the potential change in environment.

Pet sitting

There are two main types of pet sitters offering pet sitting services: those that provide daily check-ins, feedings, litter changes and dog walks and those that stay in your residence and take care of your pet while you’re away. Both options can keep your pet comfortable in their familiar surroundings and eliminates the stress of transporting your pet to a separate place.

However, it’s very important that your residence is well-equipped with important information including feeding instructions, your veterinarian’s information, and your contact information in case of emergencies. Before you leave, verify that the contact details connected to your pet’s microchip are up-to-date by logging into your MyPetHealth Portal.

Pros and cons of overnight dog sitting

PRO: If you have more than one dog, enlisting a pet sitter to stay at your home while you’re away could be a cost-efficient option. Additionally, hiring a dog sitter to stay at your residence can help guarantee that your pet(s) receive individualized attention in their home environment, which can be especially helpful for shy dogs, aggressive dogs, or those who have trust issues. This option is also particularly beneficial for older companions, immunocompromised dogs, or rescue dogs experiencing separation anxiety. Hiring a pet sitter could also be a great alternative for small teacup breeds that may be injury-prone in a boarding facility.

CON: Depending on your location and the time period in which you’re traveling, it may be difficult to find a reputable dog sitter that you trust. It’s always a good idea to plan ahead and have a backup option, such as a trustworthy neighbor or family friend, who can get into your home and check on your pet if necessary.

If you’re looking for a pet sitter or dog walker, one of the great benefits of our Lifetime Protection Membership includes a $30 Rover discount, so you can save on pet sitting and dog walking services while you’re away from your pet.

Daytime visits vs. overnight cat sitting

Although cats have a reputation for being solitary creatures, adult cats should never be left alone for more than 24 hours, and younger kittens require even more frequent check-ins. Hiring a cat sitter to either visit your residence during the day or stay overnight can help your cat remain relaxed in their home environment.

Hiring an overnight cat sitter can be a great choice for cats or kittens that enjoy human interaction or suffer from separation anxiety when left alone. If someone is planning to come to your residence for daily check-ins, be sure that they are prepared to do the basics, like feeding your cat and changing its litter box. Daytime visitors should ideally also spend time playing and socializing with your cat, so that they can receive the mental and physical stimulation that they need, as well as making sure that they are comfortable and happy in general.

Check out our article on this topic, featuring ten useful tips when finding a pet sitter.

Pet daycare

If you’re taking a day trip, or will be away from home for a few hours, leaving your pet at a daycare facility could be a great alternative to pet hotels and having a sitter. Pet daycare can also be a helpful service for those who work away from their home and prefer keeping their dog or cat in a social environment with other pets during the typical workday.

Just like overnight pet boarding, make sure to plan ahead and visit the facility with your pet before making any final decisions. For an in-depth checklist of questions to ask pet daycare facilities, check out our article on how to choose a dog daycare.

Pros and cons of dog daycare

PRO: Dog daycare, commonly referred to as “doggy daycare”, is a sure way for your dog to socialize with other pets while you’re away for the day. Plus, your dog will likely be engaging in useful exercise and other activities with his or her companions. Some facilities even have cameras that you can view throughout the day to see how much fun your friend is having! Each dog daycare center is different, however, so it’s always a good idea to ask about typical daily activities and options.

CON: If you’re going away for a short day trip, or using this service during the workday, your dog will spend less time in these facilities compared to a dog hotel. However, many of the drawbacks associated with overnight dog boarding kennels, like the cost and risk of contagious diseases, apply to dog daycare as well. Additionally, some injuries with other dogs could occur during playtime or other general activities. Reputable facilities will have safety and health precautions put in place to keep everyone healthy and happy, so be sure to inquire about those when touring potential options.

Pros and cons of cat daycare

PRO: Cat daycare centers can help guarantee that your cat is stimulated and having fun while you’re away. Just like the benefits of keeping your cat at an overnight hotel, cat daycare can be a great way to keep your cat cared for and entertained while you are outside of the home for several hours or more. Cat daycare can be useful for cat owners who have daytime commitments outside of the home, like work or leisure activities, and want their companions to stay in a setting with other people and pets.

CON: Most cats prefer having ample time to acclimate themselves to their surroundings. With this in mind, you might find that transporting your cat to a cat daycare center for a short-term stay could be more hassle than what it’s worth. Plus, depending on your location, cat daycare facilities may be hard to come by, since they aren’t usually as common as dog daycare centers.

No matter which option you’re leaning towards, factoring in sufficient planning time can make all the difference to ensure that your pet has a positive experience. If you decide to keep your pet at an overnight kennel or a daycare facility, make sure that your pet’s vaccination records are up-to-date and that you’ve taken a tour of the facility, met the staff, and had a chance to ask questions ahead of time.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.