Taking your pet on vacation with you is not always practical. Leaving your pet alone when you have work responsibilities may not be feasible. These are times when it may be necessary to board your pet.

Boarding your pet is difficult at first. You feel guilty for not being able to care for your pets, while your pet feels anxious because they’re left in an unfamiliar place.

These tips will help everyone be able to survive the experience.

1. Ask for referrals first.

Always ask the people you trust the most for a referral. If your family or friends haven’t used a local boarding facility, then speak with pet owners in your neighborhood. Then create a list of facilities from the recommendations you’ve received. Your veterinarian may have suggestions to offer as well.

2. Always visit a boarding facility.

Don’t walk into a boarding facility blind on the day you need to leave your pet there. Visit in person at least one week before you must travel. Ask if they have staff present around-the-clock. Gauge the friendliness of the team with the pets. Look for signs of cleanliness, examine the enclosures, and ask about their exercise program.

3. Know the rules.

Reputable boarding facilities insist on having your pet be up-to-date on their vaccinations. You should be asked to provide paperwork from your veterinarian who offers evidence of their immunizations. Bring these papers with you during your visits because then you can reserve your time right away. If your pet isn’t current on their vaccinations, you’ll need at least 7 days’ lead time before you can board your pet.

4. Walk the entire property.

By walking the property of the boarding facility, you’ll be able to evaluate any potential for escape. This tour gives you a chance to see how solid the structures are and how much the current pets enjoy the facility.

5. Ask about how the facility cares for multiple pets.

Some boarding facilities will put all of your pets into one enclosure. Others will separate dogs from cats, keeping the kitties in a separate, soundproof room. If there is a separate cat area, you’ll want to make sure all litter containers get cleaned regularly. Avoid using any facility which smells strongly of cat urine.

6. Get a single room for your dogs.

Cats might want to be separated, but not your dogs. Ask the boarding facility for a single room for your bonded dogs. Make sure to ask about their policies on pairing up strange dogs with yours too. You don’t want to use a boarding facility that will make your dog bunk with someone who is a stranger.

7. Do a practice run.

Schedule one overnight session with the boarding facility before your travel. This dry run will help your pets feel more at home during an extended stay. It will also let you know how well they can adjust to the change. If your pets come home upset, filthy, or stressed out, then you know that a different location will be necessary.

Boarding can be stressful, but these steps help to minimize that discomfort. Bring your pet’s identification, book your time early, and make sure you supply everything which is needed to maintain their health during their stay. When all of this comes together, everyone will be able to survive the boarding experience.