The holidays are here! And if you’re like 98.6 million other Americans, that means you’ll be spending at least part of the holiday season traveling to visit friends and family. And given that approximately 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted every year (1.6 million dogs and 1.6 million cats, according to the ASPCA), that means a good chunk of those travelers also have to consider their pets when planning their holiday travel.



You could, of course, bring your four-legged friend with you, but perhaps your cat doesn’t travel well or a family member is allergic to dog hair. So, what to do? For many, a boarding kennel is the best solution: your furry BFF gets to hang out with their pals and a dedicated animal caretaker ensures your dog or cat gets plenty of food, water, and exercise.

But, how do you choose which boarding kennel? You definitely don’t want to pick just any ol’ kennel for your beloved pet to stay in. Instead, you’ll want to thoroughly research kennels in your area to find one that is a good fit for both you and your pet. Here are some tips on how to pick a reputable boarding kennel that won’t leave you feeling frazzled when you drop your dog or cat off.

Ask Your Veterinarian For a Recommendation

You could just Google “boarding kennels in my area” but to truly find a reputable kennel, ask your veterinarian for their recommendation. Veterinarians are likely to be your best bet on a knowledgeable recommendation for a kennel, plus your veterinarian knows your pet and will be able to keep your pet’s needs in mind. Another great source for the scoop on kennels would be your dog park. Ask other dog park goers (the humans, not the dogs) and see if there is any kennel that really stands out.

Always Tour the Kennel 

Before signing your dog or cat up for a kennel, tour the kennel beforehand. Here are some key things to look out for while on the tour:

  1. Is the kennel clean? There shouldn’t be any waste or urine (and if an accident does happen, staff should clean and sanitize the area immediately to prevent diseases spreading!) The kennel should also be well-lit and in generally good condition (i.e. the roof shouldn’t be falling down.)
  2. Is the kennel overcrowded? This one is really key. Be sure to ask staff how many animals they usually have boarded and how many caretakers are usually there. Ideally, there should be a 1:10 caretaker-to-dog ratio. This way your animal will get more individual attention!
  3. How do the animals look? When passing through, make sure the dogs and cats currently boarded at the kennel look happy and well taken care of. Do they have food? Water? Proper bedding?
  4. Ask questions! How many times are the dogs walked? How often are they fed? How can you ensure staff will give your animal their medication (if they need to take any)? What happens if there is an emergency, what’s the protocol? What are the kennel’s staffed hours? Is the kennel certified?

There are many kennels nowadays that offer webcams, allowing you to check in on your dog or cat from your phone or computer when you are away. If this is important to you, be sure to see if the kennel offers this. And keep in mind: if you ask a kennel for a tour and they refuse, DO NOT leave your pet there!

Consider Your Pets’ Needs 

A kennel should be able to administer any medications your pet may need if that is a concern, but make sure you take into account your pet’s other needs. For instance, if your dog is a senior, does not get along with small dogs, or perhaps they have separation anxiety.



There are many reputable kennels to choose from, but you may want to consider a long-term pet sitter during your travels. If your pet has separation anxiety, for example, having someone stay over at your residence may make them a bit more comfortable while you are away. Whatever you choose, you definitely don’t want to dump your pet at the shelter over the holidays, so plan accordingly to ensure your furry friend’s happiness!

For more tips on pet well-being and care, check out these other One Green Planet articles:

Lead Image Source: Jonathan Fredin/Flickr