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Pet Sitting vs. Boarding: What’s the Difference & What’s Best for Your Pet?

Ashley Bates

June 18, 2021

Unfortunate as it may be, we can’t take our pets everywhere with us. Whether you’re going on vacation or can’t find a pet-friendly hotel near you, you may have to rely on professionals to care for your dog or cat while you’re away.

But when you’re mulling over your options, you may see many offers for boarding or pet sitting. What exactly is the difference between the two, and which is more fitting for what you’re looking for? Let’s look at what each of these entails so you can make the best decision for your furry friend.

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Overview of Petting Sitting:

pet sitting_Piqsels
Image Credit: Piqsels

Pet sitting is when an experienced person comes over to your house while you’re away to care for your animal. Typically, this provides a more intimate setting, as your pet is safe at home in their comfortable environment. Your pet gets one-on-one care while the sitter is there.

Pet Sitting Is Specialized Care

feeding pet_Sam Haven_Pixabay
Image Credit: Sam Haven, Pixabay

You can make detailed instructions to guide the caretaker through the motions. You can leave any necessary medications, a feeding schedule, and any other written notes you think are relevant.

Being able to communicate this way will leave less room for hiccups while you’re away. Having a pet sitter with a dog or cat who has unique needs can give them a better experience.

You can explain your pet’s specific quirks, health issues, and any other behavioral concerns, so the person is well-aware. Then, they can utilize the information and take care of your pooch as you request.


Pet Sitting Is Very Personal

feeding dog_Hebi B._Pixabay
Image Credit: Hebi B., Pixabay

When you hire a pet sitter, they come over to feed, walk, and water your animals. They can spend time playing with them to run out some energy. Your pet can feel comfortable and relaxed without any hype or confusion of being in an unfamiliar setting.

They will have individualized care and undivided attention from the sitter. Even though they miss you, being in their own territory might make them feel at ease until you arrive home.


Character and Compatibility Are Important

playing with dog_Olena Yakobchuk_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Olena Yakobchuk, Shutterstock

If you are inviting in a caretaker, you need this person to be compatible with your animal. The two should hit it off, making you very comfortable to take time away from your dog or cat. Meet and greets beforehand with the caretaker will help ensure they are a good fit.

General Cost

Because pet sitting varies so much depending on the person and their experience level, general costs can vary tremendously. The better reputation the pet sitter possesses, the higher the potential price.

Pros
  • Individualized care
  • You can personally tailor the schedule
  • You can choose the person you want
  • Your pet is in its own environment
Cons
  • It can be costly
  • Your sitter and animal must be compatible

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Overview of Pet Boarding:

pet boarding_W_NAMKET_Shutterstock
Image Credit: W_NAMKET, Shutterstock

Pet boarding facilities are places that take on several dogs or cats while their humans are away. Many facilities have specific rules or regulations in place, so you can know just what the terms are before they go. Trained professionals make sure your dog or cat has adequate care until you pick them up.


Pet Boarding Houses Many Animals

dogs eating_Javier Brosch_Shutterstock
Image Credit: _Javier Brosch, Shutterstock

With this setup, your pet is in a social setting among other animals and caretakers. This might be an extremely suitable option for dogs or cats who absolutely love to play with others. Highly social animals that thrive on interaction usually do very well in this type of setting.

If you have an animal that is a little bit iffy around newcomers, you need to make sure to express any concerns with the facility before leaving. Particularly aggressive dogs or cats might not work out in a situation where they have to be around other furry pals.


Pet Boarding is Professional

pet boarding_Jayme Burrows_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Jayme Burrows, Shutterstock

Boarding facilities hire well-trained professionals to feed, water, walk, and play with your pets while you are away. These caretakers know exactly the nutritional, medical, and physical needs of your pooch or feline—and they act accordingly.


Pet Boarding is Equipped for Medical Concerns

pet medical_David Mark_Pixabay
Image Credit: David Mark, Pixabay

If your pet has any known allergies or health problems, boarding facilities make very well-documented notes regarding their conditions. This documentation reminds each worker of how to care for your animals and they can administer any medications as necessary.


General Cost

Pet boarding is not necessarily cheap, but it is affordable for most families. The cost factor might be one of the main aspects you’re looking at if you are on a budget. Rates will vary depending on the facility, so make sure to check in multiple locations.

Pros
  • Professional staff
  • Medical accommodations
  • Animal socialization
Cons
  • Limited one-on-one care
  • Schedules may conflict
  • Exposure to potential illness

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Breaking it Down: Which is Better?

Choosing the right way to take care of your pet while you’re away will come down to quite a few factors for you to consider. Ultimately, it truly comes down to your and your animal’s level of comfortability with a situation.

Ways Pet Sitting Can Be Better Than Pet Boarding

dog caretaker_roy3004_Pixabay
Image Credit: roy3004, Pixabay

Pet sitting will have certain aspects that attract you more than pet boarding. Here are a few upsides to think about.

  • Your pet is at home.

Pet sitting might work very well for a pet who is extremely anxious or nervous about new settings. Sometimes, our little buddies don’t take well to new circumstances. If they’re in a boarding facility, it can cause some tension and general confusion.

  • Your pet can avoid potential illness.

With this personalized care, you can rest easy knowing that your pet is exposed to any potential illnesses such as kennel cough or rabies. While pet boarding facilities try to maintain the utmost health for your pets, sometimes these things are out of their control.

  • Having a pet sitter can ward off intruders.

When someone is coming directly to your house, it can discourage passersby from entering your home without your consent. It gives the impression that someone is watching the home and could pop over anytime for a visit.

Ways Pet Boarding Can Be Better than Pet Sitting

pet boarding III_Jayme Burrows_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Jayme Burrows, Shutterstock

If pet sitting sounds like a good deal, here are some ways boarding might be better.

  • Your pet can interact with other animals.

If your dog or cat is the type to get bouncily excited for dog park trips or kitty play dates, they might love staying in a boarding facility. They will probably make lots of new friends and be the life of the party. They might not even notice that you’re gone.

  • You have the certainty of professional care.

All of the staff members have to train specifically in animal care. When you leave your pet there, you know that these employees are held to specific standards to care for your animal efficiently.

  • Boarding is typically less expensive.

Boarding facilities can vary in cost just as pet sitting can. However, they tend to be roughly close in price and cost less than personalized pet care.

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Downsides to Pet Sitting

Pet sitting II_Africa Studio_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Of course, there are two sides to every story. Here’s why pet sitting might not be the greatest pick.

  • Your pet might be more territorial in their home when you’re away.

Your pet might perceive this pet sitter as a threat and not feel comfortable (or even potentially get aggressive with them.) Often, this has to do with territory and the misunderstanding of the pet sitters’ intentions. These factors will absolutely depend on the animal.

  • Pet sitting is usually more expensive.

Another thing to consider is that pet sitting tends to be a little bit more expensive depending on who you select and their personal rates. Not to throw shade on anyone’s credibility, but if the pet sitter is charging significantly lower than others, it might be a red flag.

  • Not all pet sitters are reputable, credible, or trustworthy.

You definitely want to hire someone who is extremely reputable and experienced in this category. If you hire someone who is unfamiliar or just starting, they might not take the best care of your pet—as opposed to someone who’s had a few more notches in their belt.

You are trusting another human being to enter your home while you’re away. This person should be trustworthy, as they will be around your beloved pets and all of your belongings. Most probably have the best of intentions, but there will occasionally be that one that pushes the boundaries.

Other employees are not around to monitor that this person is treating your pet with respect and understanding. It might seem like rainbows and butterflies on the surface, but you run into the risk of hiring someone who might not treat your pal the way that you would.

Downsides to Pet Boarding

cats and dogs eat pet food_Irina Kozorog_shutterstock
Image Credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock

Even though pet boarding is a solid option, there are some downfalls to think about before you select.

  • Your pet might not get one-on-one attention.

One downside to that wording is that these professionals have quite a few animals to care for. Your dog or cat won’t get the one-on-one attention that they would in a pet sitting situation.

  • Your pet could be exposed to certain risk factors.

Most boarding facilities are incredibly clean, well-organized, and disease-free. But when you have a group of animals together, certain health issues might slip through the cracks. Your dog has a chance of contracting certain ailments that they won’t find at home.

As long as your pet is up to date on vaccinations, most concerns won’t affect them.

  • Your pet might not acclimate well.

Another thing to think about is the temperament of your animal. Some pets absolutely love new settings. Others tend to shy away from this type of situation. If you know your pooch or kitty doesn’t adjust well to changes, putting them in a pet boarding facility might run the risk of stressing them out completely.

On top of nervousness and stress-related issues, some dogs and cats are not friendly with others. If you feel they have that temperamental risk, your pet may get into an altercation with another animal.

If one of the workers tries to intervene, your pet also has a chance of accidentally biting one of them. If your pet doesn’t have the right personality for pet boarding, pet sitting might be a safer and more efficient option.

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An Additional Option

Alternatives to either of these options would be to talk to a trusted family member or friend. You can have them come to take care of your pets while you’re away.

Or they can keep your pet at their home until you’re back. This option can work in your favor for a few reasons—but mainly because the dog or cat is already familiar with this person.

Unfortunately, that’s not an option for everyone, but it’s definitely something to consider if you have someone in mind. If you supply all of the food and personal items necessary, this person isn’t out any real expense to help you out.

Pet Sitting
  • Pet stays home
  • Personal care
  • More expensive
  • Research is required to find a reputable pet sitter
  • More direct, individualized attention in a familiar environment
Pet Boarding
  • Pet stays in facility
  • General care
  • Less expensive
  • Employees are professionally trained and hired for proven skill
  • Social setting for your pet to interact with other dogs or cats

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Conclusion

Only you can decide what the best decision is for your dog or cat. You know your animal better than anyone else, and you know what they would be most comfortable with.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re on a budget and you can only afford to board. You’ll be home before you know it, and your dog or cat will be back on its own turf. Just make sure to do your research to find a credible place to feel confident leaving your lovable, furry pals.


Featured Image Credit: Jayme Burrows, Shutterstock

Ashley Bates

Ashley Bates is a freelance dog writer and pet enthusiast who is currently studying the art of animal therapy. A mother to four human children— and 23 furry and feathery kids, too – Ashley volunteers at local shelters, advocates for animal well-being, and rescues every creature she finds. Her mission is to create awareness, education, and entertainment about pets to prevent homelessness. Her specialties are cats and dogs.


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