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Pet Care While You Are Away

Planning a summer trip to a place that isn't pet-friendly? You'll need to find someone to look after your animal pal, pronto. The right kind of care can help him feel like he's just on a nice staycation--instead of stressed-out. How to leave him in good hands:

Pay someone to make house calls, if possible. It's by far the most comfortable option for your pet: "She'll be able to stay right in her own home, eating the food she likes and still getting attention," says Felicia Lembesis, executive director of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS).

Know when to go pro. You'll want a seasoned sitter for your very social cat or dog (especially if you have a puppy or an animal that needs medication). To find one, visit NAPPS's website, Petsitters.org, or get recommendations from other local pet owners you know and trust. Ask whomever you hire to visit at least daily to feed, walk, and entertain your pet. And find out if he'd be willing to perform extra services for additional pay if you need them, like watering your plants and taking in the mail. Depending on where you live and how much you want done, expect to pay about $15 to $25 per day.

Tap a reliable teenager for the job if you have a low-maintenance animal, such as a sleepy housecat who just needs her litter and kibble scooped. You're likely to pay less.

Don't forget about your smaller pets. Fish, birds, gerbils, and hamsters can go it alone overnight or even for the occasional weekend, but a daily visit is preferable. "The power might go out or the aquarium filter could clog," says Lembesis.

Consider a kennel. Boarding may be fine, although some animals have a hard time adjusting and become anxious about the change in their food or routine. Be sure to take a tour to see how the staff performs (Are they pleasant? Do they know the dogs' names? Will they let you bring your own food?), to check for cleanliness, and to ask how often the dogs get exercised (90 percent of boarders are canine). Ideally, they should get regular activity.

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