If you're leaving your pet in the care of your house swap partner, it's a good idea to have a checklist of things you need to do before you leave.
Please feel free to use this one, or modify it to suit your purposes.
Pets will mostly be very happy with a live-in carer, but there are some things you should do before you leave to make sure everything goes smoothly. No one knows your pet like you do, and some of these secrets needs to be passed on. The better acquainted your swap partner is with the regular routines, the happier the animals will be.
- Put together a motel-style folder
- Advise of pet special info, quirks
- Food and supplies
- Prepare your pets
- Safety precautions
1. Put together a motel-style folder
Hotels and motels usually provide a folder of local information and phone numbers for the convenience of guests. Why not create something similar for your swap partners, so that all essential information regarding your pet's health and welfare is in the one place and easy to find? If you swap houses again in the future (and most members do), you'll be able to use this folder over and over again.
Here are some suggested inclusions:
- Your pet's immunisation history
- Are they micro-chipped or tattooed? Give details
- RSPCA, police or other lost pets contact number
- Local government registration number
- Vet visits card
- Medicine, where to obtain more, dosages
- Your vet's name, address and phone number
- Vet's after hours number
- Clear, up-to-date photo of pet
- Safe dog walking areas and parks
2. Advise your sitter of pet special info, quirks
Is your dog friendly towards people and other dogs — or not very sociable? Is he or she likely to head for the hills if let off the lead, and be hard to round up; or to swoop on other dogs and small children? Does your cat spray inside the house? Be upfront about this — your house swap partner really does need to know any quirks in advance, and how best to handle them.
- Does your pet have certain daily routines? What are they?
- Diet: what and how much do you give your pet each day (including treats)?
- Are there any existing health or injury problems, such as skin allergies, a heart condition or diabetes?
- Vet's name, address and phone. How is payment to be made in your absence? One option is to contact the vet before you go, and arrange to have them place any charges against your credit card, or alternatively agree that you'll pay them any outstanding bills when you get back home.
- Where are your pet's toys and treats kept?
- What are your pet's favourite places, if they can't be found?
- Does your pet have any special phobias, anxieties or unusual habits?
- Are there rooms or areas where your pet isn't allowed to go?
- What should your house swap partner do regarding your pet if some emergency calls them away? Is there a friend, relative, or kennels they could call on?
- Show your swap partner the pet's travel carrier or car harness.
3. Food and supplies
Make sure you're stocked up on essentials for your absence, plus some extra should your return be delayed. Show your swap partner where your pet supplies are kept, and give them any specific instructions they need on things like:
- Food (main meals, variations, treats, chewies)
- Food and water bowls
- Medications, including when and how much to give
- Toys, leads, balls, jackets
- Make sure your pets' registration, ID tags etc are up to date and secure.
- Make sure their bedding is clean, and show where spares are kept.
- Point out shampoos, brushes, towels, bathtub, hose
- Cleaning equipment for the occasional "accident"
- Toilet needs: scoops, bags, cat tray, kitty litter
- Travel equipment: harness, blanket, pet carrier
4. Prepare your pets
- Check out their collars and leads, ensure they're secure
- Make sure their Council tags are in order. Add a contact phone number on a secure tag
- Take up-to-date photos, showing the pet's markings and face
- Introduce your house swap partners and your pet. Let them get to know each other, and have them take your dog for a walk, or feed your pet before you go.
- Take time to reassure your pet before you leave
5. Safety precautions
Collect up possibly injurious articles and substances, and either dispose of them or put them out of your pets' reach. Also prevent your pets from getting into and out of areas which could lead to harm. Look out for things like:
- Sharp objects, plastic bags and things that could choke your pets
- Insect and weed killers, rat poison, slug killer, fertiliser, paints and thinners
- Cleaning products, medicines
- Secure your gates and repair holes in your fences
- Block up or fill in any escape routes under your fences
- Close doors to rooms or sheds where the pet could get into strife. Lock those which your house swap partner won't need to use
- Consider installing a pet flap if you don't already have one
- Check on your pets just before you leave
- Leave an old item of your clothing they can sleep on or play with to remind them of you
A few thoughtful preparations can ensure your pet's health, happiness and safety, and add greatly to your peace of mind while you're away.