Saturday, May 10, 2008

Will Fifi Go on Vacation Too?

ARA - Summertime is a great time for a vacation. Everyone looks forward to the annual family outing when you pack up the family and head for the car, airplane, train or bus and take that getaway you have been waiting for all year long.

But there is one big question - should the family pet go on vacation, too? Is it okay to travel with your pet? Will your pet miss the family too much while gone and whine and be stressed the whole time? Will the children miss their pet so much they will rush through the vacation to get back home and life as they know it with their four-legged family member?

These are valid questions that are up for debate and discussion in households all over the world. Is vacation time a suitable outing for a pet? Of course we think of our pets as part of the family, with full rights and privileges. The more serious question becomes -- is vacation travel really good for our pets?

Ann Weaver Ph.D., an ethologist and assistant professor of psychology at Argosy University, Sarasota says it is important to make sure that the travel experience is safe and enjoyable for the pet. “How you handle it depends on the type of pet you have, but some things apply to all pets, and the type of travel you plan, airplane or car.”

“Animals that travel via airplane must endure rough, rugged travel in the luggage compartment that is cold and unmanned,” Dr. Weaver says. “In the summertime, the luggage compartment can be hot with poor air ventilation while the plane awaits take-off from the airport. Some people do not realize that their animals are handled by luggage handlers, not flight attendants. Many times dogs, cats and other animals that are transported in a carrier can experience rough treatment by luggage handlers because their carriers are mistaken for luggage and are unknowingly tossed around.”

She also says it is important to avoid long flights and pet owners should consider two hours as the maximum acceptable air travel time. Some international travel with pets requires a quarantine period in the foreign country for up to six months to prevent the spread of diseases.

Another frequent mode of vacation travel is by van or car. This too can pose problems for a pet. It is important that family members keep an eye on the pet to ascertain its condition and level of comfort. If the pet is shaking, whining and appears fretful, then the family must do something to relieve the animal’s anxiety.

“Sometimes, you can let a dog or cat rest its head on your lap or lay on its blanket with recognizable scents to provide a sense of familiarity and comfort,” Dr. Weaver says. “It is also important to line the interior of the carrier with a blanket for additional comfort and secure the travel carrier to avoid excessive jarring and motion.”

Just as family members like to stop, eat, stretch their legs and make trips to the rest room; animals appreciate and need the same treatment. It is important for animals to have food and water and relieve themselves, Dr. Weaver explains.

“I have taken road trips with a parrot on my shoulder, a six-foot boa constrictor on my lap and a dog resting on a blanket on the back seat. It’s truly about making the animal comfortable and feel relaxed during the travel experience,” she says.

Dr. Weaver also indicates that there is not a species of dog or cat that is considered better suited for travel. “It all depends on the temperament of the animal and if it is accustomed to riding in a vehicle.”

The decision to bring a pet along on vacation is genuinely a family decision. The main concern is to determine the best way to make the family vacation experience fun and safe for every person and pet traveling.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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