Prepare your animals before you travel

Thinking about going on a trip? Think your animals don’t know the minute that thought enters your head? Think again. They can read your mind, you know. And what they read is, “My person is leaving me.”

Then questions come: “Will they be back? Who will care for me?” You may return to a mightily upset animal who expresses his or her displeasure in ways ranging from the classic ignored-by-a cat snub, to anxiety, to a pile of something odiferous in your suitcase or some other place.

The odiferous gift may well happen before you leave, as well. Or there could be another form of protest, such as a well-chewed mouse, rawhide, or even a stowaway animal in your suitcase.

Our connection with our animal family members is heart to heart. That extends beyond our physical presence. The simple demonstration of this is when your animals know when you’ll be home each day, long before they can hear your car or footsteps.

Here are a few simple ways to prepare your companion animals for your trip away from them:

  • Tell them what’s happening. If you don’t, they will make up something to fill in the gaps. Say out loud that you’re going away: “I’m going on a trip to ….” Fill in the blank here with whatever it is – to see your sister, a business trip as part of your work, a personal retreat, etc..”
  • Tell them who will care for them: “Shirley will come over twice a day to take you for walks and feed you.” If your animal is going to a kennel or someone else’s home, tell them that: “You can have a special treat, too – a stay at the kennel or at Auntie Mame’s house.”
  • Tell them how long you’ll be gone and when you’ll be back, in terms that mean something to them: “It’s the full moon now. I’ll be back when the moon is half full.” Even if you’ll be gone only a few hours, letting your animals know when you’ll be back relieves some of their anxiety: “I’m leaving for a few hours. I’ll be back at suppertime.”
  • Give your animals a job to do while you’re gone, such as taking care of the house or watching out for a family member who’s staying behind.

While you’re gone:

  • Continue any little rituals you have with your animals, such as telling them good morning or good night.
  • Take their pictures with you. Focus on them for a couple of minutes at the same time each day. Your animals will feel your connection with them.
  • Imagine yourself saying hello to your animals, and giving them a head rub or chin scratch as you would if you were home.
  • When you check in with them, let them know what you’re doing that day.
  • As your trip comes to a close, you can let your animals know: “I’ll be home in two days,” or “I’ll be home tomorrow.”

If you feel silly with any of this, it’s okay. Isn’t it worth it to come home to a more relaxed household? Letting your animals know what’s happening honors their intelligence and their commitment to you. They will appreciate it.

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"Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms." - George Eliot
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." - Gandhi
"There is little that separates humans from other sentient beings – we all feel pain, we all feel joy, we all deeply crave to be alive and live freely, and we all share this planet together." - attributed to Gandhi
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