Pets and holidays: take on holiday or leave at home?

Your pet sees your suitcase parked in the hallway. They then notice a large supply of pet food when you unpack the shopping.

Yes, they've guessed it: You're going on holiday – but will it include them too or will they be staying at home?

This guide highlights aspects you may need to think about when taking your cat or dog with you on holiday, and considerations if you're having someone to look after them while you're away.

Taking pets with you – aspects to consider:

Travelling across the UK

The car might be a convenient way to transport pets within the UK, but remember they can also travel on the train and some buses, although coaches usually do not accept them. Whichever mode of transport you choose, the RSPCA offers the following advice:

  • Take regular stops – even when on the train to let your pet answer the call of nature and stretch its legs.
  • Provide access to freshwater and food at the cat or dog's usual mealtimes.
  • Cats should be kept in a robust and secure carrier, allowing them to sit and stand up at full height, turn around easily and lie down in a natural position. The carrier should be properly secured to stop it moving about.
  • Ensure your pet has plenty of ventilation; do not leave pets inside cars on hot days.

Transport to other EU countries (or into the EU from another ‘listed’ country)

Your pet has to meet specific requirements when travelling across EU countries or returning to the UK from another EU or non-EU listed country. The rules vary according to the country you're going to or coming from.'s guide on taking your pet abroad is useful, and you can ask your vet for advice about vaccinations needed overseas. Requirements may include:

  • Micro-chip
  • Rabies vaccination (make sure your pet is micro-chipped first or the vaccination won’t count)
  • Pet passport or official third country veterinary certificate
  • Tapeworm treatment (for dogs only)

Ferries and planes

Most ferry companies allow pets to be taken on board. Where airlines are concerned, most UK-based low-cost carriers will not allow pets to travel in the cabin, instead in the hold, while larger airlines sometimes permit cats and small dogs up to 8kg to travel in the cabin. Airlines usually accept Assistance Dogs – for example guide dogs – in the cabin.

Leaving your pet behind – aspects to consider:

It can be a tough decision leaving your pet behind, especially with those doleful eyes glancing at you. However, it can sometimes be in their best interest for their health and wellbeing. You may feel it's more appropriate to leave your pet at home if you're holidaying abroad or in a far-flung place in the UK.

Choosing who to look after your pet

There are two main choices when deciding on a 'pet sitter': ask a friend or relative or book your pet into a cattery or kennel.

  • Friend or relative

    A family member or relative will typically be cheaper than paying for a cattery or kennel. They might also know your pet well and vice versa, and be more comfortable in each other's company. A downside is that friends and relatives may not be available to cover the dates when you're on holiday.
  • Kennel or cattery

    Choosing a kennel or cattery carefully before you go on holiday could help ensure you have someone professional to look after your four-legged friend while you're away. Typical benefits include providing regular exercise, food and any basic medication requirements your pet needs.

What to look for?

  • Ask friends who have used catteries or kennels before; how do they rate them? How much did the accommodation cost?
  • Visit the place in person yourself so you can get a feel of it. Why not see about arranging a trial day for your pet at a half rate or for free?
  • It is important to choose a cattery or kennel with friendly staff; chances are they will be friendly to your pet too. Ask about the amount of time they spend with your pet each day, e.g. grooming or walking?
  • Room for two: Are there any offers available if you have more than one cat or dog? If you have another cat or dog can it stay for free or at a reduced rate?

Before you go on holiday pet checklist:

Prepare before you go on holiday, either for taking the pet with you or leaving it behind. Check that its immunisations are up to date, its claws are trimmed and coat washed, and clipped if need be.

Checklist for pet minder or kennel/cattery

If you're leaving your pet behind, make sure the kennel, cattery or person looking after your animal has the following:

  • An emergency contact number for you
  • Information on your pet's diet, mealtimes and exercise regime
  • Contact details of the vet and information about any medical conditions
  • Any bedding, bowls and toys your pet is familiar with
  • Details of the micro-chip database if your pet becomes lost or stolen
  • Information about any of your pet's behavioural traits – for example temperament, likes and dislikes etc

Whatever you decide to do, remember that your pet's comfort and wellbeing should come first. Proper preparation will go a long way, especially if you've decided to take a holiday a long way away too…

This guide aims to be informative and engaging. Though it may include tips and information, it does not constitute advice and should not be used as a basis for any financial decisions. Sainsbury’s Bank accepts no responsibility for the content of external websites included within this guide. All information in this guide was correct at date of publication.

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