What To Do With Pets When You Take a Career Gap Year

This article is a re-worked summary of a longer post that can be found at TheSabbaticalGuide.com.

There are many big decisions to take before going on a career break, but among the most difficult is working out what to do with your pets. For most of us, pets form part of our extended family, so making sure they have somewhere to stay that will keep them happy and safe is a big consideration in your career break planning.

In this article I will explore the four options you have available to you.

It will mainly be focusing on cats and dogs as they form majority of pet ownership.

The Options:


There are four main options when deciding what to do with your pets whilst you take extended leave.
These are:

  1. Cattery or Kennels
  2. Let them stay with someone your trust
  3. Leave them at home
  4. Take them with you


1) Cattery or Kennels


The first option is to put your pet in either the cattery or kennels.

This is the most expensive option on the list, with average prices in the UK as follows:

  • Cattery average price £9.57 a day
  • Kennels average price £17.35 a day

Below I’ve mapped out the costs for some standard career break times:

cattery v. kennels

Whilst the cost is high, you have to weigh it up against the peace of mind of having your pet somewhere you trust. These facilities are run by professionals, who are used to dealing with different breeds of cat and dog, and will have a close relationship with a vet if anything were to go wrong.

It is also an option that probably works better for dogs than cats, as cats are more used to having their freedom. Most kennels will also take dogs for regular walks, whereas cats will spend much longer periods of time in their individual pen.

2) Let them stay with someone you trust


You may have a close friend or family member living nearby, who already is a pet lover and has the perfect home just waiting for another occupant.

Pet Manual

Whilst this may seem an easy solution, some pets struggle to adapt to new environments, especially if there are other animals or children present. My advice would be to do a test run. Set aside a weekend, a few months before you leave, to give you pet a small holiday of their own.If it works out well, and all animals were happy, then you know it’s a decision that will work whilst you are away for an extended period of time. If not, you’ve still got time to look into other options.

If you don’t know an obvious candidate to leave your pet with, then this decision becomes a lot harder.

I would start off by spreading the word among local friends. Use social media, but be clear on what you’re asking, what the timescales are, and any other unique ‘quirks’ your pet has.

Encourage people to share you post, as a friend or a friend is much better than a stranger.

If someone does come forward, and you don’t know them well, then this is when the decision becomes really hard.

You’re going to have to make a call as to whether you can trust them, and that isn’t always easy.

Here are a few hints:

  • Do a bit of Facebook stalking. I know this isn’t glamorous, but if their photos are public, or you are already friends, then this might give you some information about them that will help. How big a part do their pets play in their lives? Does their house look well cared for and safe? This step might give you nothing, and it’s important not to jump to conclusions, but it might help you start to form an opinion.
  • If it’s a 2nd or 3rd level connection from the sharing of a post, then use the contact or friend you know well do do some background research. Be tactful, but you can learn alot if they’ve known this person for a long time
  • Arrange to meet up with them. Ideally this would be at their house so you can see how it would work. If they have pets already, you can see how well they are kept, and what kind of personalities they have. If they are playful puppies and you have an old dog, you have to consider if the two would work well together.
  • If you are happy with your initial findings, then arrange a ‘test run’ as set out above in this article.

I know some of the above feels a bit uncomfortable, but if you are pursuing this as an option you have to do what’s right for your pet. Animals cannot talk or verbally express an opinion, so you are making this decision on their behalf.

If you feel uncomfortable at all, politely, but firmly turn down the request. You do not want to spend your precious sabbatical time worrying about whether you have made the right decision.

3) Leave them at home


Leaving your pets at home may well be the best option for them, and the cheapest option for you.

The key is having someone who is willing to move in and look after them.

For us, we were lucky enough to have our neighbour’s daughter who was 21, and looking for that first experience of living away from home. We offered the house to her with no rent, as the saving for us was massive versus putting our cat in a cattery.

This option not only keeps your pets safe, but also your house! Any potential burglars will see the house is still occupied and are less likely to try and break in. It also has additional benefits such as keeping on top of important post, stopping the garden from turning into a jungle and reacting to any household emergencies like burst pipes or power cuts.

But what if you don’t have anyone local that you trust?

Then use a housesitting company (which are usually free, as the person gets the benefit of somewhere to stay).

They are fairly easy to find, as there are many available, but here are some popular services to get you started:

4) Take them with you


Option 4 is really only applicable if you have a dog, well unless your cat is alot better trained than our is!

dog in crate

It’s also only really applicable to people planning to take a road-trip style career break. Even a dog is going to struggle on a backpacking adventure!

There are lots of sites available that will talk you through the benefits and pitfalls of travelling with a dog, but here are some of the key considerations:

  • You will need to plan a route or destination that is dog friendly.
  • Will you be easily able to find pet-friendly accommodation? Even camping does not fix this as not all campsites accept pets.
  • You dog will need to be crate trained. This will make it easy to transport them, but also give the dog its own space where it will feel safe.

Dog specific packing will mean a lot of additional space taken up:

  • Food and food bowls
  • Treats
  • Their favourite toys
  • Medications – flea treatment, worming tablets etc
  • Protective clothing
  • Blanket and towels
  • Brush and shampoo
  • Flea comb and tick remover
  • Poop bags
  • Crate


Finishing Up


Hopefully these four options have given you some ideas of what to do with your pet when you take a career break.

Which one you choose will come down to a combination of cost, simplicity, but above all else the needs of your animal. I’m sure you have spent many years with your faithful pet by your side, and it is now time to use that knowledge to make the best decision for them. This may mean parting with them for a while, or even parting with a little more cash than you’d like, but when you come back and see them happy it will all have been worth it.

About the Author


Ben Reeve's Photo

Ben Reeve is the blogger behind TheSabbaticalGuide.com, a site designed to give people the information, tools and inspiration they need to make their sabbatical dreams a reality. He caught the bug for travel at an early age when his dad moved out to South Africa, and now builds regular ‘mini-retirements’ into his career, in which he sees the world with his wife Becca.

Website: SabbaticalGuide.com
Twitter: @SabbaticalGuide
Facebook: @TheSabbaticalGuide
LinkedIn: The Sabbatical Guide

Photo of dog on a boat by Teddy Kelley on Unsplash
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Ben Reeve is the blogger behind TheSabbaticalGuide.com, a site designed to give people the information, tools and inspiration they need to make their sabbatical dreams a reality. He caught the bug for travel at an early age when his dad moved out to South Africa, and now builds regular ‘mini-retirements’ into his career, in which he sees the world with his wife Becca. Twitter: @SabbaticalGuide Facebook: @TheSabbaticalGuide

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