If you have a large extended family, caring for your pet(s) while you are sick or hospitalized, most likely, will not be an issue. For approximately 96 million singles in the U.S., it causes great concern. I was pleasantly surprised by one of the questions posed to me by the admitting hospitalist during my last hospital stay: “Do you have pets at home that depend on you for their care?” This simple question speaks volumes in how we, as a society, see our pets within the family unit. I was blown away and quickly answered: “Yes, I do; one 85 pound dog and a cat“. I knew I liked this doctor right away and was tempted to pull out my IPhone to show him snapshots, but I figured that would be a bit over the top.
While hospitalized, one thing that weighed heavily on my mind was the care of my pets. It’s bad enough to be sick and in the hospital, but it’s equally disturbing and stressful worrying if our pets are safe, happy and well fed. Usually, our pet-loving friends and neighbors will offer to step in and lend a hand so our worries will be few other than missing our four-legged family member. I don’t expect those caring for my pets to spend hours cuddling on the sofa with them, but it’s reassuring, beyond words, to know that they are not alone. By making sure our pets are fed, watered, given a little loving along with some much welcomed playtime, we can rest easy and concentrate on getting well with the assurance that we have left our pets in good hands. Having friends who are familiar with our pet’s individual needs and genuinely care about them, is a win win. There is no greater gift a friend can give than peace of mind by offering to care for your pet. Having a friend, neighbor or family member foster your pet while you are sick or recovering from surgery is another option. The gift of offering to care for your pet will last forever; much more appreciated and memorable than the potted plant we let die a week after our return home from the hospital; not to mention the guilt.
There is always the option of boarding your pet but due to the expense involved for a long-term stay, that may not be a viable option for everyone and may not be the best alternative for some pets that do not adjust well in a boarding environment. My cat, Smoki, would not do well in a boarding environment. No matter how much your pet may enjoy a play day or short vacay at the spa, it doesn’t mean he/she will adjust as well to a long-term stay at a boarding facility. A pet sitting service is another option for keeping your pet at home during your absence, but make sure you do your due diligence in choosing a reputable, reliable and bonded service. Get references. We’ve all heard heartbreaking stories about pets that were suppose to have been cared for during their owner’s absence, but weren’t.
Our pets recognize our daily routines. When we are absent, their routine is altered as well. They may feel a little out of kilter; sleeping more and eating less. I have noticed by the amount of food in the feeder upon our return that my cat, Smoki, eats and drinks far less while I am away. Baylie, well that’s a different story. She eats like a champ wherever she may be.
We can reduce the degree of our pet’s stress by planning ahead. Make certain a neighbor or friend has a key to your home. Choose a caretaker that recognizes your pet’s needs and with whom the pet is comfortable; one who will try to keep your pet’s routine as much on track as possible so that your pet’s stress level will be minimized. Let them know your pet’s normal feeding schedule and make certain they are aware of the brand and type of food your pet eats, just in case your supply runs out while you are hospitalized. I have a typed label that is affixed to both Baylie and Smoki’s chow containers of the brand and type food each eats. Make sure the caretaker is aware of any meds your pet is currently taking. In case there is a need for medical treatment for your pet while you are away, make certain your caregiver has the name, phone number and address of your pet’s veterinarian. You may want to go a step further and add their name to your pet’s medical file as a contact person for authorizing treatment or setting up boarding in your absence. Look at it as a power of attorney of sorts for your pet.
With just a little preparation in making sure your pet’s needs are met while you are hospitalized, you will return to a happy, healthy pet who is just waiting to welcome you home.