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Holidays with Pets

More and more West Australians are holidaying with their pets around the state and even across the country. Many pet owners just can’t enjoy their holidays without their best friends and so dogs, cats, birds, guinea pigs and rabbits are seeing more of Australia then they could possibly imagine. What must they be thinking the first time they feel the motion of a moving vehicle, see a truck drive past or, in the case of dogs, experience the beach for the first time?  Just imagine it!

Far more accommodation options are being made available for those that travel with their pets.  Caravan parks across the country have always welcomed pets and now B&B’s and holiday houses are making their accommodation available to them as well. Of course, some people are simply moving home and so their animals are moving too and so for them, travel is simply a means to an end.

The restrictions on pets at various accommodation places differ. Some caravan parks do not allow pets during school holidays and usually not inside their own cabins and on-site vans. Holiday houses that accept pets will usually restrict them to outdoors but they will offer a safe enclosure and kennel for them. All places will expect the owner to pick up after the dog, not allow dangerous breeds and will expect all animals to be on a lead at all times. Always contact the destination before departing to find out their restrictions and policies.

The Better Pets and Gardens website has a list of great pet-friendly campsites and accommodation across WA. These have been recommended by our customers so we know they are good. If you have any that you would recommend, please email us through the website.

Always ensure that your pet has a collar at all times. This should have an up-to-date ID tag with the animal’s name, your name, address and phone number on it. Some travellers find editable tags useful as these can be changed regularly to record the address of their accommodation and also mobile phone numbers if different from the ID tag.

For travellers and those shifting to a new area, micro-chipping is ideal for their pet. If the pet is found wandering, these can be scanned by any local council and most vets and the owners contacted immediately. Just ensure that the contact information is up to date at all times.

Just like us, pets need a travel bag. Dogs will need their lead or harness, bed, towels and toys. An extension lead is fantastic for picnics and sitting outside so that they can wander around without any risk of disappearing. A “poop bag holder” attached to the lead keeps them handy at all times and a fold-up water bag means they can have a regular drink. A pet friendly fly repellent is important when camping so that their eyes and ears aren’t attacked and dog-specific sunscreen is necessary for those with white-topped noses.

Dogs love to get out on boats, kayaks and canoes. Consider investing in a life jacket specifically for them.  These keep them safer and make it easier to pick them up if they fall into the water.

Small animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs also find themselves travelling around with their families. They can also be trained to walk on a lead so that they can get some exercise and will also appreciate some ‘chews’, fruit and vegetables as well as some fresh bedding that may not be available when travelling. Their carry box should be light weight but very secure so that they can’t escape and a puppy fence might be a good way to let them wander around safely but only under supervision of their owners. Take a blanket to put over their cage also so that they feel safe and secure at night or when travelling.

Cats will need their beds, toys, litter tray and also grooming brush. It is important to keep them well groomed to reduce the amount of fur floating around the confines of the car or van but more importantly, to reduce the incidence of fur balls. Cats will also appreciate a scratch pole and may even like a cozy igloo bed in which to escape from the noise of fellow travellers.

Cats can be trained to use a lead providing this starts when quite young. This comes in handy when travelling as it allows them to get a bit of exercise and some fresh air and also provides a bit of stimulation. To find out how to train a cat to walk on a lead, check out our “Keeping Cats Indoors” fact sheet on the Better Pets and Gardens website.

A pot of pet grass or cat grass is great for dogs, cats and small animals that travel. It provides much needed minerals and vitamins, is good for their digestion and, in the case of cats, helps with fur balls. And, above all else, they just love to chew on it.

Consider taking your pet to the vet for a health check-up before travelling to ensure that their vaccinations are up to date so it stays healthy throughout the trip. Make sure that they have been recently wormed and treated for fleas and ticks as they will be out and about meeting other pets and wandering through areas they’ve never been before.

Always carry plenty of cool, fresh water and offer it often. Fold up travel bowls are brilliant for this as they are inexpensive and can be clipped on to the pet’s lead or kept in the car, caravan or bag. Non-spill water bowls are also available and are perfect for cars, boats and motor homes.

Pets can become car sick just as humans do. Make sure that they have adequate ventilation and, if possible, have a window down to allow some air flow. It’s not a good idea to let a pet poke its head out of the window as the rush of air may be harmful and he could be in danger of being hit by objects. Leave time between feeding the pet with a light meal and travelling to reduce the risk of an upset tummy and provide him with plenty of opportunities to take a break from the moving vehicle.

A travel harness is ideal for dogs that sit on the back seat. These simply loop through or click into the existing seatbelt and prevent him from being thrown forward in the case of even a minor accident. In WA, dogs that are carried on the back of a ute or a truck must be tethered.

Never leave a dog alone in a car. It is not enough to wind the windows down a few centimetres or to leave a bowl of water and think that he is safe. Dogs are particularly susceptible to heat stroke and it takes just minutes for a car to heat up to an extent that causes immense stress, dehydration and even death. When visiting a Better Pets and Gardens store, bring your dog in with you on a lead. We love to see them and they really enjoy wandering around, having a drink and getting spoilt by our staff.

For any pet that is travelling in a cage or a carrier, always make sure that they are not sitting in the sun coming through the window. Glass magnifies the sun’s heat and may cause great stress and even prove fatal.

Provide all pets with plenty of exercise. Just like us, animals that don’t get enough exercise will gain weight, become stiff in the joints or feel a bit agitated. Dogs need to get out and burn off some energy so several walks a day, perhaps a play at the beach and a few ball games will keep them healthy and bright. Cats are more easily amused with string, balls and other toys and birds just love a chat and a bit of play with their owners.

This exercise routine should also tie in with their opportunities to go to the toilet. Most pets will need to relieve themselves first thing in the morning, throughout the day and after any meals. They will soon learn the routine and will know that when their lead is on, this is their opportunity to relieve themselves. Dogs that have been trained to understand the command “Go Toilet” are brilliant when travelling – especially when the owner has to wander around on a cold, dark evening with their pet on the lead waiting for it to go.

Where possible, avoid changing the pet’s diet and feed times from what they would normally have at home. This is important for their routine as well as their health. Pack them some appropriate treats and carry them in the car or van so that they can also have a snack throughout the day.

Often when we travel we tend to eat junk food but we all know that after a while this results in us feeling sluggish and tired.  Animals are just like this. Don’t be tempted to feed them on sausages from the nearest road house or the left overs of the kids’ hamburgers as these are incredibly high in salt and oil and may cause them to get an upset stomach or have excessive thirst. Let’s face it, a dog with flatulence and an upset stomach is the last thing you need when cooped up in a car or caravan.

In the case of cats, take their normal cat litter tray when travelling. A hooded tray with a filter is perfect for travelling as it helps keep the area clean and free of odour. Cats will know that their usual tray is where they are to go to the toilet and will feel comfortable doing so. Use a good quality litter that soaks up any odour and clean it immediately after the cat has used it.

In Australia, domestic animals are banned from National Parks, Nature Reserves, Aboriginal areas and state recreation areas. They have the potential to damage flora and harm local fauna.  Even the smell of a domestic animal will cause problems from local animals within the area.  In some cases, areas have been allocated for camping with dogs but they must remain on a lead at all times.  Check with the relevant governing body before visiting.

Often it is necessary to keep a cat or dog secure whilst travelling in a pet carry container. Animals, especially cats, can be unpredictable and if allowed to roam around the vehicle will become a hazard to everyone within it.

Better Pets and Gardens stores carry a wide variety of containers to suit all animals. Rigid plastic pet crates are strong but light weight and easy to clean. They are well ventilated and leak proof and whilst camping, double nicely as a kennel for dogs.

Wire show crates are popular for larger dogs and canvas covers help to make these more comfortable when used outdoors. Canvas carry containers are also available now and are fantastic for camping or when a light weight container will do the trick.

Carry bags are available for cats and small dogs also. These can be made from all number of materials including canvas, leather or fabric. Whilst these are terrific it is important to ensure that the animal does not overheat and that they have adequate ventilation.

Within the pet carry container, a cat or dog must have enough space to turn about normally, to stand and sit erect and to lie in a natural position.

A pet pack should be the following size:

The number of people that pack up their birds to take on the road with them is amazing. It’s not uncommon to see a pink and grey galah or a weiro sitting in their cage under the awning of a caravan with their owners sitting nearby having a cup of tea. It’s quite a lovely sight.

When travelling with birds, remove any swings or hanging toys that might scare them as the vehicle rocks and simply return these to the cage on arrival. Feed them with the same seed and treats as they have always had and refresh their water often so that it doesn’t heat up.

Take a cage cover so that the bird knows when to go to sleep and when to wake up and won’t annoy other campers with its chatter and noise.  Take along some bottled water for the bird to drink as the quality of water available across Australia differs greatly. When the vehicle is moving, water spillage can be reduced by using a ball water bottle, that’s if the bird is happy to use these. Providing a dish of juicy fruit and vegetables will help keep them hydrated whilst travelling and some will appreciate a light spray of water from a spray bottle throughout the trip to keep themselves cool and refreshed.

For birds with a tendency for motion sickness, feed fresh food sparingly before departure and leave an hour or two after their last feed before heading off. For these birds, cover the carrier with a white or light-coloured cloth while in transit so that they can perceive daylight but are not subjected to the sights of the road.

If using a travel carrier, allow the bird the opportunity to spend time in and on it prior to leaving. Offer a few favourite treats so they associate their temporary home with something pleasant and disinfect it after every use.

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