(LifeWire) -- If the thought of leaving your cat or dog in a kennel while you travel for business has you feeling guilty, there are a number of top-notch pet boarding options available.
Luxury pet hotels offer 8x10-foot suites featuring plasma TV screens and artwork on the walls.
In fact, these facilities offer so many activities, amenities and treats that your pet might just have a better time than you do.
In recent years, the pet boarding industry has upgraded its services to satisfy customers who demand top-notch care for their animals.
"Pets have become members of the family," explains Jim Krack, founder and former executive director of the American Boarding Kennels Association.
"Pet owners expect the same type of amenities from their pet care providers as they receive from their child day care providers. The boarding kennel industry has responded by adding more and more upscale services for pets," according to Krack.
These posh pet hotels routinely go the extra mile in spoiling their furry clients. For example, Ruffin' It Resort in Madison, Wisconsin, provides "tuck in" service each night, where a caretaker spends time with each dog lavishing the animal with cuddling and a bedtime snack. All stays also include about two hours of group playtime in one of three indoor/outdoor play parks, and dogs are segregated based on size and activity level. Pet owners can purchase a swim or treadmill workout for their dog at 4 Paws Swim & Fitness, an affiliate facility. More professionals are traveling with their pets »
Amenities offered at some other pet hotels include televisions and music systems, webcams for you to track your pet from long distance and a companion to keep the animal company throughout the night.
Wag Hotels, with locations in San Francisco, Sacramento and Sunnyvale, California, offers convenience services for pet owners, such as online reservations and home pick-up and delivery. If your travels include a red-eye return flight, you can still pick up your pet on the way home because Wag is open around the clock.
Although the accommodations, food and amenities at these hotels are high-end, the prices aren't. For example, an overnight stay at Wag starts at $28 for dogs and $20 for cats. A basic stay includes a room and feedings. Dogs also get play times, and most hotels offer a choice of rooms for dogs based on their size or the degree of luxury desired. At Ruffin' It Resort, pampered pooches can stay in the presidential suite for $52 per night.
The best way to find a good home for your pet while you're traveling is to ask for recommendations from family and friends. Another reliable starting point is the ABKA Web site, www.abka.com. The association's pet services locator page lets you find a pet boarding facility by state and city, and lists the facility's contact information. You'll also find a list of locations that are ABKA-accredited.
Here are five important factors to consider when evaluating pet boarding operations. These are adapted from the ABKA guide, "How to Select a Pet Care Facility."
1. Security. Experienced kennels and pet hotels know that your pet might try to find you, and they have boundaries, fencing and gates in place to prevent an escape. For particularly wily pets, the facility might have extra reinforcements such as wire-covered runs and locks for gates.
2. Safety. Check pet rooms and common areas for sharp objects, dangerous chemicals or items small enough for your pet to swallow. Make sure the walls or dividers between your pet's room and other rooms are solid, so the animal is safe and able to relax without being bothered by other boarders.
3. Supervision. Attentive, well-trained employees make a good facility. Ask about the facility's standards for employee training and experience with pets. Also, check the ratio of employees to animals. For day care facilities, a ratio of 1-to-15 is recommended for both dogs and cats.
Pet boarding facilities will sometimes have a vet or veterinary student on staff. At the very least, they should have an on-call vet available or keep a copy of your personal vet's information.
4. Sanitation and health. Walking around the facility, you shouldn't find dirt, feces, odors or flea and tick infestation. Inquire about the facility's cleaning and disinfecting procedures, as well as ventilation.
Clean drinking water is a must. The facility may provide food or may require that you bring food for your pet. Make sure they are current on the recent pet food recalls.
All dogs and cats being boarded should be required to have the necessary immunizations. If your pet is on medication, ask about their policies for administering it.
5. Sense. Overall, do you feel like your pet will have a comfortable, satisfying stay at the facility? Are the employees professional and caring? Is the business well run? You should only leave your pet at a facility you can trust. E-mail to a friend
LifeWire provides original and syndicated lifestyle content to Web publishers. Joan Shim is a freelance writer and former editor at Pet Product News.
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