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4 things to consider before traveling with pets

There are ways to do it, but the best approach may be to give your pets a ‘staycation.’

When I was 12, my family moved to Ohio from Connecticut, and I begged my parents not to give away my pets first. I had a miniature parrot and a cat, and since we were facing an all-day drive with a lot of luggage, my dad wanted to give them away rather than drive with them.

Kids can be persuasive, I guess, and somehow I won that battle. But, I lost the war. Even though we covered the birdcage and kept the cat in a large carrier, they were miserable. And, they let us know it the whole way. It was like auditory water torture!

Looking back, I wish I had taken my dad’s advice. It was totally unfair to the pets. My parrot, healthy and happy for years beforehand, never was the same. After our trip, it bit anyone who came near started plucking its feathers out. The cat never seemed to trust us after its experience in the carrier.

I think of this a lot when I hear people talking about traveling with their pets during their summer vacations.

Of course, I realize some pets, especially dogs, actually like riding in cars. Every animal is different, though, and cats in particular aren’t known to be fans of moving vehicles. And, I’ve yet to hear anyone talk about how their pet likes traveling in the cargo hold of an airplane.

So, if you’re thinking of bringing your pet on your vacation, consider the following. If they could talk, your pets might thank you:

1. Your pet probably isn’t as excited about your vacation as you are

Bringing your pet is fine if he or she loves to travel and has done so before. But, because pets obviously can’t tell us if they like to travel, your best option is to check with your vet before making your decision. Just going to the vet might tell you a lot—if riding in a carrier just to go to the vet causes problems, it’ll likely be much worse over a long trip.

2. Murphy’s Law

Vacations can be unpredictable, and adding a pet into the mix just adds more to the list of things that might go wrong. And, your vet won’t be nearby to help if they do.

3. Accidents

Progressive offers complimentary Pet Injury coverage with Auto policies that include Collision—it’s worth up to $1,000 in damages or veterinary fees if your pet is injured or killed in an accident. We also offer broader Pet Health insurance through PetsBest. No amount of money, though, will make you feel better if something goes wrong. And, consider the possibility of your pet being lost or injured wandering around the scene after an accident.

4. Airplanes and pets don’t mix

As unpleasant as being driven in a car might be for a pet, it’s nothing compared to putting him or her on an airplane. Even if you find an airline that lets you reserve a seat rather than space in the cargo hold, some breeds—like Persian cats and mastiff dogs—have trouble breathing at high altitude and, according to the Humane Society, “should never fly, period, end of sentence.

Of course, there are smart ways of traveling with your pets—like using a harness or carrier. Progressive’s PerkShare® program even offers a 20 percent discount on dog travel accessories from Kurgo®.

But, if you ask me, the best course of action is to either board your pet while you’re away, or find a trustworthy friend to “pet sit” for you.

The pet staycation option

I took a three-week, cross-country road trip a few years ago. While I was gone, my parents, who live nearby, stopped by my house every other day to feed my cats and hang out with them for a bit so they didn’t get lonely.

I got home expecting chaos … and found everything in order. My cats had gotten used to my folks’ brief, daily visits, and barely seemed to have missed me. They seemed to have spent most of their time sleeping … but they were alive and well. Isn’t that what matters?

What do you think?

I’ve been a bleeding-heart animal lover my whole life, as are many of my friends and colleagues. While I’m not willing to spend thousands to pamper my pets like celebrities, I do want what’s best for them. I also know this is a provocative topic, and you might disagree with some of the points I’ve made.