All your bags are packed and you’re ready to go. For pet owners, however, there’s one last anxiety provoking detail during the holiday travel season , the thought of leaving Fido at the kennel.
This year, more than 20 percent of pet owners will take them along on the trip, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, or APPMA. The other 80 percent will need to find alternative care for their four-legged loved ones.
The remaining find accommodations in kennels or seek out boarding for them, including pet-sitting services provided by Clairemont-based Paws ‘N Play Pet Camp and Host Family Boarding.
Paws ‘N Play temporarily places pets with a network of host families who take care of them when you can’t.
Paws ‘N Play accepts pets into its home-based program for day care and overnight boarding. Service is offered for dogs, cats, birds and other small domestic animals.
Pam Mathison, owner of Paws ‘N Play, said owners often can’t enjoy their trip because they are worried about how their pet is doing back home.
“By taking care of your pet’s physical and emotional needs, (our) service gives you peace of mind in knowing that your pet is in good hands during a vacation or business trip,” said Mathison.
Pets who are left at kennels or home alone can suffer from separation anxiety and other stress-related emotional disorders, which can result in destructive behavior like chewing, scratching and soiling.
“Why should your pet go to jail when you go on vacation?” Mathison said. “We consider the emotional well-being of the pet to be one of our most important concerns.”
Mathison, a real estate broker and longtime pet owner, first offered sitting services to help clients moving to their new place.
Once settled in, some continued to call her during times of travel to watch over pets that could not make the trip. And it wasn’t long before she began offering pet-sitting services year-round and seeking the help of other area pet lovers. Paws ‘N Play now has 30 sitters and is a member of the National Association of Professional Sitters and Pet Sitters International.
Network Of Certified Sitters
Mathison’s Network of Certified Sitters include pet lovers, trainers, veterinary assistants and breeders throughout the county. Many sitters work from home or are retired and can provide 24-hour supervision and care.
The company can watch pets with special dietary needs and with medical conditions.
Host families supply securely fenced-in yards, daily walks, a comfortable living setting, and love, Mathison said.
Michele Califano, a pet sitter with Paws ‘N Play, said that many clients prefer home-based pet-sitting as opposed to boarding kennels but they always have one thing in common, a deep love for their pet.
Califano, of Clairemont, said she was reduced to tears dropping off a pet at a kennel years ago.
“I decided then I would never do that again,” Califano said. “There is nothing like a home for a pet.”
Califano allows pet guests to sit on the couch, sleep on the bed and roam freely in the yard. She said she often sends home pet guests that are tuckered out from all the activity and excitement of their stay with her two other dogs, Marilyn and Bentley.
Boarding rates start at $40 a day or $20 for cats. Additional services include field trips to fenced-in beach and park areas, transportation to and from veterinary visits, grooming, and obedience training.
The pet industry is growing steadily in San Diego and across the nation.
The Solana Beach-based pet store Muttropolis is another example of a local company answering the needs of consumers in the billion-dollar pet industry business.
Spending on pets has more than doubled in the past 10 years. According to the APPMA, Americans shelled out $36 billion on their pets in 2005, with $8 billion going for dog and cat accessories alone, and by the end of this year, the figure is expected to increase to $38.4 billion.
Fueling this trend are empty nesters, couples marrying later, couples choosing not to have children and the gay community, according to Janet McCulley, co-owner and chief marketing officer for Muttropolis.
McCulley has been able to capitalize on the fact that the pet business is now the country’s seventh largest retail segment, with consumers spending more on their critters than they do on toys and candy. Additionally, 63 percent of all U.S. households in the nation currently own a pet, according to the APPMA National Pet Owners 2005-2006 survey.
“Pets have become our children,” said McCulley. “It’s a function of the consumers, industry stepping up, and pets living longer.”
Muttropolis opened in 2002 and now has five locations, including Solana Beach, La Jolla, Newport Beach, Tucson, Ariz., and Boulder, Colo. The trendy and practical pet boutique anticipates opening another 10 stores next year and plans to open an additional 125 to 150 stores throughout the country in the next five years.
Earlier this year, the International Council of Shopping Centers named Muttropolis one of five “Hot Retailers of the Year.” This distinction is based on several factors, including brand value, media buzz and traffic.
McCulley said that what made this award so unique was the chain’s size in relation to other winners that had more than 50 retail locations. Other winners included Apple, Coach and William-Sonoma.