When I worked for Bird Talk, we often heard from bird owners who wanted to take their pets on vacation and from people relocating to another state or country. The advice we gave them about traveling with their bird depended on the owner and their pet. These were some of the questions we asked:
Does the bird like new adventures?
Is there a trusted relative or friend you can leave the bird with while you are away?
Does your avian veterinarian’s office offer boarding?
How long will you be gone?
Will you be visiting a foreign country?
If the owners were going on a family vacation, we usually recommended leaving the bird at home in familiar surroundings with her own food, water, and cage or in the care of a trusted friend, relative, pet sitter, or avian veterinarian.
We advised this because birds are creatures of habit who like their routines and because taking birds across state lines or international boundaries is not without risk. Some species are illegal in certain states (Quaker, or monk parakeets, for example, are believed to pose an agricultural threat to some states because of their hearty appetites), and some foreign countries require lengthy quarantine stays for pet birds. It was our professional opinion that, although it is difficult to leave your bird behind when you travel, it is better for the bird. (Of course, if you’re moving, that’s a different story!)
If you leave your pet at home while you’re away, you have several care options. First, you can recruit the services of a trusted friend or relative, which is an inexpensive and convenient solution for many pet owners. You can return the pet-sitting favor when your friend or relative goes out of town.
If your trusted friends and relatives live far away, you can hire a professional pet sitter (many advertise in the Yellow Pages, and some offer additional services such as picking up mail, watering your plants, and leaving lights and/or radios on to make your home seem occupied while you’re gone). If you’re not sure about what to look for in a pet sitter, the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters offers the following tips:
• Look for a bonded pet sitter who carries commercial liability insurance.
• Ask for references and for a written description of services and fees.
• Arrange to have the pet sitter come to your home before you leave on your trip to meet the pets and to discuss what services you would like them to perform while you’re away.
• During the initial interview, evaluate the sitter. Do they seem comfortable with your bird? Does the sitter have experience caring for birds? Do they own birds?
• Ask for a written contract and discuss the availability of vet care (do they have an existing arrangement with your veterinarian, for example) and what arrangements the sitter makes in the event of inclement weather or personal illness.
• Discuss the sitter’s policy for making sure you have returned home. Should you call them to confirm your arrival, or will they call you? If the prospect of leaving your bird with a pet sitter doesn’t appeal to you, you may be able to board your bird at your avian veterinarian’s office. Of course, you’ll need to find out if your vet’s office offers boarding services and decide if you want to risk your bird’s health by exposing her to other birds during boarding.