It's that time of year when many people are planning a holiday abroad, including pet owners. For them, deciding what to do with the family cat or dog while being away is an added concern. "Luckily, we have a whole range of good options in Hong Kong, but choosing the right solution for your pet can take some planning. Different services may also suit some pets better than others, so it's important to consider what will work best for your dog or cat," says veterinarian David Gething, of Creature Comforts (www.creaturecomforts.com.hk).

Boarding is the traditional choice, and Hong Kong has some ideal options. "Kennels and catteries are an excellent choice for dogs and cats that are more social and outgoing," says Gething. "Many dogs actually enjoy going to kennels and playing with other dogs."

Boarding, however, is less suitable for shy or anxious pets, or those with dietary or medical requirements.

"I'd recommend pet owners visit a kennel or cattery prior to leaving their pet to check the conditions and facilities. A good kennel will have large enclosures, called runs, for dogs, where they can get a little exercise. Cat confines should be divided into an open section that has clear windows, where the cat can watch the world go by, and a closed section that is dark and quiet, for the cat to have some privacy."

Both facilities should be well-ventilated and clean, and staff should be friendly and attentive to the animals. Remember to check that the kennel is licensed by the government. Gething says it's worth asking about extra options such as dog walking, grooming, room upgrades, play time and even massages. Such services are not always necessary, but they could make your pet's stay more fun.

Professional pet-sitting services are also popular in Hong Kong. This option is more suitable for cats than dogs and can be an excellent choice for nervous felines, according to the vet. "Stress and interruption to routine is greatly minimised, as the cat can stay in its own familiar environment. The pet-sitter usually visits the owner's house once daily, spends some time playing with the pet and makes sure it's happy, replaces the food and water, and cleans the litter," Gething says.

Pet-sitting services can be more expensive, but they ensure a pet gets individual attention and care. "I'd recommend pet owners choose a reliable and well-established pet-sitter - word of mouth and online recommendations are a great source of information," Gething says. Good pet-sitters will discuss your pet's needs over the phone or in person before your trip.

The vet adds: "One variation on the pet-sitting service that I do see quite often is when a neighbour or friend offers to come around daily to check on the cat. This can be a great choice, but make sure your amateur sitter has exact instructions on feeding, care and things to watch out for."

It is possible to take your pet with you on holiday, especially if you're travelling to Europe or North America, where there is no quarantine as long as medical requirements are met and valid permits have been issued. "It is a little more complicated, and I'd only recommend it if you're going on a long holiday, but I do see a number of people who take their pets with them every year," Gething says. "This option is more suitable for dogs than cats, but it's not cheap, with the total cost around the same as a business-class airfare."

Pets must be up to date with their G6 and rabies vaccinations, and have a valid licence. They also need to have a rabies antibody blood test done before they leave, and government-endorsed certificates and re-entry permits must be obtained as well. "This does require some expertise, and I'd definitely recommend pet owners use the service of one of the experienced pet travel companies," the vet says.

While all of these choices are good, consider what will suit your pet best and remember to book well in advance, Gething adds. 

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