Pet Exchanges

sleeping pup

Q: I don’t want to board my pets at a kennel. Will my exchange partner take care of them

A: Yes!

Pet exchange, like car exchange, is an option you are able to select when searching for your next swap. While it’s likely that you’ll find it easier to swap with a fellow pet owner, it’s always possible that another member without a furry friend at home would love to take care of yours (or be happy for you to bring your pal along for the adventure). HomeExchange.com members care for each other’s dogs, cats, hamsters, even chickens! Here are some tips for setting up shop before you leave your pet in the hands of your exchange partner:

  • Leave a detailed info sheet with your vet’s address and phone number, the contact information for a friend who lives nearby and is familiar with your pets, and feeding info.
  • Does your cat hate tummy rubs? Make sure to include that information to avoid accidents.
  • Label all food clearly, and include measuring scoops for easy feeding time.
  • Make sure to list any allergies your pet might have, and what to do if he accidentally gets a hold of something he’s not supposed to eat.
  • Leave toys, leashes, and treats in a basket so that everything’s in one place.

Taking care of pets can actually add to the experience.

HomeExchange Pets“I exchanged my apartment in Venice Beach, California for an apartment in a palazzo on the Grand Canal in the real Venice Italy. It came with Leopoldo, an energetic, enchanting Jack Russell Spaniel, who needed walks twice a day. So, when we set off each morning everyone stopped to talk to the gorgeous Leo, and then, as an afterthought, to me. I made new friends in Venice I would never had otherwise met. Locals thought I was Italian and warmly welcomed me and Leo.”

–Liz, California

Some things to consider before committing to care for another Member’s pet:

  • Are you planning on staying at the home every night or using it as a jumping off point for nearby locations? A cat might be able to stay by itself overnight, but most dogs need someone at home with them.
  • Will you be able to spend time walking a dog a few times per day? If not, does your exchange partner have a dog walker you can hire?
  • Are your children comfortable with animals? A one-way pet exchange can be a great way to find out of your family is dog-compatible, but make sure the kids won’t be scared of a pet that they don’t know.

A pet exchange is a great way to feel even more at home while you’re away…you might still miss your pup, but having another one to snuggle with on the couch will certainly help!

Do you have any pet exchange tips to share? Tell us in the comments!

Photos: Dean Souglass via Flickr and cip.

21 Comments on “Pet Exchanges

  1. We have 3 lovely gentle doggies we would like exchange with pet lovers .

    • Where do you live and when do you intend to travel? We have one small mixed breed dog. He needs to walk once per day and is easy to care for. We are curious about a trip to Ireland during 2015. We are a retired couple living in Santa Rosa, California, USA.

  2. Hello,
    I live in Nova Scotia and have a 3 yr old Golden-doodle. We are going to Alberta for 2 weeks and need loving pet care.
    Sue

  3. Hi Home Exchange

    Whilst your ‘web link’ promoting home exchanging ‘with a pet in-situ’ as some positive experience the reality is your article reflects none of the ‘downside risks’. These are the issues that the home exchanger who owns the pet should ‘put in the hard yards’ and have the ‘answers ready’.

    So what would Liz, the home exchanger from California, done had Leopoldo, the enchanting Jack Russell Spaniel, dome any of the following:

    1. Had been hit by a car or had a heart attack (yes, dogs do have them)?
    2. Who pays expensive veterinary bills? Or is Leo in the ‘Lap of the Gods’?
    3. Does travel insurance cover the owners urgent return for their ‘pet’?
    4. Has the animal got pet insurance arrangements?
    5. What if the home exchange pet is ‘pedigree Fifi’ and gets raped by ‘big Rufus’?
    What names do we call the ‘non-pedigree off-spring litter’?
    6. What happens in the 1+ month home exchange if ‘pedigree Fifi’ is ‘on heat’?
    7. What happens if ‘Fifi’ or ‘Leo’ get physically lost?
    Put up 100 lost dog signs in ‘Mandarin or Chinese’ in downtown Shanghai?
    8. What happens if ‘Puss’ the Persian Cat will only eat ‘top of the range’ cat food?
    Is the home exchanger expected to pay for ‘better food than they eat’?
    I usually just budget for ‘No Name Brand Cat Food’ and the cats do live off it.
    9. What happens if the pet is a bird? Or a house bound animal?
    And we as house exchangers do go away travelling for 3-5 days in a home
    exchange (we have done 33 long term home exchanges, so we do have some
    experience of this problem).

    These are all questions that the HOME EXCHANGER WHO OWNS THE PET should have immediate and well thought out answers. No everyone who owns a pet lives in highly desirable central Venice where cars are pointless. They usually live in ‘outer suburbia’ where the sights to see are day trips by car to explore the surrounding countryside/cities, etc.

    Please do use credible examples and please do not mislead ‘newbie’ home exchangers into believing they can charge off around the world leaving ‘Snuffles’, their snarling Rottweiler that only they can manage, behind for their 3 month grand tour home exchange, or possibly series of home exchanges.

    We experienced home exchangers have seen both the good and the bad. Everything from ‘Mishka’ the neurotic and pathologically ferocious ‘pure bread Persian’ we got lumbered with to Rajah & Noir in New York, the aquarium fish tank full of exotic fish in Buderim, the garden pool full of fish on Vancouver, yep, the list goes on !!!!

    I would not be writing how scratching, hissing, biting, spitting Mishka was ‘a joy to have to feed’ each day. That pet came very close to ‘being starved to death’ because it was impossible to feed. It took the whole month to settle the neurotic animal down to the stage it would trust ‘me’ (would fly hissing and scratching at my wife). What fun that cat would have been to walk down the streets of Venice !!!!!

    Regards

    Philip & Amanda

  4. Yes, anyone can home exchange with an animal but would you really want too? It depends if want to stay around in the area you have organised to home exchange in. I have completed 32 long term home exchangings and one of these have been with pets and that is only because we were in New York and didn’t need a car so stayed in the local area using public transport. If you do decide to look after a pet then I would say make sure you have every details you need ie. who is going to pay for the pet if it gets sick, who is going to pay for the pet food etc etc. Also looking after a pet means you are very limited to how much you can see outside of the local area as you will need to be at your home exchange every day.

  5. This year I was not able to find a swap where I wanted to go Venice California. A couple of people contacted me in places I may wish to go in the future so I offered our house in exchange for looking after the cat.
    One couple were set to do that when our cat disappeared !He returned after 6 days away, I then decided the responsibility was too great and got him into a Cattery .
    He is very young though so I will try again! I think it’s a great idea.

  6. We are a small B & B & received the Pet Friendly Award from Bed and Breakfast.com!! We do NOT take pets with out their owners!! But otherwise –they are welcome. There is an extra cleaning fee of $25—so far we have not needed a Sec. Dep. Because Pet owners are usually responsible. We thoroughly clean a room after a pet–to protect other Guests who might have allergies.

  7. We have had three exchanges with cats – and all I can say is Chloe (England), Pedro England ex Spain) and Pumpkin & Tino (Mexico) added to our holidays, all were lovely friendly cats; Pumpkin and Tino were indoor cats and were not allowed outside, had their own toilet house in a back room which the maid emptied every day and there was no smell. Pedro was a lovely big friendly cat who went stalking rodents at night and would leave them at the back door for Laurie to get rid of before I saw them – he was definitely Laurie’s cat and every time Laurie sat down Pedro was on his lap and Chloe was a very pretty cat who was so friendly with us after a three month house exchange if the owners had said you can have her we would have brought her home to NZ! (we did not have our George and Mildred then)
    All three owners had arrangements in place if we wanted to go away we could call on to take over feeding etc. At no time did we ever wish we did not have them, we do not have cats at home but we did fall in love with all four cats and they helped us get over the fact that we missed our two little dogs back in NZ (we have two Miniature Schnauzers and a son who looks after them when we go away).
    Cats of course are easier than dogs, I think I would be happier leaving our dogs with exchangers who have dog(s) and felt the same about animals as we do and we are lucky that we have family here in Auckland who would keep an eye on them for us.

  8. I have had my own pet sitting business for 12 years. I will travel to any destination to pet sit.

    Owners should leave:
    Detailed schedule of feeding and walking and habits/behavior of their pets
    Detailed rules of the house (allowed on the furniture? allowed human food?)
    Next of kin or family member that the sitter can call in case of emergency.
    Information on any medical concerns (existing lumps/irritations,etc)
    Enough food (and medicine) to last at least one week beyond necessary
    Vet name/address/phone number
    Owners should have their Credit Card registered with the vet for any expenses
    Not all animals are comfortable with strangers. Don’t put your pet or sitter through unnecessary stress. (I haven’t found a pet who didn’t like me, though)

    Pet Sitters
    This is a huge responsibility. Pets’ well being comes before yours. These pets are like children to their owners and must be treated with respect and the utmost of care and safety. Think hard before you offer your services. If you need to walk a dog midday, then you cannot venture out too far from home. You are restricted to the pets’ schedule.

    I hope this helps.

    Sandra
    Vancouver ID#32997

  9. I think Philip has a good point. I am 46 now and am very confident with dogs as I have had many since childhood. I don’t have one now so started meeting dogs through borrowmydoggy.com. You have to pay to join and be verified then can contact owners to arrange to meet their pet and have it for walks or doggie daycare etc at no charge. They also provide insurance for the pet while in the care of the borrower in the fee and a free 24hr vet line. I have found that some dogs are easy but many are difficult or would not be accepted into a normal doggy daycare / dog walker situation. Some are trained or some owners will tell you they are house trained but then it turns out they are not. One owner wanted all meals cooked and freshly prepared. Another dog was so socially anxious it could not be near any other dogs or it would start snarling and turn vicious. Another dog had bad diarrhoea and hated to go in the car and would be travel sick up to 3x on a 30 min journey. The owner did not tell me when I said I wanted to collect the dog and take it in car to beach.
    There has to be real honesty and full disclosure . We have done many house swaps and found that sometimes swappers exaggerate how close their home is to train station or doesn’t inform you that the place stinks because of their incontinent old dog etc. ( they knew it stinker as they had 2 plugin and 1-2 free standing air freshener in EVERY room! ) We have enjoyed swapping and will continue but have learned to do a bit more research ourselves , skype a few times to check them out and take a credit card with us incase it’s awful and we need to find a hotel or as happened to us in California we arrived and the newly cut key they gave us didn’t work! I don’t want to put off newbies as it is great but you also need to be savvy and I would have appreciated tips from experienced swappers on what went wrong and why.

  10. Very interested to read these comments as we are keen to do our first house exchange but feel that our 2 cats are holding us back. Although they do not take any real looking after they still have to be fed and watered which is the only time you know they are there. Fully understand where Philip de Ross is coming from as that would be all my concerns “what if”.
    Are many home exchangers put off when they see that pets are involved?

    • Are your cats indoor, outdoor only or both? Are they people friendly, cuddly with strangers? I am in Carmel Ca, have 2 cats-indoor & outdoor, happier when they can go out every day and come in at night with treats to entice them when being cared for by strangers. I would possibly be interested in an exchange next year sometime. Where are you located in England and brief description of your accomodations and cats; when you might like to travel and for how long?

  11. I am very new at this and would love to get on board with taking care of pets… As I am a pet lover with 2 Goldens myself!

    • Where are you? I have 2 goldens too. They are 8 and 9 and the 9 year old is pretty rambunctious. Sandra Kelowna BC Canada

  12. We did an exchange recently with a nice family from Switzerland. We returned from one two month European tour to take them on our boat while they stayed at our condo. While we stayed at a friends we asked them if they would allow our very small friendly dog to stay with them. They agreed and their four young children exhausted our dog, they took turns walking him, throwing the ball, feeding so a long story short our dog was well cared for, he over ate, walked an average of two hours each of the two days and everyone loved it. The parents loved that Max entertained the kids after a long day of touring around the area. And max helped catch fish while everyone was on the water. I think it is a great idea.

  13. what if you live on an old farm like we do? We have 4 small horses, 20 chickens, 8 cats, a small dog and a German Shepherd, Would anyone exchange with us?

    • Hi I live in Florida I have 3 horses and 3 dogs.

      I would consider maybe for next year ….

  14. I have an interest in this topic as a professional pet sitter. The pets do need specific care and that should be the priority. After 20 plus years caring for pets it is interesting how different people approach their pet’s care situation. There are ways for it to benefit both the parties though as long as the specifics are worked out and the person is knowledgeable. Depends on what the traveler desires to do with their time.
    I don’t often get the chance to travel because of what i do and limited funds, but if the right situation presented itself i would be happy to find myself with a chance to visit someplace special and care for pets at the same time.

  15. I don’t see what the big deal is with pets. We have two indoor outdoor cats and 2 outdoor rabbits, and a big tank of fish. We also have a young dog. Last summer we traded with a family of Veterinarians who had a bull, a pony, and chickens and a rooster and a cat. It was wonderful. They had sent their dogs to relatives only because dogs can be territorial or needy. The animals kept us busy about the house, gave us fresh eggs, and bonded our experience in ways that would not otherwise happen without pets. It got us out of the house and exploring the property. It sent us to the feed store a few times and interacting with the locals. We felt like stand in homeowners. When we took road trips over night ( about 3-5 nights in a 3 week visit ) there was of course a relative or neighbor to help the pets. ).

  16. We have a beautiful home in Northern New Mexico, near Taos (not our exchange). We need to find an experienced, reliable pet sitter for our golden doodle pup and 3 indoor cats this spring while we travel to our Baja, MX casita to tend to maintenance and repairs. One of our cats has recently been diagnosed diabetic and requires insulin injections twice a day… not quite a “vacation” we know! We can pay a little and we would also offer a “free” stay in our MX exchange #152085. Obviously this takes a very special type of person and we would want good references. If you are interested, please reply through our exchange site.

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