Do you take a furry companion on your travel assignments? Recruiters tell us that nearly half of travel nurses do. If you already have a pet or are thinking of getting one, it can be wonderful to have a faithful friend waiting for you when you get off shift. And most travel nursing companies can help you find pet-friendly housing.
But some pets are better travelers than others, and the age-old debate between cat people and dog people can play out differently when you’re on the road.
A vet weighs in on travel nursing with cats or dogs
Jessica Brooks, a veterinarian at Riverview Animal Clinic in Durango, Colo., said that most cats don’t tend to travel well to and from places, so a plane flight could be easier than a long drive to your travel nursing jobs. Cats also like consistency, so it may help reduce their anxiety if you can keep the same feeding bowls and litterbox for your kitty from location to location.
“I’m definitely on the ‘cat person’ end of the spectrum, but I can’t highly recommend cats as companions for travel nurses,” remarked Brooks. “There are some low-key cats out there that could do it, but it takes most cats up to a year to adjust to a new living situation.” A travel nurse would have to consider their own cat’s temperament, since moving every three months could be stressful.
Among the more docile breeds of cats, and likely better at adjusting to a new environment, are the Maine Coon and the Ragdoll. These are both highly affectionate breeds as well.
One of the advantages of having a cat is that he/she won’t be fazed by being left alone for 12-hour nursing shifts. On the other hand, according to Brooks, most adult dogs can “hold it” for 8 hours, but it can be difficult to go 12 hours or longer. Travel nurses with dogs might need to find doggy day care or someone willing to take their pets outside while they are at work.
Most dogs will do very well if you are traveling by car. Some can get motion sickness, though, so ask your vet for some medicine and advice before you hit the road.
What’s great about dogs for travel nurses:
• They travel easily to your destination.
• They provide a companion for walking and exploring.
• They may provide an increased sense of safety.
• They are typically excited to see you when you get home.
Drawbacks with dogs:
• You will probably need help to meet their elimination needs during your shifts.
• They may bark in your absence.
• They may need entertainment in your absence.
• Some landlords have breed restrictions.
What’s great about cats for travel nurses:
• They are independent and can easily be left alone for a shift or even a weekend getaway.
• They are typically quiet.
• They don’t need to be exercised.
Drawbacks with cats:
• They are typically terrible travelers.
• Many have difficulty adjusting to new homes.
• They can scratch up the furnishings in your apartment.
How to make pet relocation easier
Brooks offers a number of tips to make moving easier for your pet:
• Don’t change foods when you are traveling or arrive at a new assignment.
• Bring an object like a blanket or bed that has a familiar smell.
• If traveling with a cat, consider obtaining a sedative from your veterinarian.
• Over the counter pheromones can be purchased for use in your car or home to help calm animals.
• For cats, bring a jug of water from your previous residence as cats are more finicky about changes in the taste of their water.
A few tips about your pet’s safety
• Being in a new place is disorienting to pets. Keep cats indoors, and make sure all pets have a collar with a tag that includes your cell phone number.
• Have your pet microchipped in case he/she gets out and gets lost; make sure the service records are updated to include your current cell phone number.
• Bring along your pet’s vet records in case of emergency or your pet needs to be seen by a new vet.
The least-destructive type of pet
When it comes to damage an animal might do to an apartment, small dogs are probably the safest. Cats that are feeling insecure might spray–and it can be quite expensive, and not all that effective, to have cleaned. They can also scratch furniture unless it is covered. And large dogs are simply capable of more destruction if they get bored or anxious–herding breads especially need a lot of mental stimulation.
“Given the lifestyle of a travel nurse, I’d say a small dog is probably their best bet as a travel companion,” concluded Brooks. “I’d encourage nurses to seek out a new pet from a shelter because there are so many pets in need of homes.”