Everything you need to know about travel with animals (and kids)

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My kids are pet magnets when we’re on the road. They’re constantly adopting dogs and cats and other animals we encounter in our vacation rentals.

If you don’t know what that’s like, you’re probably one of the millions of Americans who vacation with their pets. You bring your own animal companions, you brave souls. A recent poll of pet owners found that 27% are planning one or two trips with their pets; 37% are planning three to five getaways; and 31% plan to travel with their pet six or more times this year.

Either way, we need to talk.

Travel with animals is one of the great unexplored topics in travel journalism. That’s because most of the stories begin — and end — with a discussion of whether pets, and specifically “comfort” animals belong on a plane. Fascinating topic, but let’s go in a different direction.

This is a story about the animals you meet while on your vacation. Other people’s pets can be unpredictable, even dangerous.

And even if that stray dog seems to be a perfect companion that you might want to take home with you, it’s unlikely to have a happy outcome. My advice? When it comes to meeting Fluffy or Rover on the road, feel free to look and take pictures, but don’t get too friendly.

Other people’s pets — or dangerous animals?

Last year, when we visited Fort Collins, Colorado, we stayed in a three-bedroom corporate rental. All of our neighbors were people who, like us, were between homes. It was summer, and we occasionally left our front door open to let a breeze in.

One afternoon while I was working on a story, I looked up and saw a grey tabby just as she was about to jump into my lap. I let her, because I am a cat person. She made herself comfortable, demanded petting, and then jumped off the sofa and disappeared. The cat returned the next day and the next. My kids got friendly with her, too, and gave her a name: Rental Cat.

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