BeachDogFor many traveling pet parents, he traditional options of sending your pet to the kennel or recruiting a reluctant relative to look after Fido or Fluffy are less than ideal choices.

While many people may opt to take their pets along with them when they travel, more than a few pet owners and activists warn that travelers should think twice, especially when transporting their animals via plane. This is because current laws and regulations protect transported animals only as much as they do luggage (i.e., not very much).

Besides the worst-case scenario of human error leading to pets being stored in non-pressurized cargo holds, there are valid concerns over animals escaping from kennels, sitting in cages during delays, and simply being frightened by the strange noises and smells of dark cargo holds.

Luckily, a growing number of “pet hotels”—where four legs and a tail are requirements rather than liabilities for securing a reservation—are popping up to meet pet owners’ needs. And with the American Pet Products Manufacturing Association projecting that Americans will spend $3 billion on pet boarding and grooming in 2008, pet hotels are poised to become big business.

So what’s the difference between a pet hotel and a traditional kennel?

For starters, when you walk into a pet hotel, the lobby actually looks and feels like a human hotel. But it’s not all about swanky marble lobbies and check-in desks; it also comes down to a combination of luxury touches at affordable rates.

“There’s a big trend to treat pets as children,” says Saq Nadeem, founder and owner of the Paradise 4 Paws chain of pet hotels. “I spoil my dog because that’s my baby; you would never leave your child behind in a cage.” The traditional kennel model, he points out, usually involves crating your pet for the duration, with only two or three walks a day.

Pet hotels generally offer cage- and crate-free accommodations, outdoor play areas and swimming pools, and other special touches for a homey atmosphere (case in point, Paradise 4 Paws has doggie suites with flat-screened TVs and cat bungalows with live fish aquariums). Sure, there are some deluxe kennels for pets of the rich-and-famous that offer everything from dog psychology to kitty massages, but those places can cost you hundreds of dollars at the end of the day. Pet hotels try to include luxury features without breaking the bank.

PetSmart PetsHotel
Pets Dog suiteThe pet products mega-retailer that many of us head to for food, toys, and pet training now boasts state-of-the-art (and affordable!) hotels for cats and dogs nationwide. All PetSmart PetsHotels are completely air conditioned and heated, with separate air filtration systems for cats and dogs. They are staffed by safety-certified pet experts, and veterinarians are always on-call should any problems arise.

PetSmart offers dog owners the choice of either an atrium room for around $29 per night or a dog suite for about $39 per night, with meals and daily walks included for each. In atrium rooms, dogs get their own hypoallergenic lambskin blankets, while in suites they also get a Poochy Cot and a television that’s tuned to animal-themed shows. Cats stay in Kitty Cottages, where they’ll enjoy lambskin blankets, their regular meals, and daily TLC time with staffers, all for around $14 per day. If you have multiple cats, they can even stay in cottages with connecting doors.

PetSmart also offers pet owners a number of treat, training, playtime, and grooming add-on options. Some of the most popular of these are their day camp for dogs and day care for cats that let your pet enjoy all-day, supervised play with other dogs or cats in special playrooms. This will run you from about $17-$20 each day for dogs, and around $14 per day for cats. Another popular add-on for dogs is the Bizzy Bundle Package,” which combines one Treat Time (dog-safe soft-serve ice cream with a side of crunchy dog biscuits), one Snack Kong (a Kong toy stuffed with a dog food filling), and one play session for around $9.

What’s more, PetsHotels have something called Bone Booths, where you can talk to you dog or cat over the phone free of charge during normal lobby hours. See for more on pricing and locations.

Paradise 4 Paws
Paradise Paws This recently opened “pet airport hotel” is just minutes from Chicago O’Hare, and even has a 22-spot long-term parking lot from which customers can catch a shuttle to the airport. Staffed by American Boarding Kennel Association certified professionals, Paradise 4 Paws offers its four-legged guests a cage-free environment. Dogs can sleep in a slumber-party lounge or, starting at $47 per night, can enjoy a private suite that overlooks the hotel’s doggie play yards and bone-shaped splashing pool.

Cats have a separate gated community where they stay in multi-level executive and presidential bungalows starting at $25 per night. The bungalows feature window perches and, in select rooms, personal aquariums that are sure to delight your feline friend. When they’re not, well, cat napping, in their rooms, cats can frolic in the Adventure Jungle their suites overlook.

Paradise 4 Paws is open 24/7 so that you can easily coordinate drop-off and pick-up around your flight schedule, and it provides parents real-time web cam access to check-in on their pets. Grooming, vet visits, photos, and massage therapy are also available at additional cost. Flat screen TV’s set up to play footage of you with your pet (to keep them thinking of you while you’re away) are a planned future amenity.

Pet Paradise Resort
Continuing the trend of airport-accessible pet hotels is Pet Paradise Resort, with locations within a mile of Jacksonville, New Orleans, and Houston Bush International airports. The company currently has four other locations in north Florida, though they are not airport-adjacent. Pet Paradise is also planning to open a facility near Houston Hobby Airport in Texas, with additional (non-airport) sites to follow in Tallahassee, Gainesville, and Olvedo (Florida), Charlotte, and Atlanta.

Pets Pool party paradiseDogs at Pet Paradise hotels are put up in indoor-outdoor suites with comfortable cots. Outside, pups can go for a swim in the bone-shaped pool, surrounded by artificial turf so that pesticides don’t affect your pet’s paw pads.

Ice cream treats, biscuits, and bathing are available at additional cost. Cats are kept in separate (and quieter) areas of the resorts in “kitty condos” that have seven levels, clear glass doors, and soothing music to promote relaxation. And for anxious pet owners, the resort offers Web cams so you can check in on your furry little friend.

All Pet Paradise facilities are Category 3 Hurricane Safety Rated and serve as emergency pet evacuation centers, so you can rest assured that your pet will be safe even in some very inclement weather. Rates vary by location, but range from $25-$35 per day for dogs, and $18-$22 for cats.

Cozy Inn
For tail-waggingly luxurious accommodations for your dog, check out Cozy Inn in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Daily room rates range from $26-$36 depending on the size of the dog, and condos go for between $44 and $55 per day, again depending on your dog’s size.

The Cozy Inn sets itself apart from other pet hotels with its “Zen approach” to pet care that utilizes sky lights, music therapy, color stimulation, plants, aromatherapy, positive energy, massage and touch therapy, and even hydrotherapy to help your dog get in touch with his/her chi. Pet parents can treat their dogs to an all-over body massage, a Swedish massage, or a sports massage for $40 an hour or $10 for 15 minutes. You can also request a “report card” tracking your dog’s likes and dislikes, friends, and activities while at Cozy Inn.

Canine Country Club and Feline Inn
puppy dog Finally, for an equally deluxe vacation for your cat or dog, try the Canine Country and Feline Inn in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Their “standard accommodations” for dogs are air conditioned in the summer and kept cozy in the winter with radiant floor heating. These large, two-sided rooms go for $21 per day.

For the even more discriminating dog, extra large vacation suites are available for $28 per day, while a “casita” will cost you $34-$40 per day depending on its size. The latter feature a complete living room and patio with a real child’s bed appointed with lamb’s wool blankets, a television and stereo, unlimited walks and exercise, daily maid service, and a choice of snacks each evening.

Dogs can play together in Doggy Day Care (for an additional charge) in a covered playground that is heated in the winter and cooled by misters in the summer, or they can enjoy individual exercise sessions for $4-5 each. Doggy ice cream, peanut butter filled toys, and all-beef hotdogs can be purchased as snacks for your pooch.

Cats will enjoy the lamb’s wool hammocks and second-story balconies that come standard in the hotel’s cat balcony units, which cost $12 per day for one cat, or $16 for two. You can upgrade your cat(s) to a bay window room, which, in addition to all the features of a balcony unit, has a large bay window where your cat can watch the goings on at the Feline Inn ($13.00 per day for one cat, or $17 for two). Suites with skylights are available for $14 per day for one cat, and $5 for each additional cat. Tuna-filled toys for your cat cost just $1 each.

By Kellan Connor for

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