Living Smart: Are your home and pets ready for the holidays?

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Thanksgiving is not far off, and beyond it are other holidays and opportunities to enjoy family and friends at their homes or yours.

Whether you’re traveling, hosting or experiencing some of each, here are ideas for making sure your home and your pets are holiday-ready.

Before you leave home

Hire a house sitter or ask a neighbor or friend to check on your home while you’re gone, bringing in mail, newspapers and taking out trash. Another way to make your house appear occupied is to leave a vehicle in the driveway or ask someone else to park there occasionally.

Other tips:

• Use an automatic timer to switch lights on and off or use a remote-control security system.

• Hire a lawn care service or ask a neighbor to take care of your lawn or shovel your walkways.

Make sure your pets are in good hands while you’re gone. It’s important to start early when seeking high-quality pet care when you travel before a major holiday. Top-rated kennel operators say their facilities often reach full capacity two weeks before any major holiday. Also, note that most will require that pets are up to date with vaccinations.

You may prefer that your pets remain at home when you’re gone, so here are tips for finding either a good pet sitter or boarding facility:

• Ask your veterinarian, family and friends for recommendations. Check reviews on a trusted online site, as well as references.

• Confirm appropriate licensing and insurance.

• Ask how often your pet will be fed, walked or played with. Ask about training, including pet CPR, and what will happen if your pet gets sick or the sitter can’t get to your house for some reason.

• Have a sitter candidate visit your home in advance and observe how he or she interacts with your pet.

• Visit any boarding facility you’re considering, and check out the specific area where your pet will stay.

Before the guests arrive

Take time, as much ahead of the arrival date as possible, to be sure everything’s tidy, from carpets to corner cobwebs. Keep in mind that cleaning pros also get full during the holiday season, so hire any help as early as possible.

Consider giving yourself the gift of a deep cleaning, which will last beyond your guests’ stay. Cleaning experts recommend a deep cleaning about every six months. Potential targets include areas behind furniture and appliances, baseboards and other trim, ceiling fans, windows and HVAC vents.

Make sure your pet, too, is clean, fresh and ready for guests. Here are some tips for finding a quality dog groomer:

• Choose a grooming service that requires you and other patrons to provide proof of vaccinations.

• Ask what type of training the groomer has and if the staff gets continuing education. Be sure to visit the grooming facility before you make an appointment.

• Visit the salon and make sure it’s clean. Observe where your pet will be before and after grooming. See what products are used and confirm that towels are washed and disinfected between use.

If you’re boarding your pet or having someone come to your home, ask if the kennel or sitter provides grooming services. Your post-travel reunion will be even more enjoyable if your pet smells great and feels soft.