The December holidays are here and many people, including myself, are planning a trip away from home. But what about the family pets?“Pets that are usually showered with love throughout the year, are suddenly left behind,” a reader writes. “Include animals in your holiday plans. Many people just assume neighbours or friends will look after the pets. But leaving a box of food and bowls of water in the backyard isn’t the answer. Pets deserve better.“Please, include your pets’ safe accommodation in your holiday planning,” writes Poppie Conradie from Montague in the Western Cape. Another reader, who doesn’t want to be named writes that so many animals are waiting by the gate for their owners to return. “If you want a pet, you have to treat them like children. Otherwise it’s best not to have a pet. Consider whether you’d want to be treated that way,” she writes.Essie and Grietjie, my two hairless sphynx cats, get worried as soon as my partner and I start packing our bags. Both cats get into the suitcase and refuse to budge.The two cats sleep with us every night and when we’re home, they don’t leave us alone for a minute. They’re hard work. They have to be bathed every evening, their claws need to be clipped regularly and they’re fed small portions of food around the clock. If they want attention, they’ll happily sit down on your sleeping face.We’re going to Mossel Bay for two weeks during the holidays and I have nightmares about it. When Grietjie was a baby she disappeared for two weeks after someone left the door open. She and Essie are indoor cats and never go outside because we live so close to a busy road in Sea Point, Cape Town.We’d wanted to book them into a new cat hotel for the holidays – but it costs R800 a night. Plus, Grietjie and Essie might just drive their co-guests nuts with their antics, as they tend to jump and hang on stuff like little monkeys.So, what to do?I requested the advice of Dr Quixi Sonntag, a veterinarian and lecturer at the University of Pretoria with a special interest in animal behaviour. She had these tips:Start about two or three weeks before your departure by gradually giving your pets less attention. If you try to compensate for the time you’ll be away by showering them with attention, your departure will be that much more traumatic. Let your pets get acquainted with their caretakers in that time so they’re not left behind with a stranger when you leave.It’s best for both cats and dogs to stay in their familiar environment when you’re away. Get a pet sitter, but make sure whoever it is, is a responsible person who loves animals and has some experience with pet sitting.Your animals’ safety is important. Have them microchipped, and let them wear collars with their name, address and your telephone number in case they run off.