Do you find yourself worrying about who will take good care of your beloved pet while you are away on a trip? Are you hesitant to leave your dog at the vet’s because he hates going there to begin with? Do you worry about leaving your pet in a boarding kennel in a strange environment with people he does not know? While both of the aforementioned options can be appropriate in certain circumstances, they may not put your mind entirely at ease. Perhaps the idea of a pet sitter has crossed your mind, but how do you find a reliable pet sitter, one whom you can trust with your pet and home?
Here are some tips to help you find a pet sitter who will provide a positive, nurturing experience for your pet and help put your mind at ease while you’re away from home.
Plan in Advance
Give yourself time to find a reliable pet sitter. Begin your search well in advance of your anticipated departure. Keep in mind, holidays and summer vacations can be especially busy times for pet sitters and they can be booked well in advance. Start your search early.
Check with local veterinarians, kennel clubs, the local Humane Society, friends and neighbors who are pet lovers. Find out who they use. Word of mouth is usually a good source of referral.
Do Your Homework!
Consider talking to them on the phone at first. Ask for insurance and references right off the bat. If they hesitate or cannot readily provide the info, move on.
Once you’ve selected a few who seem to have the basic qualifications, interview them in person well in advance to see how they interact with your pet. If you don’t feel comfortable with them, move on. Don’t feel obligated to hire them. Conducting your interviews well in advance gives you this option.
Use the same criteria you would use when looking for a good babysitter or someone to take care of an aged relative.
Have a list of written questions ready in advance.
A good pet sitter should have the following:
- Liability Insurance and be Bondable
Questions to Ask and Things to Observe
- How careful are they coming in the front door? Do they leave the door swinging wide open while talking to you? Do they quickly slip in or do they swing the door wide open and take their time coming in? Wide open doors are open invitations for pets to slip out the front door.
- Are they physically agile?
- Can they handle your dog?
- Note: These two questions may seem inconsequential, however, they are important factors to consider if your dog is large and powerful or small and quick and likes to “make a run for it” when the front door is opened.
- How does your animal respond to them?
- How do they interact with your pets?
- Can they transport your animal in the event of an emergency?
- Do they know CPR?
- What vets do they normally work with?
- Do they have any special caretaking skills?
- Ask for their work history and how they started taking care of animals?
- Ask them why they do pet sitting?
- Do they have an emergency contingency plan in the event they become sick or somehow are unable to care for your pet while you are gone?
- How will they exercise your pet? Walking or playing in the yard?
- Ask them what is the best experience they have ever had?
- What is the most challenging situation they have ever had and how did they handle it?
- Does your pet sitter seem organized?
- How often will they visit your pet during the day?
- How long are their visits?
Things to Think About
- Give strong consideration to having them visit at least twice a day. This allows your pet to have interaction and supervision at least twice a day when you are gone and shortens the time duration of any emergencies that may arise. Once-a-day-visits may seem cheaper, however, they leave more to chance. If you can have the pet sitter stay at your home while you are gone, this is the best of all situations.
- Do they require payment up front? Consider paying half now and half when you return home.
- Let a trusted neighbor know that you will be having a pet sitter take care of your pets. Ask them to quietly monitor the pet sitter’s comings and goings. If they don’t see a pet sitter coming at fairly regular times, ask them to give you a call. This will alert you to any potential issues before they become a problem.
Questions They Should Ask You
- Do they ask about medical issues with your pet?
- Do they ask about the feeding routine?
- Do they ask about any special dietary needs or medications?
- Do they ask about behavioral quirks your pet may have? (i.e. does not like cats, other dogs, etc.)
- Do you have emergency phone numbers for them?
Review the pet sitting contract. Dates and times for pet sitting, the cost and any special instructions should all be spelled out. Payment terms and any additional fees should be clearly stated.
Information You Should Provide
- Clearly define your departure dates and times along with your date of return and estimated time of return.
- Your veterinarian’s phone number and an alternative vet in case your vet is not available.
- Always leave emergency phone numbers where you can be reached and instructions on how to care for your pet in the event of an emergency. Even though you may have your cell phone with you at all times, leave a reliable landline phone number in the event you are out of range.
- It’s a good idea to write a letter to your vet, stating that your pet sitter has your authorization to obtain medical attention for your pet and that you will cover all medical expenses upon your return. This will help ensure your pet receives needed medical attention immediately in case of an emergency. While unpleasant to think about, discuss the degree of emergency care and services you are prepared to pay for in the event your pet should require emergency medical care and/or surgery. Note: Some vets will not provide medical care for your pet without your written authorization.
- Leave this info on the refrigerator or some place where the pet sitter can easily find it and/or leave a copy at the vet’s office prior to your departure.
- Call your vet prior to your departure and let them know you will be leaving your pet in the care of the pet sitter (provide their name) so they can make a note of it in your pet’s medical record.
- Leave other emergency numbers such as plumbers, electricians, security alarm companies, etc.
- Be sure to advise your pet sitter of any unusual behaviors they should be aware of. i.e. Your dog does not like people with hats or knows how to open the door on his own.
- Set up a time prior to your departure date, to re-introduce your pet to the pet sitter so both can become readily familiar with each other. This will help eliminate awkward situations due to your pet’s not recognizing the “stranger” coming thru the front door. This will also provide the opportunity for any last-minute questions you or the pet sitter may have for each other.
- Make sure there is enough pet food to last for the entire time you are away.
When giving the key to your pet sitter, clarify the key should not be left under the mat or elsewhere, but should return the key directly to you. Make sure they can continue to care for your pet in the event you should be late in returning home.
- Your pet will be less stressed and much more comfortable in his/her own home.
- Your pet will be fed, watered and exercised on a regular schedule.
- Your pet will have regular interaction with someone who cares about them.
- Your home will have a “lived-in” look while you are away.
- If there is a household emergency (burst pipe), your pet sitter will be able to assist you in getting help and taking care of your pet in the meanwhile.
- Using the tips outlined above, should help in making the time you are away from home more enjoyable for both you and your pet and provide peach of mind for both of you.