What do you do when you need to leave town and your pet or companion cannot come with you?
Sometimes a friend or family member is not available to watch them and for many, the idea of a stay at a boarding facility is not a viable solution. Many animals do not do well in strange and unfamiliar places, and staying at home is the only option.
If this is the case, consider hiring a pet sitter. Pet sitters will visit your home and take care of care and maintenance activities such as feeding, walks, litter-box changing, etc. They also provide some human contact and interaction for your pet that they would otherwise not get. It gets lonely when the family is away!
Another huge benefit is that your pet gets to stay in a familiar location, greatly reducing the amount of stress that they will have to deal with while you are away. They are also sheltered from exposure to certain diseases or pests that they might otherwise encounter in a boarding scenario.
Finding The Right Person
Despite the benefits of keeping your pet at home, you DO have to find someone you feel is safe and reliable. There is a good amount of trust involved, since they will not only be looking after your beloved friend, but also will have access to your home.
Referrals – A good place to start looking for a reputable pet sitter is through direct referrals from people close to you that you trust. Friends, family or your veterinarian are a great place to begin. If they have used someone in the past and had a good experience, that can go a long way to ease your mind, because they are giving you a personal recommendation based on their experience. There are online options for locating a pet sitter in your area as well. The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters or Pet Sitters International offer online services to find a good match for your requirements.
Research – If you are sourcing a pet sitter from a service be sure to read any online reviews and follow up with past employers if possible. For referred sitters, always request references from previous employers and do make sure you follow up on all of them.
Interview – Always interview potential pet sitter, at least by phone, or in person if possible. Inquire about their past experience, what types of pets they’ve cared for, and whether they’ve completed any special training.
What Makes A Good Pet Sitter?
Good Communication – It is important that you can rely on your sitter to show up when they are supposed to and understand what their job entails. You want to be confident that the agreements between you and your pet sitter about rules and scheduling are being understood properly. You also want to make sure that you are able to convey all of the specifics that go into caring for your specific pet’s needs.
Experience – They should be well-versed in general animal care, but every pet is unique and has an individual routine. It is even more important if your pet has any special needs or a condition that requires extra care. An experienced pet sitter may have encountered similar cases in past work and will know how to deal with special situations should they arise.
Character and Disposition – Your sitter should have a general love for animals that comes across. You don’t want someone who just sees caring for your pet as a “set and forget” visit, that is one of many for the day. The ideal sitter should be caring, calm and resourceful. Often times, the need for a special trip to your home may be required. Check with potential candidates if this is something that they are willing to do.
Insurance – A qualified pet sitter often holds a commercial liability insurance policy and/or should be bonded to protect against theft or damage.
Finalizing The Decision
Once you have decided on a pet sitter that you feel comfortable and trust to do a good job, its essential that all the expectations and duties are understood and agreed upon by both you and your sitter. These can include:
- Agreement on the fees and payment
- Number of visits? Frequency of visits per day?
- Visit time and duration?
- Services provided? e.g. Feeding, walking, bathing, grooming, cleaning up after your pet? etc.
- Additional services? Will they provide other vacation-related services such as taking mail in the house,
- watering plants, garbage removal etc.
- Will they bring your pet to a veterinarian or hospital in the event of an emergency?
- Updates. Many pet sitters will send a daily email, or text message summary of activities, and/or pictures of your pet to keep you updated.
TIP: If possible it would be beneficial to have your sitter interact with your pet in your home before you leave so you can get your pet acclimated to the new person and also see how your pet relates to the sitter.
It’s completely normal to be worried about your pet while you are away, so don’t feel pressured to hire the first person you encounter. Take your time and make sure you have a good level of trust and confidence in your selection. Your pet will thank you!