If you have a pet or pets, you’ll want to have in place a responsible person to care for them when you’ll be away. Because this person will be providing your beloved pets with what they are used to and need on a daily basis, and also because this person will have access to your home, it is very important you feel 100% comfortable with your pet sitter.
So, how to do find a trustworthy, competent pet sitter? What qualities should you look for?
Start by collecting cards of local pet sitters who have placed them in pet supply shops and area veterinary offices, or saving ads from pet publications. Ask pet shop or vet staffs to recommend pet sitters with a positive reputation. Have at least six names to start interviewing. Then, begin contacting these people. Note who responds promptly – this is a sign of a responsible small business owner! My general rule of thumb as a pet sitter is to respond within 24 hours, preferably sooner.
Ask them questions about their service. For example, find out whether they will spend the night at your home (most pets prefer this as it’s what they’re used to), whether they will walk your dog at least once a day for a good 30 to 45 minutes (most dogs need daily exercise and really look forward to walks), whether they have another job and won’t be able to be there most of the day, how long they’ve been a pet sitter (experience is the best teacher!), what they charge per day, whether they will bring their own food, and whether the linens they’ve used will be clean when you return, etc. If you have a less common pet such as a large tropical bird or reptile, or outdoor “farm” animals, ask whether the pet sitter has had prior experience with them.
Then, ask for the prospective sitter’s current client references and contact information. These are not the pet sitter’s friends or family – they are people who have used their service before and can and will vouch for the sitter’s reliable care of your pets – and your home.Contact their references and ask more questions. Click To Tweet
Contact their references and ask more questions: When they returned, was their house neat and clean, plants watered and the mail stacked up ready to sort through? Were their pets relaxed and happy, or worried and stressed? Was all their liquor still there? (I kid you not!) Did the pet sitter eat them out of house and home? Get useful feedback on this pet sitter’s level of expertise and responsibility.
Once a pet sitter has been hired, clients should prepare a thorough list of who to call if something goes wrong – and believe me, even in brand new homes, things can go wrong! This list should also include their contact info while they’re away, and contact info for their vet, including an emergency clinic number for after-hours visits. Clients should also inform their vet of the dates when the sitter will be caring for Fido or Fluffy and to make any necessary financial arrangements ahead of time if a pet must be brought in.
Finally, clients should provide a detailed description of a typical “day in the life” of their pet, including things they do and don’t like. Some dogs love car rides while others become almost panicky in a moving vehicle. Many cats adore sitting on your lap and others aren’t the touchy-feely type. A pet sitter should know as much as possible about the pets they will be caring for. The more the pet sitter knows, the happier and more relaxed the pets will be.
Pet sitting is a responsibility. Clients show tremendous trust allowing a pet sitter into their home when they are not there, a trust not to be taken lightly. Responsible pet sitters want to ensure that their clients’ pets and their home are in excellent shape when they return. All clients should have to do when they return is unpack, go through their mail and enjoy a happy reunion with their beloved friends.
Debby Dobson has been pet sitting for more than 25 years, is a dog behaviorist who is currently teaching a class on this at Blue Ridge Community College, and has written extensively about dogs. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org