How to choose and find a good pet sitter…
A pet sitter does more than provide your pets with food and water while you’re away from home. A good pet sitter also spends quality time with your pet, gives him or her exercise, much needed attention, and knows how to tell if your pet needs veterinary attention. What’s more, pet sitters offer additional services, such as bringing in mail and newspapers, watering plants, turning lights on and off, and providing homes with a lived-in look to deter crime. But just because someone calls themselves a pet sitter doesn’t mean they are qualified to do the job. This information will help you find the best pet sitter for you and your pet.
Why hire a pet sitter?
When you must be away from home, say for travel or an emergency, and don’t like the idea of leaving your pet caged up in a boarding kennel, who takes care of your pet? What happens when the time you leave for work and the time you get home lasts for 9 or more hours? Who takes your dog out for a potty break? If you’re like many pet owners, you ask a friend or neighbor to stop in and pour some food and water in your pet’s bowls. But is this what’s best for your pet? There’s a good chance that your friends and neighbors lack proper pet-care experience and have even forgotten to show up. They may also resent frequent requests to look after your pet while you’re gone. So what is the solution? Consider hiring a “pet sitter”—a professional, qualified individual paid to care for your pet.
A pet sitter offers both you and your pet many benefits.
Your pets get:
* The environment they know best.
* Their same diet and routine.
* Relief from traveling to and staying in an unfamiliar place with other animals (such as a boarding kennel).
* Personal attention while you’re away.
* The peace of mind that comes from knowing that your pet is being cared for by a professional yet still in a environment they are used to.
* Happier friends and neighbors, who aren’t burdened with caring for your pet.
* Someone to bring in your newspaper and mail so potential burglars don’t know you’re away.
* Time saving. Someone who will come to your home so you don’t have to drive your pet to or from a boarding kennel.
* Other services provided by most pet sitters, such as plant watering, bringing in the mail, nail trimming, and more.
Where do I find a pet sitter?
Ask friends, neighbors, or your veterinarian. Check the bulletin board at your local pet store. Search the internet at sites like Yahoo or Google for “pet sitter your city and state”.
What should I look for?
It’s important to learn all you can about prospective pet sitters’ qualifications and services. Before selecting a pet sitter, interview the candidates over the phone or at your home. Find out the following:
* Can the pet sitter provide written proof that she has commercial liability insurance (to cover accidents and negligence)?
* How long has the pet sitter been in business full time? To be a “pet sitter” doesn’t take much. Any one can put up some advertisements and call themselves a pet sitter. To be a GOOD pet sitter takes dedication. Remember a pet sitter generally works every holiday, and is open for business 365/24/7. Look for someone who has been in business for several years. Otherwise you may be looking for a new pet sitter come next year when yours realizes what it really takes.
* What training has the pet sitter received to handle emergencies?
* Will the pet sitter record information about your pet, such as his likes, dislikes, fears, habits, medical conditions, medications, and routines? This is sometimes called a Pet Profile.
* Is the pet sitter associated with a veterinarian who can provide emergency services?
* What will happen if the pet sitter experiences car trouble or becomes ill? Does she have a backup?
* Ask if generally the same pet sitter will be coming to care for your pet each and every time you need service. Ideally the same person should be coming since pets adapt to changes less readily.
* Will the pet sitter provide a written service contract spelling out services and fees?
* If the pet sitter provides live-in services like overnights, what are the specific times she agrees to be with your pet? Is this detailed in the contract?
* How does your pet sitter make sure that you have returned home?
* Will the pet sitter provide you with the phone numbers of other clients who have agreed to serve as references? You should call at least one or two of the numbers they give you.
Even if you like what you hear from the pet sitter and from their references, it’s important to have the prospective pet sitter come to your home before you leave and they start your pet-sitting job. They should provide a list of policies and contract to you. They should go over your pets daily routine and customize their care to your pets needs. Watch how the pet sitter interacts with your pet—does your pet seem comfortable with them?
How can I help the pet sitter and my pet?
Of course, even the most trustworthy, experienced pet sitter will have trouble if you haven’t also kept your end of the bargain. Here are your responsibilities:
* Make reservations with your pet sitter early, especially during holidays.
* Ensure your pet is well socialized and allows strangers to handle him. If your pet has issues be sure to inform the pet sitter beforehand so they will be prepared.
* Affix current identification tags to your pet’s collar.
* Maintain current vaccinations for your pet.
* Make clear your instructions detailing specific pet-care responsibilities and emergency contact information, including how to reach you and your veterinarian. Make sure your veterinarian knows that your pets are being cared for by the pet sitter and that the pet sitter is authorized to bring your pets in to them in case of an emergency.
* Leave pet food and supplies in one place.
* Buy extra pet supplies in case you’re away longer than planned.
* Leave a key with a trustworthy neighbor as a backup, and give him and your pet sitter each other’s phone numbers. Be sure those extra keys work before giving them out.
* Show the pet sitter your home’s important safety features such as the circuit breaker and security system.
* Finally, have a safe and fun trip. And remember to bring your pet sitter’s phone number in case your plans change—or you just want to find out how Fluffy and Fido are doing.
Remember if you are happy with the pet sitter the best way to show your appreciation is to recommend them to your friends, family, vet, pet store, and others you know who have pets or deal with the local pet care industry!