Pet ownership in the United States is continually on the rise. Currently 63% of all American households have pets. These pets are happiest when they are home, surrounded by familiar sights, smells and sounds. For many years, pet owners faced a dilemma when they had to be away from home. Limited care options were available, one choice was boarding at a kennel or a vet, another option was turning to family, friends or neighbors. But these solutions were seldom ideal.
Today, many dog and cat owners decide to hire a pet sitter when they are unable to travel with their pets or if their pets are either unable or unsuitable to be boarded at a facility. As dog and cat lovers, we all know that letting a stranger care for your pets can be difficult and stressful. However, once the right person is found, the weight can be lifted and the trip is much more enjoyable. In order to reduce the stress level for everyone involved, there are a number of things you can do ahead of time to ensure your pet is well cared for during your absence.
So how do you find the right pet sitter for your pet? This is the most important step in the process, for obvious reasons. Ask for recommendations from a neighbor, a co-worker you respect, or even your veterinarian. Other options are to look online and visit the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters website and search for pet sitters in your area.
Once you have found a potential pet sitter for your pets here are some key questions you should be asking this person before they start caring for your pets...
• Do you carry commercial liability insurance and are you bonded?
• What training have you completed to be a pet sitter?
• Where will you take my pet in the event of a medical emergency?
• What services do you provide for pets beyond feeding and walking or litter box scooping? At a minimum you want a potential sitter that will spend time playing with and petting your cat or dog.
• Will you provide a written service contract which includes the services and fees we agree upon? Also, if you require the sitter to stay at your home while you are gone, you will want specific times each day they agree to be in your home with your pet.
• Can you provide references of other clients who would be willing to talk to me?
You absolutely need to meet with a potential pet sitter in your home before you sign up for services. Some things to pay attention to during this meeting are…
• Do they arrive on time?
• Are they prepared to take notes about the specifics of caring for your cat or dog, including the pet’s name, the amount of food you feed and supplements you give, any medical problems your pet has, your pet’s personality, fears, habits and routines.
• Do they pay attention when you show them where your dog or cat eats, the location of the litter box, and all of the specifics about medications, food and water?
• Do they provide you a way to let them know that you are home? Pet sitters should leave you a note asking you to call or text that you are home.
• You will also want to see how your potential pet sitter interacts with your pets and whether your pets are comfortable around them.
In order for your pet sitter to provide the best possible care for your pets, it is also important that you provide your pet sitter with as much information as possible. They will need to know anything and everything about your pet and you should provide them with answers to a number of questions…
• What are your pet’s routines and schedules? (eating, playing, walking, sleeping)
• Does your pet have minor or major medical issues?
• What should be done in a case of emergency?
• Where do you keep their favorite toys?
• Is your dog a chewer? If so, where do you keep their chew toys?
• Where is your pet’s favorite hiding location/s? This will prevent a panic if your pet is nowhere to be found.
• Does your pet have unusual habits?
The smoother things run for the pet sitter, the better care your pet will get…
• Make sure you pet sitter has access to your property so they can come and go easily from your home. Let your neighbors know that a pet sitter will be coming multiple times a day to check in, so your neighbor does not confuse your pet sitter for a home invader.
• Leave pet food and other supplies in one location, and make sure there is some extra just in case you do not make it home on the day you planned.
• Make sure your pet has an identification tag with their name and phone number, this goes for cats and dogs.
• If your instructions or plans change while you are away, call your pet sitter and let them know.
• When you get home, be diligent about letting your pet sitter know you are back.
One last thing to consider when it comes to pet sitting is that dogs are not cats. It’s generally far easier to leave a cat at home with daily visits from a pet sitter than it is to leave a dog under the same circumstances. Cats are attached first to their territory and a dog’s primary attachment is to their people. So unless you have an unusually independent dog who needs very little daily interaction with you, consider not leaving them home alone for several days or a week and consider alternatives like a boarding facility or a vets office. If your dog has outside access then a short twice a day visit would be fine but if they do not you should be insisting on at least a three times a day visit and so should your pet sitter!
Not all pet sitters are created equal. In hiring a pet sitter, it is important that you have chosen the right person to care for your pets and you can make sure that you have done that by asking and answering all of the questions listed in this article. When you find the right pet sitter for you and your pets, you can leave your pets at home knowing they are being cared for and you can enjoy your time away