Five Tips For Picking a Pet Sitter

When you’re traveling, hiring a professional pet sitter can provide peace of mind.

For some pets, it’s far less stressful to be in their own home and following their regular routine instead of being stuck at a kennel. Plus, many pet sitters provide additional services, like collecting the mail, that keep your home safe while you’re gone.

But how do you choose the person to care for your beloved animals and home while you’re away? Here are five tips for picking a pet sitter:

Interview potential pet sitters long before you’ll need them

Gather recommendations from friends and family (your vet’s office can be a great resource, too), and schedule interviews. Have the potential pet sitters come to your home so you can observe how they interact with your animals. Arm yourself with a list of questions. For example:

  • Are they insured and bonded?
  • Do they administer medications?
  • Does their service provide overnight stays or just daytime visits?
  • How many visits per day are included?
  • Is a walk included or does that incur an added fee?
  • Will the same person always be the pet sitter or are there multiple sitters who might come by?
  • Do they have a Pet First Aid certification or any special training?
  • What is their procedure in case of emergency?
  • How do they communicate with their clients? Can you expect to receive text messages, pictures, or a report card?
  • Do they provide additional services, like bringing in the mail, watering plants, or alternating lights?

Check references

Determine your top candidates and then request references. Professional pet sitters will provide you with information for several clients. Call those people to ask about their experience. Keep in mind, though, that the pet sitter probably provides contact info for clients he or she knows have had a positive experience. While this is an important step, take the phone calls with a grain of salt.

Special needs require special skills

If your pet requires special care—for example, insulin shots—take extra steps when hiring a pet sitter. Make sure that the potential pet sitter has training and experience with your particular need. Request to call those clients who have that same experience as references. Prior to hiring the sitter, make a plan (via email is great so you both have a record) for what to do if there’s an emergency. If the special need is behavioral rather than medical, like if your dog has problems with other people or dogs, outline those in detail and discuss to make sure the pet sitter is comfortable handing a dog who, say, lunges at other dogs on walks.

Create a detailed plan

Provide your itinerary, and make sure the pet sitter will continue care in case of travel delays. Outline every routine, from amount of food and times for meals to bathroom breaks, walks, and treats. Provide contact information for you, emergency contacts, your veterinarian, and a veterinary emergency room. Provide all the supplies your pet will need, and review the locations for those items with the pet sitter. You haven’t hired him or her yet, so you want to be sure you’re both completely comfortable with every aspect of your pet’s care before you sign the dotted line. Speaking of which…

Sign a contract

Before you leave, your pet sitter should provide you with a contract that outlines everything agreed upon, including fees. Don’t leave home until you have a copy of the contract.

Once you’ve taken these steps, you can head off on vacation knowing your pets are in the capable hands of a professional pet sitter!

Meet the Author: Maggie Marton

Maggie is a writer and author, whose first book, Clicker Dog Training: The Better Path to a Well-Behaved Pup was published by Open Air Publishing. When she's not writing (or reading books about grammar), she teaches writing courses to college students and professionals who want to nail down the basics of communication. Outside of work, she hikes, throws dinner parties, plays with her three dogs and cat, and travels as much as possible.

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