When preparing to go away, pet owners often find themselves wondering what the best care for their pet would be. While kennels are a great place for pets to be social, receive daily care, and are safe, they aren’t always the best option for all pets.  If your pet tends to become more stressed in social situations, doesn’t like other pets, takes medication or is elderly and needs a little more TLC, a pet sitter might be the best option for them. A pet sitter is also a great option for exotics.

As the previous owner, manager and pet sitter of a pet sitting company, I am excited to share some of my knowledge about the industry with you.

What are the advantages of having a pet sitter?

One of the biggest advantages of hiring a pet sitter is that you will know that your pet will remain in the comfort of your home while you’re away. I truly believe that the pet’s own home is the least stressful place and most comfortable place for them with everything around them looking, smelling and feeling familiar.  And because your pet is staying at home, you will not need to pack their bed, toys, food, or medications to take to the kennel. There’s also no need for them to have additional immunizations that are typically required by most kennels or pet hotels.

Pet sitters also offer an array of services to meet any pet owner’s budget from one short visit a day for a quick potty break and a walk to staying at your home 24/7 while you are away.

With at home care your pet will get one on one attention with visits typically including play time, exercise, feeding, fresh water, and lots of hugs and kisses. Even if a pet is not social, an owner can still benefit from having a sitter come into the house to see that the pet is doing well, change out the food and water, and take care of the home itself.  Most home care includes bringing in mail and packages, so it appears that someone is home, watering indoor or outdoor plants, or even shoveling the snow during those winter months to make it safe for the pet and owners when they return home.

You’ve decided to hire a pet sitter, now what?

Once you’ve decided that hiring a pet sitter is the right choice for you and your pet now is the time to do some research. A great website to start your research is Pet Sitters International. This website lists all pet sitters who are accredited and reputable.  You can search by zip code and refine your search by what services you are specifically looking for.

After you’ve compiled a list of possible pet sitters, go to their websites if they have one and take notes.  Does the site look like the owner put a lot of thought and effort into it? Does it look up to date? Does it have referrals from other clients or reviews?  Next call and/or email them. Take note whether they pick up right away or return your phone call/email promptly. Can they answer any questions you have? Do you feel comfortable with them over the phone? Did they make an effort to get to know you and your pet(s), and schedule an at home consultation?

Preparing for the Consultation

Before the consultation write down a list of things you would like to go over with the pet sitter and questions you have.  Essentially, this is an interview.  The pet sitter should be prepared, and they should have questions for you as well.  Take notes to how your pet reacts to them and visa versa.  Are they friendly with your pet?  Do they seem genuinely interested in your pet?

Things to Find Out:

  • Do they have a contract? (a plus)
  • Is there an additional charge for bringing in the mail, watering the plants, etc.?
  • Do you need to put a deposit down or will they bill you when you return?
  • Is there a cancellation policy (especially during a holiday)?

Make Sure You Tell Your Pet Sitter:

  • The person of contact should you be unavailable and in the case of an emergency
  • The person that can make decisions for your pet
  • How to get in contact with you while you are away
  • Your veterinarian’s name and contact information
  • Show them the location of things such as: pet’s feeding station and food, where your pet sleeps, leash, fuse box should the power go out

You will need to give your pet sitter a key.  I always liked to have two keys – one to have on hand and one to have as a backup should something happen to the first.  I labeled each with a specific code so they couldn’t be traced back to the person’s home should they get lost. Do not rely on a garage door opener, keyless entry, or anything else electric in case these malfunction due to low battery or power outage.

Absolutely, make sure your pet sitter is insured, bonded and certified in pet first aid and are at least 21 years of age.  This protects the pet owner and the pet sitter should anything happen to the pet, home or the sitter themselves.

Once you’ve chosen your sitter and booked the dates you need them, it’s recommended that you call your veterinarian just to let them know someone will be watching your pet and they have permission to bring your pet in case of an emergency. It’s also important to notify any neighbors you trust so they don’t think someone is breaking into your home.

Now that you have found the best care for your pet, you can sit back and relax and enjoy your vacation, knowing you’ve made the right decision!