As pet owners, we would love it if we could take our fur babies on every vacation, weekend getaway, or those quick business trips. Yet, the truth is, taking our pets with us won’t always be the best choice for them. Oftentimes, it might not even be possible-no matter how much we would like to bring them along.
Certainly, we could board our pet, leave them at the neighbor’s house or with a friend, even ask the kid from down the street to look after them while we are gone. Unfortunately, these options can either be costly or an imposition on the neighbor/friend you ask; and, although it might seem convenient, how well do you know and trust the kid on your block?
If you plan on leaving your pet while you are away, you will also need to consider their emotional and physical well-being. While some pets have no problem adjusting to your absence or unfamiliar surroundings, there are some pets that will become distressed if they are taken care of away from their home and/or when their routine is disrupted.
Why Should You Hire a Pet Sitter?
Whether you are leaving town for a while or find yourself working too many hours to adequately spend time with your pet, hiring a pet sitter is a terrific option when you need someone reliable, responsible, and loving to step in as caretaker. Not only will a pet sitter take care of your beloved fur baby in your own home, he/she can make the time you are away less stressful on both you and your pet. Employing a professional, experienced pet sitter will also give you peace of mind knowing your pet is being looked after properly and loved while you are away.
Benefits of Hiring a Pet Sitter
- Professional pet sitters are trained and experienced in working with all types of pet personalities and will have the ability to personalize your pet’s care based on their individual likes, dislikes, fears, and habits.
- Staying at home in their safe, secure environment with familiar sights, smells, and sounds will eliminate stress and anxiety.
- Diet and exercise routines are uninterrupted.
- Having ample “play time.”
- Receiving love and personal attention
- Maintaining any medical treatment (medications, etc.)
- Having someone responsible in case of an emergency
- Eliminating the inconvenience of transporting your pet
- Minimizing the stress of leaving them in an unfamiliar environment
- Ensuring good health- pet’s exposure to illness is minimized (no exposure to other animals' illnesses)
- Having confidence that the pet sitter can deal with other issues - such as grooming, vet visits, etc.
- Not having to impose on family, friends, or neighbors.
- Feeling at ease leaving your pet and knowing your home is more secure with a pet sitter’s daily visits.
Checklist for Hiring a Pet Sitter
According to the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS), choosing the right person to pet sit your beloved fur baby is a process that should not be taken lightly. Not only will the person you hire be taking care of your canine, feline, or other animal, they will also have regular access to your home.
While there are many terrific pet sitters who offer their services, not all of them are “created equal”- meaning not all of them are trained and professional; and surprisingly, some aren’t even animal lovers!
If this is your first time hiring a pet sitter, or even if it’s not, here is a check list of recommendations and criteria to consider when seeking out the perfect pet sitter for both you and your pet:
1. Finding a Pet Sitter
- To find a qualified and reliable pet sitter, ask friends, neighbors, family, and co-workers for a referral.
- You can also consult with your veterinarian or search online at either the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters or Pet Sitters International for a reputable and/or certified pet sitter in your area.
- Pet sitters who are certified (CPE – Certified Pet Expert.com; NAPPS – Certification; CPPS – Pet Sitters International) participate in a broad range, in-depth program that covers all topics related to pet sitting such as pet care, health, nutrition, behavior issues, and pet safety- they also have training in pet first aid.
- When you have narrowed down a list of potential pet sitters, contact them to set up an in person interview. If the pet sitter has a website- visit it to learn more about their rates, services, and service areas, and to check to make sure they can provide the type of service you need.
2. The Interview
- Create a set of questions and conduct a thorough interview.
- Check qualifications and training.
- Ask if he/she is a member of any of the following organizations:
- APSE – Association of Pet Sitting Excellence
- NAPPS – National Association of Professional Pet Sitters
- PSA – Pet Sitters Associates
- PSI – Pet Sitters International
- PUPS – Professional United Pet Sitters
- Ask about his/her experience- what type of pets they have cared for, their experience with medical issues, and handling behavior problems in pets.
- Ask for references. Optional- request a background check.
- Inquire if the potential sitter has liability insurance coverage (for any accidents that may occur) and that they are bonded (to protect against theft).
3. Meet with the Pet Sitter
- If possible, have the pet sitter meet you in your home for the interview.
- Have the pet sitter come by prior to hiring so you can observe how well he/she interacts with your pet.
4. Service and Fees
It’s important you are on the same page in regard to what is expected, the service(s) that will be provided and the fees you’ll be charged.
Important Questions to Ask:
- Fees and any additional charges
- How many visits will your pet have each day?
- What time of morning/afternoon/evening will they come by, along with the duration of each visit?
- Do they provide dog walking or grooming services?
- Will the pet sitter take care of any other vacation responsibilities such as watering plants, taking the garbage out, shopping for pet food, etc.?
- Will the pet sitter communicate regularly with updates and photos?
- Is the pet sitter willing to bring your pet to the vet if necessary? Or equipped to deal with an emergency?
- If you are delayed getting back home or are extending your trip can the pet sitter accommodate your schedule until you return?
Now that you’ve hired the perfect pet sitter, you’ll need to create a checklist of instructions while you are away.
Checklist for the Pet Sitter & Your Departure
Checklist for Pet Sitter:
1. Gather Important Information
Providing your pet sitter essential information (kept in a folder) will ensure he/she has everything they need should an emergency arise:
- Provide a number where you can be reached
- List of emergency contacts such as your veterinarian, local police, and a friend/neighbor
- History of health concerns
- List of any medications your pet is taking along with the schedule
- Immunization history
- Microchip information & recent photo of your pet
- Pet Insurance card
* Don’t forget to give your pet sitter the key to your home. You also might also want to hide an additional key around your house or on your property in case of an emergency.
2. Talk with Your Sitter About Your Pet
Most likely you talked about your pet with the potential sitter at the interview. But, now that they have been hired, you’ll need to share the following information so your sitter will be prepared to care for your pet correctly:
- Daily routines- eating, walking, playing
- How and when to administer any medications
- Daily food intake- type of food (dry/wet, treats), quantity, feeding schedule, and where the food is kept.
- Favorite toys (where you keep them) and play activities
- Your pet’s personality- does your pet get along with people? Other animals? Children? Does your pet have anxieties (loud noises, etc.)?
- Walking routine- favorite walking spots, nearby dog parks, duration of walks
Checklist for your departure:
1. Stock Up on Supplies
Make certain you have enough food (dry/wet/treats) on hand for at least the duration of your trip (always a good idea to have extra just in case you are delayed in your return home).
- Water and food bowls accessible
- Medications if needed
- Walking accessories- harness and leashes
- Collar with ID tags/rabies tag
- Grooming supplies- shampoo, towel for drying, brushes, toothbrush/paste
- Cleaning supplies for accidents- paper towels, old towels, cleansers
- Pet carrier/crate (if necessary)
2. Prepare Your Home
Preparing your home and spending some quality time with your pet will be the last step before you leave.
- Lock up any valuables in a secure place
- Shut off any rooms/areas in your home where you don’t want your pet to go
- Make certain there are no escape routes for your pet- repair holes in fences, secure gates, etc.
- Allow the pet sitter to interact with your dog in your presence before you take off
- Give your pet plenty of love, attention, and reassurance in the days leading up to your departure
Although it can be a bit scary hiring someone to come into your home and take care of your beloved pet while you are away, there is a pool of pet sitters who can help you feel more comfortable. The key to finding the right one will be in the questions you ask, observing how the pet sitter interacts with your pet, along with their experience and qualifications. Perhaps more importantly, you should always trust your instincts.
It’s totally normal to be concerned about both your pet’s well-being and the safety of your home while you are away. When you follow the above checklist it cannot only help you find the perfect sitter who will provide excellent care for your pet, it will keep your worries to a minimum- giving you peace of mind knowing your pet (and your home) is in good hands… no matter how long you’ll be away.