Pet Sitting: What You Need to Know

Heading out of town for a weeklong retreat? If you have pets, you know it’s not that easy to just leave town. This week, we’ll be exploring a few options for you and your pets. That is, if you’re not planning to take them along. (If you’re planning on your pet accompanying you, then check out our posts on vacations for you and your pets from last week.)
The first option you have is letting Fido and Fluffy stay in the comfort of their own home where they know the routine and are comfortable.  If you have more than two or three pets, this is probably the best scenario for you. A pet sitter offers more than just caring for your pets.  They will pick up your paper, keep a daily log so you know what happened each day and what they did while there, care for fish and other small pets, pick up your mail each day, and be available for a consult while you’re out of town. They should be equipped (and empowered) to handle any emergencies that come up and most importantly; they will be trustworthy and reliable. Here are a few steps to doing that when finding and using a pet sitter.
Focus on Experience
When you’re searching out a pet sitter, it’s important to use personal recommendations before you bring anyone inside of your home. Chances are good that someone you know has used a pet sitter. If they liked them and trusted them, give them the first shot.  If you don’t have friends with pets, start with the big businesses. Visit Pet Sitters International  (PSI) on your first stop. This organization has a ton of resources for the pet owners of the world and all of their members are licensed, bonded and trusted.
Big is Not Necessarily Better
You may want to give a smaller company a try. Often the large companies can be caught up in the paperwork and the sitter is working as a self-employed person anyway. The one advantage that larger companies can offer is backup, but that’s only if the sitter actually calls for it. Many experienced pet sitters go out on their own in the realization they can often make more money that way.  These are the sitters you want to keep around. Find one you like and use them whenever you leave.
Meet Your Sitter Before Leaving
Just because you like the new sitter doesn’t mean your pet will. Be sure that the sitter comes to your home for a consult. Have them meet your pets, show them where things are, and identify the best way to approach an animal. Pets change when you leave and they will not react to a stranger when they are alone with them the same way they will when you’re in the house. Leave the sitter alone with them for a few minutes. See how the sitter and your pet react upon your return. That will tell you a lot about your new sitter!
Before You Leave:
  • Ensure that your pets' food is well-stocked
  • Leave a detailed schedule of what is expected. (Free PDF file from PetsWeekly)
  • Sign a Veterinary Care Release form and leave with sitter.
  • Leave a contact list in the event of emergency.
photo credit: Copyright PetsWeekly, 2005

Stacy Mantle