Finding the Right Pet-sitter for Your Pets

If you’re planning to travel and are unable to take your dog or cat with you, start making arrangements for your pet’s care as soon as possible. Finding a suitable pet sitter is an excellent alternative to checking your pal into a pet hotel (see my last blog post for a list of pet-friendly hotels).

Staying in the home environment, surrounded by familiar sights, sounds and smells, is undoubtedly less stressful for your pet than having to cope with other animals and strange caretakers at a boarding facility.

Pet sitters do much more than simply provide food and water. They see to exercise needs and spend quality time with your pet so that, although you will be missed, your pet doesn’t feel as if he’s been abandoned at home.

Finding the correct pet sitter is not much different than finding a competent person to take care of your child. Bear in mind that just because people call themselves pet sitters, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are qualified for the job. If you are unable to get a personal recommendation there are other avenues to follow.

Start by asking your veterinarian for a recommendation; very often veterinarians have a notice board displaying this kind of information. Alternatively, check out advertisements in local community newspapers. You might also consider contacting nationwide professional organizations such as Pet Sitters International and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters to find someone best suited to meet your needs.

Working with a professional organization helps ensure that its recommended sitters are licensed, have completed pet care study courses and are competent at taking care of your beloved four-pawed family members.

Whether you are working independently or through a professional organization, it is your responsibility to check out your potential sitter’s credentials. Before you agree to anything, it’s a good idea to invite the prospective sitter over to meet you and your pet face-to-face.

  • Ask to see written proof that the pet sitter has commercial liability insurance to cover accidents and negligence, and you should make sure he or she is bonded, to protect yourself against theft (by the pet sitter).
  • Ask for phone numbers of other clients who have agreed to serve as references.
  • Inquire about what kind of training he or she has received.
  • Ask for a written contract that spells out the services the pet sitter agrees to perform relating to your dog, such as an exercise routine, as well as other services, like bringing in the mail and putting out the garbage. Be clear about the fees involved.
  • If it’s a live-in arrangement, specify the times you definitely want your sitter to be with your pet.
  • If it’s not a live-in arrangement, familiarize the pet sitter with your home (light switches, entrances, etc.) so that he or she can easily check on your pet.
  • Inquire if the person or organization has a backup plan in the case of (their) illness.
  • Find out if the pet sitter is associated with a particular veterinary office or is willing to take your pet to your veterinarian.
  • It’s important that the pet sitter understands your pet’s temperament. Not all dogs are outgoing and friendly toward strangers, and your pal may be a bit reticent at first. Be sure to detail any quirks or concerns.
  • Point out salient features of your home such as an alarm system and where you keep the remote control for the garage door.

Write out all instructions regarding your pet’s food, medication and general routine. Remember to pin up your contact information in a prominent place so that the sitter can reach you at any time. Give the pet sitter at least one neighbor’s name and phone number. It’s also a good idea to leave an additional key with someone trustworthy in case your pet sitter gets locked out. Don’t forget to stock up with all your pal’s needs before you go.

AND even if you are traveling with your pets, there will be occasions during the vacation when you will not be able to take them with you. If you are staying at a pet-friendly hotel, the front desk usually has a list of pet-friendly establishments in the area and the names of reliable sitters. But once again, don’t leave such arrangements to the last minute.

Finally, make sure your pet is microchipped and wearing a sturdy collar with proper identification. After all, if something goes awry and your pet goes missing, whether from your home or a vacation destination, proper ID will be your pet’s ticket home.

Editor’s Note: An excellent way to make traveling arrangements less stressful for you and your pets, is to use SENTRY Good Behavior pheromone products. The SENTRY Calming Diffuser is perfect for use in specific areas of the house. It helps reduce fear and calm pets. It’s great near pet beds, kennels or any area of the home frequently visited by the pet.

-Photo Credit: From flickr by benjgibbs

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