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A Pet Owner's Guide to Pet Sitters

Guest Article


Before the Pet Sitting Industry

In this day and age of modern technology and fast-paced living, travel is as easy as the touch of a button. Either through the internet or your touch-tone phone you can make travel arrangements to suit your vacation needs, or fill a work request. But, if you happen to have one or more pets, you have a responsibility to your companion aimals. You aren't always able to leave at your own whim, so what do you do?

Prior to 1997 when pet sitters first became a commonplace word there were only a few options available for away-from-home pet care: Ideally, a family friend or relative to come in and feed and care for the cat or dog would be the best option. But failing that, the only other alternatives were boarding at a cat and dog kennel, or boarding your pet with your vet. Neither of these latter two options took into consideration how pets become comfortable with routine and dislike change. Boarding at a kennel, that oftentimes contains other stressed out animals, exposed your pet to stressful, unfamiliar situations and even sickness. While boarding at the vet, the same applies in being surrounded by stressed animals in unfamiliar surroundings. The only difference is your pet is monitored so if your pet becomes ill there is help available quickly.

How to Choose the Right Pet Sitter

Enter the professional pet sitter. Someone who will come to your home, feed your pet, administer meds, make sure that your pet has company at least for a portion of the day, and make sure your pet is safe until you return home. Sounds like a great idea right? You bet, but how do you find the right pet sitter for you? Opening up the Yellow Pages and looking under Pet Care (depending on what area you live in) you are confronted with a virtual buffet of names to choose from. The same applies to the Internet. Websites such as www.petsitters.com try and help you by listing pet sitters by state, but still it can be confusing.

If your pet has a special need, your best bet is to ask the employees at your vet's office if they know of a qualified pet sitter. Many pet sitters have worked, or still do work in the field of veterinary medicine, and are skilled at pilling cats, getting a finicky cat to eat, or simply watching out for the very real danger of a pet becoming ill at the absence of the owner. Also talk to other pet owners and find out if they have someone they use which they can recommend. Use the internet and network on pet boards and in emails. Make sure that the person you find will give exemplary care to your pet(s).

Once you secure the phone number, call and see if the pet sitter is receptive to meeting you in their home first. This is a good way to gauge the person you wish to entrust your pet(s) to because while you are there, you can observe their animals and make your own determination.

Some pet sitters will only meet with you at your home; if that be the case then during that meeting, watch how they interact with your animals, and how your animals respond in kind to them. Trust your instincts. If something unsettles you, be polite about it, but tell the person you need to keep looking and interviewing and you will let him or her know. And always follow-through, don’t leave the person hanging about the job. Give them a courtesy call and let them know you have found someone else. It is the proper way to do things.

Be Prepared

Have a list of questions beforehand to ask. Here are a few samples: (I am using the female gender for ease of writing only)

  • Does she have assistance in caring for your animal?
  • If something should happen to her is there back-up?
  • How many clients does she have - and insist on referrals
  • Is she licensed, bonded and insured?
  • Formal training to handle emergencies should they arise?
  • Why does she feel she is different from other pet sitters?
  • How long has she been in business?
  • What types of jobs did she hold before becoming a pet sitter?
  • What led her into the field?
  • Are there certain pets she enjoys over others?
  • Request a copy of her resume.

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