Many pet owners struggle with the thought of leaving their pets in a boarding facility when vacation time rolls around. If you fall into this category, consider having a pet sitter come to your home. This is a great solution for you and your pet, but there are some things to know and consider before having a pet sitter come into your home.

There are many benefits of having a professional pet sitter come to your home. You don’t have the inconvenience or stress of having to transport your pet to and from the boarding facility. Your pet gets to stay in their own environment with familiar sounds and smells, their own beds, bowls and toys. A good pet sitter will do what they can to keep your pet on their usual daily schedule. Often it is much less stressful on your pet to have someone care for them in their home environment. If you have multiple pets, it can be quite costly (and inconvenient) to take them to a boarding facility. Pet sitters usually have a base price that covers from one to three pets, with small, incremental charges for each additional pet.

When looking for a pet sitter, your own network of family, friends and other word of mouth sources are the best resources. If you know that someone you trust has used a pet sitter, ask for sitter referral. The staff at your veterinary office is another excellent resource. Many people who work in vet offices do pet sitting on the side. You can also go to the website for the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters at www.petsitters.org for a list of pet sitters in your area.

Once you have located a pet sitter that you are considering, contact them to come to your home for an interview. Never hire a pet sitter that you have only talked to over the phone, even if they come recommended by someone you know. You will want to see how they react to your pet and make sure your pet is comfortable with them. Have a list of questions ready.

  • What types of animals do they sit for? Some pet sitters will only work with dogs, while others will work with variety of pets.
  • Are there any types of animals or breeds they will not sit for?
  • What are the charges and what is included? Some pet sitters will charge extra for walks, dispensing medication, playtime and grooming. Don’t forget to ask about what isn’t included. A pet sitter should provide complete details about their services and extra charges that may apply.
  • What happens if my pet gets sick? Does the pet sitter have protocols in place for health and other emergencies?
  • Who will be in my home and interacting with my pet? Some pet sitters work alone while others may schedule different people each day.
  • Can I call to see how my pet is doing? Some pet sitters offer mobile texting, webcam access, Twitter or other social media options for up-to-date information on the pets in their charge; others will make themselves available by phone. With the know-how and a little equipment, you can set up any of this yourself.
  • Will my dog be around any other clients’ dogs? Some pet sitters will combine trips to dog parks or playtime with other dogs. If your dog tends to be skittish or aggressive, you will want to discuss any additional charges for private walks.
  • Are you bonded? Do you have liability insurance? If the sitter will be taking your dog to the park, do they carry auto insurance with sufficient coverage to include your dog? If they have employees, do they carry worker’s compensation insurance?
  • Do you have any special training or certification such as dog first aid, animal training or grooming?
  • Do they offer extra services such as watering plants, putting the trash out on trash day, collecting the mail, or even running the sweeper the day of your return?

Ask the prospective pet setter to provide at least 3 references. When calling to check references be sure to ask the client how long/how many times they’ve used the pet sitter, if they had any issues with the sitter, do their pets like the sitter, does the sitter do anything special or go out of their way for their pets.

Once you’ve decided which pet sitter you will use and signed any agreements, be sure to provide the pet sitter with the following:

  • A breakdown of your pet’s medical/behavioral history and habits.
  • Copies of immunizations and vaccines, particularly a current rabies certificate.
  • List any medical conditions, medications taken with dosage and times.
  • Schedule of routine for eating, walks and playtime.
  • Contact information including cell phone, where you will be staying, emergency contact, veterinarian information (location/business hours). If your pet has any special needs, make sure to let your vet know that you will be out of town and sign any authorizations necessary, in case the pet sitter needs to bring your pet in.
  • Sufficient food, water (if bottled), treats and medication for the lengths of your vacation plus a few extra days.
  • Collar/harness with identification tags to be worn by the pet while away, particularly when leaving the home.
  • Toys, chews or other things the pet likes to play with or wear.
  • List of any rooms/areas off limits to the pet.
  • If the sitter will be doing other things for you while you are away, provide a list of clear instructions for such things as watering plants, checking the mail, lights on/off, etc.
  • If the sitter will be staying in the home, provide information on alarms, any special instructions for use of any media entertainment (TV, audio, internet use), do’s and don’ts (for example, help yourself to sodas in the fridge, but please do not drink the wine unless already open or rent any movies), which bed to sleep in, location of circuit box, flashlights/candles, extra blankets/pillows, what rooms to stay out of, etc.

Using a professional pet sitter may be an ideal situation for multi-pet households or for those with pets with special needs (skittish, aggressive, senior, ill, young). For many, having the reassurance of a consistent, reliable and friendly face in their home and comfortable with their pets (and the pets comfortable with them) alleviates stress associated with leaving our pets behind while we vacation.

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