One of the hardest parts of responsible pet ownership is ensuring proper care while you’re traveling out of town. As much as we may want to bring our cat or dog with us on trips, sometimes it’s just not feasible.
There are a few different options for pet owners who need to leave pets at home for a while. You might ask family or friends to watch your animal, for example, or you may bring your pet to a boarder (we’ll definitely address these options in later blog posts).
Here, I’ll address the reasons you may want to consider hiring a pet sitter before explaining the best way to find a reliable, responsible person to watch your pets.
Why Hire a Pet Sitter?
A pet sitter isn’t always the right option for everyone, but there are many situations when it’s the best choice for you (and maybe more importantly, for your pet)! Consider these points if you’re still on the fence:
- Are you unwilling (or unable) to travel with your pet? This may be the case if you’re going somewhere on vacation, if you’re off on a long business trip, or if your pet is too big to travel with you. Hiring a pet sitter may make sense for this type of trip.
- Do you have pets that become stressed out in new environments and/or with new people? Some animals – dogs, cats, or even birds – may hide or even run away if they feel disoriented or frightened in a strange place (like if you leave them with family or friends).
- Are you pressed for time? Hiring a sitter means you don’t have to worry about drop-off and pick-up as with pet boarding.
- Would you like someone to look after your home while you're away? Pet sitters often take care of other minor house maintenance tasks like bringing in the mail or watering plants.
If you've decided that booking a sitter is the best choice for you and your pet, keep reading to learn more about hiring the right person.
This pup may be ready for a long trip, but your pet may not be as thrilled about the idea.
How to Hire the Best Possible Pet Sitter
Many people are understandably cautious about letting a new person into their homes to care for their pets. Follow these steps to make sure you end up with the best possible caretaker:
Ask for Recommendations from Friends and Family First
You can't beat word of mouth. If you don't have any luck there, check out the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters.
Once you find a few possible options, conduct (brief) interviews where you ask about qualifications and experience. You want to make sure you're hiring someone who's trustworthy and knowledgeable. Here are some questions you may want to ask a potential sitter:
- How long have you been pet sitting?
- What types of pets have you cared for?
- Are you comfortable handling my animal’s particular behavioral issues or medical needs (if applicable)?
- Can you provide proof of insurance and bonding?
- Can you provide references from past clients?
Work Through Logistics
Once you find someone you’re comfortable with, you should figure out exactly what they'll do with your pet and when they'll do it. You may want to ask:
- How long is the duration of each of your visits?
- How often will you visit?
- Can you send me pictures of my animal(s) on a regular basis?
- How often will you take my dog out/clean my cat’s litter box/refresh water or food?
Finalize Services and Fees
You may have a sense of what your pet sitter will charge at this point, but here is where you’ll finalize services and fees. If you have any questions about what your pet sitter’s services will include, now’s the time to ask. For example:
- Do your visits include picking up the mail and/or watering the plants?
- When do you expect payment?
What to Do After You Hire a Pet Sitter
Finally decided on a sitter? Some pet sitters prefer to do a brief walk-through of your home before your departure, especially if you’re a new client. This may be a good time to hand over keys and review care instructions.
Before you leave, you may want to leave important written instructions and contact info in a conspicuous place – just in case. For example, you may want to write out:
- Feeding instructions
- Medical instructions
- Your contact info
- Your vet’s contact info
- An emergency contact (e.g. a close family member or friend in case you can’t be reached)
Clear instructions are how you make sure Fluffy is fed and watered appropriately.
If you're happy with your sitter's work, many of them appreciate positive reviews on sites like Yelp or Google!