If you’re planning a business trip or family vacation, chances are you may not be able to bring your pet with you. Hiring a pet sitter can give you peace of mind while you are away. Some people work out an informal arrangement with friend or neighbor but you may want a more formal agreement with a professional. If you have a pet with special needs, a professional pet sitter can provide care that is required.
Hiring a pet sitter can have several advantages. Using a sitter allows your pet to remain in familiar, comforting surroundings and follow his regular routine and diet. A kennel may be traumatic for your pet. A sitter can easily follow your specific pet-care instructions as well as check your home regularly to help prevent crime.
Some pet sitters work for an agency or belong to a larger network, while others work on their own. Regardless, most pet sitters provide services that include taking your dog for a walk, giving your pet food, water vitamins or any medication and looking after your home, i.e. watering your plants and bringing in the mail. Some pet sitters may provide exercise for larger animals like horses or provide grooming or extended/overnight stays with your pet.
It’s a good idea to start your search for a pet sitter at least a month or two before you need one – maybe sooner if you’re leaving town during summer or holiday times. Start your search by asking friends, family and co-workers for recommendations. Read the classified sections of your local newspaper, check community bulletin boards and talk to animal experts like your veterinarian, groomer, trainer or humane society staff member. You may also find a pet sitter by using your Company’s Pet Care Referral Service, calling veterinary schools or looking in the yellow pages.
Before setting up an interview, ask the potential sitter about her experience, availability and fees. Be sure to ask for the names of at least two clients for whom the sitter has worked and call for a reference. Never hire someone over the phone. It’s important to meet the potential sitter in person so you can see how he gets along with your pet. You also will get a sense of his standards of neatness and punctuality.
Here are some good questions to as:
What services do you provide?
Will you take care of the house as well as the pet(s)?
What type of training do you have?
How much experience do you have?
Are you bonded and insured? Ask to see documentation.
Fees and Payment
How much do you charge?
What forms of payment do you accept?
When is payment expected?
Do you have a back-up person who can take over if you are unable to make it?
Do you provide a service contract or written agreement?
What is your policy if my pet becomes ill and needs medical care?
Are you a member of any professional organizations such ad the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters?
After you have selected the pet sitter that you feel can best meet your pets needs, ask her to return to your home for a tour and instructions. Be sure to show the sitter how to work safety devices such as locks and security systems and the location of fire extinguishers fuse boxes or circuit breakers. Write out instructions for caring for your pet and show the sitter where the food and other supplies are kept. Discuss which commands, rewards and kinds of discipline to use as well as which rooms are off imits to your pet or the sitter.
Also remember to tell the sitter how you can be reached and give instructions for plant watering, bringing in mail other tasks the sitter has agreed to perform. Lastly, enjoy your trip out of town knowing that your pet is in good hands.