Tips on Choosing the Right Pet Sitter Gut Feelings go a Long Way

The airline flight is booked, the hotel is waiting for your arrival and you’re all pack to go on your wonderful vacation!  In all your reveling, you look down to see your precious pup looking up at you and you suddenly realize that you forgot to get a right pet sitter to watch over your pet!

At this point you have 3 options to ponder over:

Get a neighbor to come over a few times a day or have them keep them at their house.  If you don’t know that many people or don’t want to impose on your friends, this may be an undesirable option.

Put them in a kennel at the dog hotel or veterinarians office.  However, thinking about your pet in a cage or kennel while you’re whiling away the hours on a beach may cause stress and ruin your vacation due to excessive worrying about their well being.

Find a professional pet sitter to come watch them at your house or board them at the sitters home.  Personally, this is the best option for your pet.  Not only are they looked after by a professional that knows how to care for pets, but you can relax and have a great time!

However, not all pet sitters are equal.  So, how do you evaluate and choose a pet sitter?

I’m assuming that you want to hire a professional pet sitter and not a neighbors child or teenager.  This can spell disaster and not worth your peace of mind.

Start by going to the Pet Sitters International (PSI) or NAPPS websites and find a pet sitter in your area in their directory.  PSI and NAPPS are probably the best known pet sitter associations and offer education about pets, marketing and business practices.  They are dedicated to providing the best the industry has to offer.  I’m a member of PSI and we have to abide by a Code of Conduct for Pet Sitters.  Most pet sitters that belong to these kinds of organizations, are professional and conduct themselves as such, but there are always a few bad apples.

Make sure they are licensed, insured and bonded. In my city, there really isn’t a pet sitting license, but I do have a business license to run my pet sitting business.  Insurance is a must.  If anything happens to your pets or home while you’re away and it’s the sitters fault, they can file a claim with their insurance company and reimburse you.  Bonding is really more for peace of mind to the client.  The bonding protects the pet sitter and you from loss as a result of theft committed by the sitter, its employees or independent contractors.

Do they have a website that you can look at to read testimonials, check out their services and prices and generally get a feel for what they’re like.

Once you’ve chosen a sitter, give them a call.  If you have to leave a message, how long did it take to call you back? They should return your call within 24 hours or less.  If they don’t, move on.  This could be a red flag for disorganization and things can fall through the cracks.

Are they upbeat and positive when you connect on the phone?  Don’t use them if you even sense that they are, what I call, drama people.  They should be willing and happy to help you with your pets care.

Do they have established service fees and length of time for the pet care?

If the sitter is a sole proprietor, what is their back up plan if they get sick or can’t get to your home?

How much experience does the sitters have with your type of pet?  I was talking to a potential client about watching her horses.  I’m sure I could have done the job, but I referred her to another sitter that I know does farm animals.  The reason I turned it down was in case the horse had a medical problem that I wasn’t able to detect because I’m not familiar with equine medical issues.

Do they have proper contracts and forms to get all the information they need to care for your pets properly?  They should have forms for Client Information, Pet Information, Vet Release Forms (discuss what happens if your pet has a medical emergency), Contracts spelling out what is and is not expected, and Emergency Contact Information in case the sitter cannot get a hold of you for guidance in making medical or emergency decisions.  They should also leave a report card to let you know how things went.

pet care

Most sitters insist on a consultation before the service to meet you and your pets.  To me this is crucial.  This is the point when you can evaluate how the potential sitter interacts with your pets.  If they come in and barely acknowledge your pets, don’t use them.  Sitters are true animal lovers and they should be paying a lot of attention to them.  This also establishes a rapport with your pets so that they feel comfortable with the sitter as well.

They should be willing to give you references. Check them!  Don’t just assume because they give you a few names that they are legit.

Just remember that until you actually hire the sitter, you are under no obligation to use them.  If after meeting them you feel even the least bit unsure, don’t hire them.  This is where you really need to use your gut.  It’s usually right and your pets are relying on you to find a caring sitter to take care of them.

Lola R. Steele

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