Choosing the Right Pet Sitter
Pet sitters are as different as people and the differences between them can vary as much as the differences between practitioners of any other profession (e.g., not all carpenters are alike). Finding the right one for you becomes easier in direct proportion to the degree to which you know what you’re looking for when you start your search. We trust that this guide will prove helpful.
Pet sitting vs. boarding
Once you’ve made the decision that your pet is entitled to much more than being in a kennel (even with roaming privileges), the next most important decision is whether you want to have your pet stay in your home and have someone make daily time-restricted visits (generally called “pet sitting”) or to leave your pet at someone else’s home (generally called “boarding”). First and foremost, consider the temperament of your pet when making this decision. Some animals much prefer to stay in their own homes even with less human companionship (in which case the sitting option – up to a reasonable amount of time out of town – might make more sense). Some animals crave the attention and care that constant human companionship provides – even if it’s not in an environment they are used to (in which case, boarding might be the way to go).
Feel free to discuss the various parameters of each option with the prospective pet sitter. That is, you should have a clear idea of the amount of time and the type of activities in which the caregiver will involve your pet during your time away. A professional pet sitter should also freely discuss the financial obligations up front. You should be told what services are included in the fee and if there are services that, if provided, will incur extra costs. A professional sitter will almost always provide a written contract delineating many of these details, including payment expectations.
Emergencies and other considerations
Other things to consider when choosing a sitter include whether s/he is bonded and insured, whether s/he can provide references, the kinds of animals that s/he has cared for previously, and his/her proposed plan of action for any unexpected or emergency situations. A good sitter will ask you for – and it’s a good idea to always provide – any and all emergency numbers for the purpose of covering all bases (when the care of your pet is involved, “safe” is always better than “sorry”). This includes any landlines while you are out of town, the names and contact numbers of persons in the town in which you live, as well as (of course) your veterinarian’s contact information.
Provide your sitter with necessary information
When boarding your animal, it is up to you to provide the essentials that the caregiver will need to give your animal “all the comforts of home.” While many pet sitters offer a friendly reminder checklist, it is helpful if you proactively take the time to list everything that your animal would need in advance (e.g., food, treats, food bowls, medicines, leash, collar, litter box, scratching post, toys, etc.) so that there is no last minute scurrying on the day that you transport your pet. If a pet sitter will be coming to your home while you’re away, make sure that s/he knows where everything necessary is kept. The more information your pet sitter has about your animal, the better for everyone involved (including your pet). Let him/her also know the particulars of your animal’s habits or behavior, including any quirks or oddities (e.g., typical hiding places, etc.).
Remember your pet sitter is not a mind reader. And so, if s/he doesn’t ask (although s/he should), make sure you let him/her know how often you would like to be contacted while you’re on vacation. For some pet owners, it’s “I’m on vacation, so only call me if there’s a problem!” For others, it’s “Gee, if you could send just a brief note by email twice a week, I would be so grateful.”
Make sure your keys work
Lastly, if you are making a new set of house keys to give to a sitter who will be visiting your home, make sure that you “test” them before turning them over. It’s a pet sitter’s worst nightmare to show up on the first day of expected visits and to not be able to get into the house or apartment.