It's never easy leaving a beloved pet behind when the family goes on vacation or is otherwise absent from home for an extended period of time. Many people can't bear to leave their cat or dog at a boarding kennel, and family and friends aren't always able to care for our pets.
One option many people consider is hiring a pet sitter. Pet sitters come to your home an agreed-upon number of times each day, or in some situations, stay in your home while you're gone. The main benefit in this arrangement is that your pet gets to stay in his familiar surroundings, which is significantly less stressful than taking him to a new location. He also won't be exposed to diseases that pets may carry into kennels, but you still have to put your trust in someone you may have met only briefly.
Choosing the right pet sitter is therefore crucial to your pet's well-being and safety (as well as the safety of your home). If hiring a pet sitter is in your future, here are the top factors to consider.
To find a reputable and reliable sitter, begin asking for referrals from friends, neighbors, family, your veterinarian or your dog trainer. You may find pet sitting services in your area by searching online or contact the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters or Pet Sitters International.
During an interview with a potential pet sitter, ask about his or her past experience, what types of pets they've cared for, and whether they've completed any special training. Additionally, if your pet has any special needs or behavior issues, make sure the sitter feels comfortable managing them while you're gone.
Your pet sitter should be able to provide written proof of commercial liability insurance (in case of accidents) and should be bonded (to protect against theft).
How will the pet sitter communicate with you while you're away? Reliable communication will putyour mind at ease while you're awayfrom your pet. Many pet sitters will record daily notes about your pet's activities, eating habits or mood. Others will send you digital photos or daily text messages to keep you updated.
It's important that you're both on the same page about what's expected, and the fees involved. How many visits will occur each day? At what times and for what duration (some pet sitters will even stay overnight in your home)? Will the sitter provide grooming or walking services? Will she clean up accidents, water plants or do any other vacation care responsibilities (like bringing out your garbage)? Will she bring your pet to a veterinarian in an emergency? Also, if you're delayed can the sitter care for your pet until you're able to get home?
Your sitter should provide you with references of past clients (and you should contact each of them). In addition, the sitter should interact with your pet in your home environment prior to your trip.
Anytime you leave home for a while, it's normal to be concerned about your pet's well-being. Following these steps will help keep the worrying to a minimum. For added confidence, cover your pet with a pet insurance plan to help pay for any illnesses or injuries that your pet may suffer while you're away.