Category Archives: hiring a pet sitter

What to Look for in a Pet Sitter

By Linda Cole

I’m always happy to pet sit for a friend or neighbor, and it’s a responsibility I take very seriously even though I usually do it for free. Finding a good pet sitter should be as important as finding a trustworthy babysitter for your kids. There are some things you need to discuss with a pet sitter whether paid or not, because this person has the keys to your home and the responsibility of caring for your pet while you’re away.

We don’t have professional pet sitting services in my area. People who need to find a pet sitter have to rely on family, friends or neighbors to help them out. Since I’m not a professional service, I rarely charge to watch someone’s pets, especially if they’re good friends. I pet sit because I want to help and because they trust me to do what I promised to do.

Pet sitting is more than just running over to someone’s house and throwing down some food or rushing through a walk with their dog. You want someone who will spend time with your pet, give him attention and play with him along with trying to maintain the regular schedule your pet is used to. Vacations or family emergencies shouldn’t upset your pet with a change in routine just because you’re away from home.

I used to take care of a retired friend’s cats while they took a yearly Florida vacation during the winter months. I did accept pay for this one because it was usually a three month job in winter, and they lived in the country. Two of their cats had medical issues that required daily medication and this was a challenge because they were outside cats. This is a perfect example of why a pet sitter needs to have a good bond with your pets. Knowing where my friend’s cats liked to hang out made it much easier when I had to track them down to give them their medication, and they didn’t freak out and run away when they saw me coming. They were as comfortable with me as they were with their owner.

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Hiring a Pet Sitter: What You Need to Know

By Julia Williams

In my last post, I explained the benefits of hiring a professional pet sitter to care for your dog or cat while you’re away, as well as how to find a reputable one and conduct a phone interview. The process of hiring a pet sitter is not overly complicated, but should not be taken lightly. After all, you’ll be entrusting them to take good care of your faithful four-legged friend, and you need to be sure you’re choosing the right person.

With that in mind, the next step in the process is to invite a prospective pet sitter to meet you and your animal in your own home. An in-person meeting will help you decide if this is someone you want to care for your pet. They may sound great over the phone and look good “on paper,” but first impressions are equally important. Notice how they’re dressed, how they carry themselves, and how they interact with you as well as your pet. Does your pet seem to like them and feel comfortable in their presence? Do you feel at ease when talking with them?

It’s imperative at this stage of the hiring process to trust your instincts. If anything about the person makes you or your pet uncomfortable or wary, then do not hire them, because that “gut feeling” is never wrong!

Trade important information

Besides helping you decide if you want to hire a potential pet sitter, the in-home interview also helps them know if they can handle your pets and their specific needs. Be sure to tell the pet sitter everything they might encounter when caring for your pet, such as medications, conditions, dietary concerns, feeding and walking schedules, behavior issues, and any other pertinent information.

A professional pet sitter will likely have a written contract spelling out their services and fees. Before you sign, read it over carefully, and ask any questions you may have. Make sure you understand their rate, how many visits they will make, and what will happen in case of an emergency with your pet. Give them your cell phone number, and/or a number where you can be reached while away. Provide your vet’s name, address and phone number, and consider signing a form which lets your vet know that the sitter is authorized to seek care for your pet. You may also want to give them the phone number of a nearby friend or family member who could help them in an emergency.

If the interview goes well and you’re satisfied that the sitter will take good care of your pet, you may want to start by hiring them for just a day or two first rather than for a week or longer.

Pre-Trip Preparation

Even the most experienced and reliable pet sitter could run into problems if you haven’t properly prepared for your absence. Be sure your pet has current identification tags and vaccinations. Stock up on their regular pet food and other supplies, and buy extra just in case your return is delayed. Leave everything in one place, where the pet sitter can find it easily. Give your spare key and the sitter’s phone number to someone you trust as a backup; also give their phone number to the pet sitter. Make sure the pet sitter understands your home’s safety features, such as the circuit breaker and alarm system.

Leave Detailed Instructions

During the in-home interview, you should go over the care of your pet verbally, and ask your pet sitter if they have any questions. They will probably take notes as you go over your instructions. However, it’s still a good idea to leave them a detailed written list they can refer to, in case their notes are incomplete or get misplaced.

Write down everything the pet sitter will need to know about your dog or cat — including their likes and dislikes, medications and conditions, habits, fears, and anything else you think may help them when caring for your pet. You may also want to prepare a daily checklist of tasks the pet sitter can use during each visit. This is particularly helpful if medications, special food or specific exercise routines are involved. Post your instructions on the fridge, or leave them with your pet’s food and supplies.

Remember to bring your pet sitter’s phone number in case your plans change, or you want to find out how your pet and his temporary caretaker are getting along. Some of these suggestions may seem like overkill to you, but honestly, it’s much better to prepare for anything and everything rather than deal with it on the fly. And when you feel confident that your beloved pet is in the care of a capable pet sitter, your vacation will be all the more enjoyable!

Read more articles by Julia Williams

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Is it Okay to Leave a Cat Home Alone?

By Julia Williams

Most of the time people don’t ask that question. They ask instead, “How long can I leave my cat home alone?” My answer, the only one I am comfortable with based on personal experience, is “not one night.”

Responsible pet owners who wouldn’t dream of leaving a dog home alone while they go away, think it’s perfectly fine to leave their cats to fend for themselves. Many people see cats as self-sufficient creatures that don’t need the same amount of care as dogs. On a very basic level, this is true. You don’t have to take a cat out for a daily walk or to go potty. And cats generally won’t tear the sofa cushions to bits if left alone for a few days. But everything else, every other reason you wouldn’t leave your dog home alone for a week with nothing but a bowl of kibble and some water, applies to cats too.

Cats cannot take care of themselves if something should go wrong. What could possibly go wrong, you ask? Anything can happen, especially if the cat is allowed to go outdoors while you are away. Bad things can happen to indoor cats too. They can knock over a glass vase and cut their foot open. They can spill water into their bowl of kibble and turn it to mush. The thing is, accidents happen, and they’re unpredictable.

If I went away and didn’t arrange for someone to come over to check on my cats, and something bad happened to one of them, the guilt would be very hard to live with. I know, because it happened to me a long time ago, and that was the very last time I ever left my cats home alone.

My then-husband and I went on vacation and left our cat Tosha with enough dry food and water to last for more than a week. We even left a little extra, just in case. We didn’t need to worry about someone cleaning the litter box, because we had a cat door and Tosha could come and go as she pleased. At the time, I thought nothing of leaving my cat home alone for a week. I’d heard it said many, many times that a cat left alone would be perfectly fine, and I believed it. Oh, how wrong I was.

Our return was delayed because our car broke down and stranded us in the mountains. When we finally did get come, I called and called Tosha. She always came when I called her, but this time she didn’t. We went to look for her, and found her behind the house lying in the bushes. She was alive, but one of her back legs was mangled.

We rushed her to the vet, who said it could’ve been caused by a dog or a car; he wasn’t sure. We were given the option to put her to sleep or amputate her leg. She was just a year old, and I thought it would be unfair to let her die so young. The vet said she would be able to get around fine with three legs, so we agreed to the operation. A few hours and $2400 later, we had ourselves a three-legged cat.

Tosha lived to be 16 and did manage to get around quite well on three legs, albeit with a hopping gait that was funny to watch. Her nicknames were Tripod and Hopalong Catsidy, and we joked about buying her a little kitty wheelchair. One could argue that it turned out okay, so what was the harm in leaving her home alone? For starters, I have no idea how long she lay there in the bushes, bleeding and in pain. Her suffering was needless, and incredibly selfish on my part. And had we kept her inside, we’d have spent $80 to have a pet sitter come twice a day versus $2400 to amputate her leg.

My beloved three-legged cat taught me a valuable lesson in Responsible Pet Ownership. Nowadays, if I can’t get a friend or family member to come and check on my cats twice a day when I’m gone overnight, I hire a pet sitter. It’s the right thing – the only thing – to do. In my eyes, there is nothing to gain and everything to lose by leaving my precious kitties home alone.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Doggie Day Care PET’iquette

So you’re thinking about alternatives for your very dominant miniature pinscher, or your high-strung Jack Russell, or your laid back (easily dominated) Golden Retriever. Doggie daycare is an excellent way for your pet to beat boredom, eliminate destructive behavior, and get exercise at the same time. But, before you sign up, there are a few things you need to know.
Daycares Don’t Train
That’s not to say they can’t train, but that’s not the point of daycare. Daycare is designed to be a social outlet for our highly social pets and give them an opportunity to burn off some energy. Ensure that your dog responds to their name, knows basic commands, and “plays well with others.”
The Lone Wolf
If you have a dog that prefers to be the lone wolf, don’t torture him (and everyone else) by subjecting him to a pack he doesn’t want or need. Doggie daycare is designed to simulate a pack scenario and there are dogs (like mine) that just prefer to be alone. Yes, this means more daily walks for you, but hey – if you’re like me, the extra exercise will do you some good.
Find out how the daycare is organized. There should be separate play areas for different personalities. An ideal pack consists of one ‘commander’ (remember that ONLY the HUMAN should be the Alpha), a second in command, and an assortment of other roles that members play. That’s not to say that all packs will be like this, but dogs should be carefully evaluated and their “role in the pack” established before they are turned loose. Two or more dominants in the same pack spells trouble.
As for you, let the sitters do their job. If your dog is being dominated in the corner for the first 10 minutes, let the handlers handle it. Jumping in to your pets rescue is like breaking up a fight between two men. If the handler is responsible (and it’s your job to ensure that they are), let them determine when enough is enough. Posturing is common in a pack situation – it’s a way of establishing roles, so don’t interfere because you’re overprotective.
Before you drop your dog off at a daycare, be sure he understands the rules of the pack. If your pet doesn’t get that annoying the big Shepherd in the corner is not a good idea, do yourself a favor and get your dog out of that pack. Dogs will “train” other dogs to a point, but if you happen to have one of those pups that are just oblivious to the signals they’re annoying others, you might want to reconsider daycare and just start walking your pet more often.
photo credit: Copyright PetsWeekly, 2005
Stacy Mantle

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Pet Sitting: What You Need to Know

Heading out of town for a weeklong retreat? If you have pets, you know it’s not that easy to just leave town. This week, we’ll be exploring a few options for you and your pets. That is, if you’re not planning to take them along. (If you’re planning on your pet accompanying you, then check out our posts on vacations for you and your pets from last week.)
The first option you have is letting Fido and Fluffy stay in the comfort of their own home where they know the routine and are comfortable.  If you have more than two or three pets, this is probably the best scenario for you. A pet sitter offers more than just caring for your pets.  They will pick up your paper, keep a daily log so you know what happened each day and what they did while there, care for fish and other small pets, pick up your mail each day, and be available for a consult while you’re out of town. They should be equipped (and empowered) to handle any emergencies that come up and most importantly; they will be trustworthy and reliable. Here are a few steps to doing that when finding and using a pet sitter.
Focus on Experience
When you’re searching out a pet sitter, it’s important to use personal recommendations before you bring anyone inside of your home. Chances are good that someone you know has used a pet sitter. If they liked them and trusted them, give them the first shot.  If you don’t have friends with pets, start with the big businesses. Visit Pet Sitters International  (PSI) on your first stop. This organization has a ton of resources for the pet owners of the world and all of their members are licensed, bonded and trusted.
Big is Not Necessarily Better
You may want to give a smaller company a try. Often the large companies can be caught up in the paperwork and the sitter is working as a self-employed person anyway. The one advantage that larger companies can offer is backup, but that’s only if the sitter actually calls for it. Many experienced pet sitters go out on their own in the realization they can often make more money that way.  These are the sitters you want to keep around. Find one you like and use them whenever you leave.
Meet Your Sitter Before Leaving
Just because you like the new sitter doesn’t mean your pet will. Be sure that the sitter comes to your home for a consult. Have them meet your pets, show them where things are, and identify the best way to approach an animal. Pets change when you leave and they will not react to a stranger when they are alone with them the same way they will when you’re in the house. Leave the sitter alone with them for a few minutes. See how the sitter and your pet react upon your return. That will tell you a lot about your new sitter!
Before You Leave:
  • Ensure that your pets’ food is well-stocked
  • Leave a detailed schedule of what is expected. (Free PDF file from PetsWeekly)
  • Sign a Veterinary Care Release form and leave with sitter.
  • Leave a contact list in the event of emergency.
photo credit: Copyright PetsWeekly, 2005
Stacy Mantle

Find CANIDAE Retailers Near You!

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.