What Does a Pet Sitter Do? Should You Hire One?

August 24, 2009

By Julia Williams

If you have pets, then you know that when vacation time rolls around you can’t simply throw some clothes in a suitcase and take off. Some important questions need to be answered before you go. Can you take your dog with you, and do you want to? If not, then your duty as a responsible pet owner is to ensure that your faithful companion is well cared for in your absence. Due to the nature of most cats, taking them along on a trip is rarely (if ever) a good idea. So then, what do you do with your dog or cat while you’re gone? Although a number of options exist (kennels, the vets, breeders, a friend’s house) I believe the best choice is to hire a professional pet sitter to care for them in your home.

Hiring a professional pet sitter offers many benefits to your pet, and to you as well. Your pet is able to remain in the comfort and security of their own home, and can stay on their regular diet and daily routine as much as possible. Most animals find this much less stressful than being taken off-site to an unfamiliar place. Besides providing food and water for your animals, a pet sitter spends quality time with them, provides exercise opportunities, and focused one-on-one care. This personalized attention means that a pet sitter can spot illnesses or changes in behavior and diet which might require a vet visit.

The primary benefit for you in hiring a pet sitter, is peace of mind. You will have a carefree, fun vacation (or a productive business trip) knowing that your pet is being properly cared for. As an added bonus, many pet sitters offer additional services like collecting your mail and newspapers, watering plants, and turning the lights on and off so burglars don’t know you’re away.

How to locate a pet sitter

Because they will have a key to your home, it’s not advisable to hire a pet sitter from a yellow page ad alone. The best option is to get a recommendation from a friend, your vet, dog trainer, the local shelter, or trusted kennel. Barring that, you can contact the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (800-296-PETS) or Pet Sitters International (336-983-9222) for listings in your area. Both of these organizations also maintain websites which offer a wealth of resources and information on pet sitting and pet care.

Questions to ask a potential pet sitter

Before entrusting anyone with the care of your beloved companion, it’s imperative to find out what their qualifications are, and what services they offer. Prior to inviting them into your home to meet your pet, conduct a brief phone interview. Ask about their background and experience, what they charge and how long their visits are. Are they certified in pet first aid and CPR? Do they have any veterinary training? Can they supply written proof of commercial liability insurance (to cover accidents and negligence) and are they bonded (to protect against theft)? Can they provide references from at least three satisfied clients? Does the pet sitter have a backup plan? In other words, what would happen if they were to become ill, have car trouble or be unable to care for your pet as agreed?

The next step in hiring a pet sitter is to call their references and ask about their experience with them. If all went well for these clients, then it’s time to invite the potential pet sitter over to meet your dog or cat. In my next post, I’ll give you specific information on how to conduct an in-home interview with a potential pet sitter. I’ll also cover important pre-trip preparations and how to leave detailed instructions for the pet sitter.

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® Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Pet Foods.

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