Our furry little friends have become a part of our families, and the pet industry has seen a boom in the last few years. With the ever-growing popularity of pets, here’s some advice for when you need to leave your pet at home.
Choosing a pet sitter to care for your four-pawed companion is a good choice and will be less stressful for them and you. Pet sitters can range from college students to professionals to your best friend.
They not only provide your pet with his daily supply of food and water, but they also take your dog out for walks and rub your cat’s ears in just the right spot. Pet sitters cannot replace you, but they can be a good companion while you’re away. You’re able to keep your pet in his own environment.
How do you look for a pet sitter? Obviously, finding someone you can entrust your loved one (and your home) with takes effort, but there are plenty of resources out there. Asking friends or neighbors can get old, and they may not know how to handle certain situations with regards to your pet.
With that said, however, if there is a friend who does not mind pet sitting for you and has a previous experience and knowledge of pets, especially yours, this could be a solution.
If you’re like me and have two large dogs and don’t know anyone that would be willing to care for your dogs, look to hiring a professional. Many sitters offer a variety of services:
- feeding and giving fresh water
- cleaning the bedding and feeding areas
- cleaning the litter box
- playing with and exercising your pet
- giving your pet his medication
- grooming your dog — brushing hair, cleaning ears
- scheduled walks throughout the day
- overnight stay
Some pet sitters also provide additional services like bringing in your mail and watering your plants.
Ask co-workers, friends and family if they can recommend a pet sitter for you. If there are no recommendations, do a search in the Yellow Pages or on the Internet. At theNational Association of Professional Pet Sitters website, you can search for pet sitters by ZIP code.
The NAPSS is the only non-profit organization for pet sitting businesses across the country. You can also visit Pet Sitters International, where you can perform a search of pet sitter professionals by the type of pet you have (bird, dog, cat, horses, reptiles, etc.), the type of services you need (dog walks, grooming, overnight stays), if you require your pet sitter to be bonded or insured (this is extremely important and helps to protect your pet, the pet sitter and you if an emergency should arise), and pet sitters within your ZIP code.
Before interviewing a potential pet sitter, take some time to write down what your pet needs and what his daily routine consists of. Make note of your dog’s health history and any medications he needs. Write down techniques you use to leash your dog, if there’s a certain way you open the door or gate to the back yard, commands your dog knows, and the likes and dislikes of your pet.
When you interview a potential sitter, ask the following questions:
- “Are you bonded and insured?” Many people confuse these two terms. Bonding refers to a guarantee that a specific project or service will be performed in satisfactory condition and if it is not, you will be financially covered. A bonded sitter can protect you from theft. Insurance refers to financial coverage with regards to a type or types of risk. Insurance can protect you against any accidents that may occur.
- Ask for at least three references and then contact these references. How was their experience with this particular sitter? When they returned form their trip, how did their pet look? What was their pet’s demeanor around the sitter? Did the sitter perform the duties properly? Did they go beyond expectations? Also ask if the sitter has a reference from a veterinarian.
- Ask to meet with the sitter before hiring them. You need to make sure that you feel comfortable with them in your home and that your pet is comfortable with them also. Look for how they react to your pet. Are they comfortable giving firm, but non-threatening commands? How does your pet react to them? You want to leave your pet with someone who demonstrates a love for animals.
- Ask them for a fee quotation based on your pets needs, your needs, and services you require. You don’t want to come back from your trip and receive an invoice for an amount that shocks and surprises you.
- What type of pet training does the sitter have? If an emergency arises, will he know what to do with your pet? Does the sitter know how to act around animals and how to positively reinforce pets? You want to avoid people who claim they are pet sitters, but have no formal obedience training or have never even owned pets. These are not professionals.
- Make sure you ask the pet sitting agency if their pet sitters have gone through background and criminal checks. Unfortunately, there are many animal abusers around the country. Some avoid law enforcement by moving around constantly .
- Will the sitter provide a detailed contract that outlines their fees and services?
- What kinds of services can the sitter provide? Make sure your pet’s and your needs will be satisfied.
- What times of the day will the sitter be available to care for your dog? If the sitter is staying overnight at your house, what time will he arrive at night and leave in the morning?
- What sort of experience do they have taking care of your breed of animal? Since my family has a Cane Corso and a Rottweiler, it’s important that a pet sitter has experience with large, powerful dogs.
- During the interview, pay attention to the pet-sitter’s attitude and body language. Are they fidgety and acting suspiciously? Are they nervous around your pet? If they make you feel uncomfortable, then this is not your pet sitter. Is the sitter asking questions, did he come prepared for this meet and greet, is he taking down notes?
- Make sure you can contact the pet sitting agency and pet sitter himself 24-hours a day. Do they have phone numbers, cell numbers and email address?
Don’t forget to leave contact numbers for yourself, your friends and neighbors (introduce the sitter to your neighbors and friends so they won’t be suspicious of this new person going in and out of your house), and your pet’s veterinarian and the closest 24-hour animal hospital.
Also make sure your sitter knows where the food is (make sure you get enough for the duration you’re away), what kind of water you want given to your pet (bottled, tap, hose), what and where your pet’s toys are, and your pet’s bedding.
Don’t forget to establish your house rules also. You want to return to your house just as you left it. You don’t want to hear from your neighbors that the sitter through a pool party while you were gone.
If leaving your pet in your home with a sitter is not an option, look for pet boarding in your area. Try to look for boarding that is cageless in order to prevent any more stress on your pet. These cageless services are more expensive, but your pet will be a lot happier.
Ask your friends, neighbors, and vet if they can recommend a good pet boarding facility and do your own background check and research. Search the Internet for any complaints against a boarding facility you’re considering.
Many of the steps in looking for a pet sitter can also relate to looking for a boarding facility. Again, write down your pet’s needs, your needs, your pet’s daily routine, medical history, vet information, and medication and let the staff know about these needs.
Most boarding facilities will have an application form to fill out before your dog is accepted. Most facilities cannot accept aggressive dogs because they need to look after the well-being of their employees and other dogs within the facility.
Questions to ask or things to look for when researching a boarding facility (don’t forget to visit the facility and meet the staff!):
- Ask for at least three referrals of past or current customers. Call these referrals and inquire about their experience with this facility. Also ask for a referral from a veterinarian.
- Ask if they are available to care for your pet on the particular dates you will be gone.
- Is the facility well-maintained and clean?
- Can they accommodate your requests? How many times a day will your dog be walked? Where will your cat sleep? When are feeding times?
- Are the staff fully trained? Do they demonstrate a knowledge about pets and that they are comfortable in this environment?
- How do the other animals look at the facility? Are they dirty and moody? Are they energetic and playful?
- Is there sufficient shelter both indoors and outdoors? If animals are exercised outdoors, is there protection from the weather?
- If both cats and dogs are housed at this facility, make sure that cats are separated from the dogs.
- Can you bring in your own pet’s bedding, food, and toys?
- What are the daily rates?
- Make sure there is a contract provided that outlines their services and fees.
- Will they bathe and groom your animal?
- Make sure you can contact the boarding facility 24 hours a day. When we left one of our pets at a boarding facility earlier this year for three days, we could go online and watch him play with the other dogs. We also received daily updates about his activities and his mood. When we picked him up, I was given a complete report of his activities, eating habits, walking routine, and was even given a photo. Our pet was extremely happy and tired from all his playing.
- Try leaving your pet at the facility for one day and see how he reacts.
Don’t forget to leave contact information for yourself, as well as close friends and family the facility can contact in case of an emergency.
It’s your responsibility to ensure that your pet receives the best care he can and that he is in a safe environment while you’re away. After all, he is family!