Picking a pet sitter isn’t a decision you should take lightly — but we’re sure we don’t need to tell you that! We bet you’ve already put more thought into who will be caring for your beloved cat or dog than you did into which hotels you booked or which car you rented for your trip.
So don’t fret! We’re here to help you through the process of finding a pet sitter who’s right for you and your pet. We’ll review where to start your search, which questions you should ask and how to make arrangements for anxious or special-needs pets. Learn more in the gallery below.
1. Start your search early.
With the health, happiness and wellbeing of your precious pet at stake, this isn't the kind of process you want to rush. Start your search for the right pet sitter as far in advance as possible. Well-liked pet sitters get booked early, especially during popular vacation times and the holiday season. So don't put off this important decision!
2. Consider the whole spectrum of options.
Nowadays, there's certainly no shortage of options when it comes to finding a trustworthy and responsible person to watch your pet while you travel. You'll likely find some pet sitters who stop by a couple times a day to feed and play with your pets (probably not the best option for dogs if you'll be gone more than a day or two), while more "full-time" sitters are willing to stay in your home or host your pets at their home. Others might go above and beyond and offer grooming and training sessions or even take care of household chores like watering plants and bringing in the mail. A pet sitter can help your home appear to be lived in, which may deter burglars.
3. Poll the people you trust for referrals.
When looking for recommendations, ask your veterinarian, pet-owning friends and social media networks for the names of reputable sitters. Also check with the two major professional pet-sitting organizations — the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters and Pet Sitters International — to locate sitters in your area. Professional pet sitters should be bonded and insured and willing to connect you with their clients so that you can check their references.
4. Ask the right questions.
You might laugh, but sometimes we compare meeting a pet sitter to going on a first date or interviewing for a job. You want to ask the right questions, pay close attention to their answers and get a general sense of how they'll interact with your pet. Here are just a few of the questions you should ask:
How often will you visit and for how long? What do you do in a visit?
What experience do you have with animals outside of pet sitting?
What does your written contract or agreement include?
Have you ever had to handle an emergency while pet-sitting?
5. Plan carefully for anxious animals.
If your pet suffers from anxiety, always involve your veterinarian in the process of finding a sitter. Hiring a sitter who comes to your home might be best for animals who would react poorly to being boarded in a strange environment. If your pet struggles with separation anxiety, your vet may recommend finding a sitter who can stay at your home continuously until you return. And while you might assume that staying in his own home is always best for an anxious pet, sometimes that's not the case: Some anxious dogs are more likely to be protective (and reactive to sitters) in their own homes, so your vet might suggest another alternative.
6. Don't discount new-style boarding facilities.
Speaking of boarding facilities, don't immediately eliminate them as an option. According to Dr. Marty Becker, there are high-end kennels that offer private rooms, small-group play, hikes, massages, swimming and even webcams that you can watch to check in on your furry family member while you're away. Heck, your pet may even have a better vacation than you do!
7. Make special plans for special-needs pets.
If your pet has particular medical or behavioral issues that require extra special care, it's even more critical to seek your vet's advice. As Dr. Patty Khuly knows, some veterinary clinics offer boarding for chronically ill or special-needs pets. If you're selecting an in-home sitter, work with your veterinarian to create a list of questions that are critical for you to ask candidates. You need to determine their capacity for handling everyday situations, like administering medications, and unexpected medical emergencies.
Vetstreet.com delivers advice from veterinarians, trainers and pet experts who are dedicated to giving you the most trusted, authoritative information for keeping pets healthy and happy. Our Find A Vet service connects you with leading veterinarians in your area. Launched in 2011, Vetstreet.com features veterinarian-reviewed medical advice and has quickly become one of the top animal health and lifestyle sites on the web. See more.