When you head off on a holiday break, pet care is often on the infinite list of things to do. And with pet sitters becoming a popular type of care for your furry, feathered or scaled friends, we’d like to help you start your search for the perfect person to care for them in your time of need.
We’ve devised a list of our top tips on what to look for in your next pet sitter so that you can head off with peace of mind, knowing your pet is happy at home with their — and your — perfect sitter.
Why Pet Owners Hire Professionals
There are many options for pet care when owners are away. Some owners board their pets with their veterinarian or a certified dog-boarding kennel. Some have a family member or neighbor take care of them. Increasingly, when dog owners need someone to watch out for their best friend when they travel, they are turning to professional pet sitters. What’s the difference between hiring the teenager down the street from paying a professional pet sitter? Let’s dive in.
Professional pet sitters can offer a variety of services, from dog walking to overnight stays at your house. According to Pet Sitters International, “Caring for pets in the client’s home is what separates pet sitters from boarders or doggy daycare.”
What Pet Sitters Offer
Pet sitters are a great option for households with multiple animals, special needs animals, or when owners prefer that their dog stay in the comfort of the home environment.
A professional pet sitter offers reliability and peace of mind while the owner is away.
Professional pet sitters should have a business license, be insured and bonded, and offer client references.
They should also have an agreement or contract, which includes terms of payment, cancellation and inclement weather policies, a veterinarian release form, and an emergency contact or guardianship form.
Many pets are less stressed when they can stay in their own homes and follow their normal routines.
Having a pet sitter in your home avoids exposing your dog to other dogs and possible illnesses.
The Top Things You Should Look For: A Great Pet Sitter Checklist
1. They Have Previous Pet Sitting Experience
You may have a few sitters on your list that you’d like to look into a little further. The amount of information you are given can differ between pet sitters, and this usually depends on if they’re a private service or use a pet sitting website to give them a place to showcase themselves.
The best thing to look for is if they have previous experience handling animals, and this doesn’t need to be in its usual form. They could have simply cared for a friend's cat, pet sat for their parent's pooch or even worked as a veterinarian. All of these add up to valuable experience.
However, for private sitters, pet care is normally their livelihood. This means they’ll likely have qualifications, multiple reviews and testimonials displayed on their website, and for some, the prices that they charge. A professional pet sitter’s love of pets actually stands at the forefront of why they choose to get into their profession.
2. They Are Very Well-Educated About Pets
Top-notch pet sitters are educated. They know about different pet breeds, their specificphysical needs and their nutritional needs. They are aware of animal resources in your community such as vet clinics, pet stores, pet-friendly parks, etc. They are knowledgeable about different threats to your pet (such as icy weather or ice melts to dog’s paws) and know how to prepare. They are also up-to-date on pet trends, dog food options, emergency treatment and new discoveries in pet care.
3. They Meet Your Specific Needs
When finding your ideal sitter, it’s important that they suit your pet's needs, as well as your own. For example, if they’re an avid dog lover, it’s unlikely that they’ll have experience in looking after your pet hamster.
Additionally, it’s important to check that they’re willing to travel to your home, and will make the right arrangements to do so. You need to be confident that they can get to your home on time, so don’t confirm a sitter until you know they’re able to arrange the appropriate travel and can stay for your suited amount of time, whether that be long-term or a short weekend break.
With a pet sitting website and app, there are thousands of pet sitters across the globe patiently waiting to care for your pets, so it’s very likely that there will be one you’ll love at the time you need — just make sure to prepare your listing with enough time to arrange your ideal sitter. We recommend between one and three months — the longer you spend on your search, the more time you have to find the perfect person.
4. They Connect With Your Pet
When you’re asking the previous points, notice if they are taking interest and asking their own questions about your pet's habits or characteristics. This will let you know if they are truly interested and dedicated in getting to know your precious pet and their personal needs.
Most parents wouldn’t hire a babysitter without seeing how they interacted with their children first. And with many of us viewing our pet as a child, it makes sense to introduce potential sitters to our pets too. Don’t worry if they don’t seem like best buds at first. Your pet will probably take some time getting used to them, especially our feline friends who find it particularly difficult to warm up to people.
However, the alarm bells should ring if your pet looks very uncomfortable and the sitter doesn’t seem to be handling them correctly. A good pet sitter will recognise the needs of your pet and be able to respond to them well. For example, they should know when your cat has had enough playtime or your dog is going overboard on dinner. Find the person that handles your pet with affection and love.
5. They Are Covered by Insurance
When owners are on the lookout for their perfect sitter, a common question is “are you insured?” With many private pet sitters, having a license and insurance shows professionalism.
Depending on whether you choose a private pet sitter or a sitter from a website, make sure to do your research to ensure you're happy with what it covers too. There are many reasons that most pet sitters should obtain an insurance policybefore starting a business:
A number of things can go wrong when they are taking care of a client’s pets.
The pet could escape.
The pet could bite someone (or another dog) while under their supervision.
The pet could become injured.
The pet might break something in the home.
The pet sitter may even damage the client’s home or property accidentally.
6. They Are Trustworthy
Remember, you’ll be giving them your spare keys and relying on them to keep your pet happy and your home safe while you're gone. All the above points are so important to give you the chance to decide whether you trust your chosen sitter. But, as with anything, if something doesn’t feel right always follow your gut.
How to Find a Good Pet Sitter
Not all pet sitters are created equally, nor are they all professionals with an impressive resume and skill set. Finding a pet sitter you trust is important since they’ll work closely with your pet, have access to your home and will need to be in communication with you while you’re away. Follow this step-by-step guide on how to find a pet good sitter.
Use a Service or Get Recommendations
A referral from someone you already trust is a great place to start when finding a pet sitter. For example, you can ask your veterinarian or get a recommendation from a family member or friend. You can also use a professional pet sitting network, such as:
These networks typically do background checks and offer credentialing and certification courses to their members to boost their knowledge and professionalism.
Do Some Preliminary Vetting
Once you’ve narrowed your list down to a few potential pet sitters, you can do a little bit of research on their backgrounds. Visit their websites to review their rates, services and service areas, and make sure they can provide the type of service you need, whether it’s daily afternoon walks, administering medication or staying overnight in your home. If you found your candidates through a network like NAPPS, Care.com or PSI, you can also check reviews at those websites, too.
Draft Questions and Interview the Pet Sitter
This is your opportunity to make sure that the professional pet sitter is a fit for your family. Some good questions to ask include:
What type of pet care training and certifications do you have? For example, do they have Certified Professional Pet Sitters (CPPS) designation, which is awarded to PSI members who successfully demonstrate their knowledge and professionalism? Are they experienced dealing with certain breeds, medical issues, senior pets and young pets?
What will a routine visit to my house look like? This will help give you a feel of what to expect when they tend to your pets.
What is your communication style like? Will they send pictures, notes, or updates?
Do you have a backup plan in case you’re unable to make it to my home? Life can get in the way, even for the most professional pet sitter. Your pet sitter should have a backup plan ensuring your pets are cared for no matter what.
Do you provide additional services? Some pet sitters offer grooming, walking, training or playtime.
Are you insured? Professional pet sitters should have insurance and bonding that protects you, your pets and them.
How do you deal with pet emergencies? Gauge how your pet sitter would handle unexpected issues. You can also ask about previous experiences they’ve had and how they handled them.
Can you handle my pet’s specific medical needs? Is the pet sitter able to give medicine or accommodate your pet’s disabilities?
What are your payment expectations? Discuss whether payments will be made up front or after, and your sitter’s preferred payment method.
Can you provide a recent cleared background check? This common request is important for anyone who will have access to your home.
Can you provide me with several references from other pet parents? Speaking with others who’ve worked with your sitter can help you better understand their style.
Don’t feel uncomfortable asking lots of questions during the interview process—it’s your job to find the best care for your pet, and a responsible pet sitter will understand that.
Have the Sitter Meet Your Pet
If you’re satisfied with the interview, then it’s time to bring the pet sitter into your home so they can meet your pet. These initial consultations or “meet and greets” are a crucial step of the process of finding a pet sitter, because it’s the first chance you’ll have to see how this potential pet sitter and your pet interact.
During this visit, the pet sitter will get to see how your pet behaves in their home environment and become familiar with their routine. You can share any additional pet information that didn’t come up during the initial interview, such as where you keep their cleaning supplies, any favorite toys they have, little tricks that they know. Plus, you’ll get to watch as your pet meets the sitter for the first time—and judge how they react.
Essentially, during this meeting, both you and the pet sitter are checking each other out to determine if you’re a good fit. At this stage, you should feel like your pet will be in good hands with this candidate, and that they’re open to your questions, feedback and concerns. If the pet sitter seems dismissive, disinterested or difficult to deal with, that’s a red flag.
Hire Them and Set Up a Schedule
Have you found the one? Book them! The hiring process will vary from pet sitter to pet sitter, but professional pet sitters should ask you to sign a pet sitting contract at the point of hiring. It’s likely you’ll also fill out a pet profile sheet with need-to-know information like:
Special instructions and necessary pet supplies
Your contact info
The contact information for your pet’s veterinarian or a medical care instructions template
An emergency contact in case you cannot be reached
Though finding a good pet sitter does take some time, it’s absolutely worth the peace of mind!
There are times when you need a pet sitter, and it goes without saying that you want the person who watches your pet to be a top-notch pet sitter. Whether you're going away on a week long vacation, or just require proper care for your new puppy for the day, it's important to make the right choice.
Nothing is more distressing than coming home from vacation only to realize your pet’s litter box is full, or your pet’s water dish is dirty or empty, etc. Avoid those nightmare scenarios by finding a dog sitter (or pet caretaker) who has all of these top-notch qualities and cares about all of the important details.