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What to Expect from Professional Pet Sitters

How To Choose a Great Pet Sitter

By Lauren Leonardi . July 23, 2013 | See Comments

What to Expect from Professional Pet Sitters

Entrusting your beloved pet to the care of another can be a rather difficult thing to do, especially the first time around. Here's what you should expect from a professional pet sitter.

A professional pet sitter is a person who is dedicated to taking care of your cat or dog while you’re unavailable to do so. A professional pet sitter may stay in your home while you’re away, or they may take your pet into their own home. Pet sitters should look after your pet in a low-stress, loving way and provide basic daily care including feeding, exercise, affection, and play.

Read on to learn what professional pet sitters do, how to hire a good one, and warning signs that can help you avoid a bad one.

Is a Pet Sitter a Good Choice for Me?

If you’re leaving town or if you’re otherwise unable to look after your own pets for a period of time, the question of how to get them proper care will come up. Hiring a professional pet sitter is a great option for those who don’t have friends and family available for the task, and who might have a bit of room in their pet care budget.

Hiring a professional pet sitter will allow you to avoid some of the less desirable aspects of leaving your pet in a kennel. If your pet is a nervous animal, a kennel experience could be too stressful for them and could cause them to revert to nervous behaviors you may have previously helped them overcome. If your pet has special medical needs, you may wish to entrust a single individual with their care. And even fully vaccinated pets can sometimes come home with kennel cough.

Or, if you’d just prefer to not uproot your pet to an unfamiliar place, a pet sitter is the best option for your own peace of mind, as well as for your pet. The final call, of course, may come down to your budget.

Hiring a Professional Pet Sitter

Many people these days make their living, or a portion of their living, taking care of other people’s pets. But how can you know if a particular pet sitter is the right one for you and your family?

Interview

Always interview a pet sitter before hiring. If the sitter will be staying in your home or stopping by to care for your pet, remember that you need to trust them with everything in your house, too. Make a list of questions beforehand: What are your credentials and experience? Do you know first aid? Do you have emergency protocols in place in case of accident or illness? Are you bonded and insured?

Also ask what sorts of things the sitter plans to do with your pet. The best pet sitters love animals and go out of their way to give them extra special care. These sitters shouldn’t just attend to your pet’s physical needs, like feeding and walks. They should enjoy playing with your dog or cat, and want to give them plenty of affection.

Meet in Person

You should attempt to meet the sitter in person before handing off your pet. Get a feel for how they interact with your pet. A pet sitter should be affectionate yet calm, gentle but clearly in charge. Your pet should respond well to the sitter, too.

Check References

Before hiring a professional pet sitter, ask for references. Call one or two of their previous clients and ask for an opinion.

Warning Signs of a Bad Pet Sitter

Indications of disorganization in a pet sitter should raise a red flag. If the sitter misses appointments with you, fails to return emails or phone calls in a timely manner, or seems harried and forgetful, think twice about hiring them. The last thing you want is a pet sitter who leaves your cat or dog without care, whether through poor organizational skills or negligence.

Finally, a pet sitter that seems unduly nervous at the prospect of responding to a pet emergency is to be avoided. You and your pet sitter should work out emergency protocols in case your pet gets sick or has an accident, and a good sitter should be prepared to take action at a moment’s notice.

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Professional Pet Sitters at a glance

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  • 1Prepare a comprehensive list of interview questions you can ask a sitter before you hire him or her
  • 2Observe a pet sitter's interactions with your cat or dog and look for signs that your pet is relaxed or tense
  • 3Realize that you are entrusting your home, as well as your pet, to a pet sitter