You may be thinking of taking a vacation, but leaving your pets on their own for any length of time, from days to even weeks, may be a thought you would rather not have to think about.
So how do you go about finding someone to take care of your beloved pets while you sink your toes into some warm sand on a desert island?
Pet sitting is a service, and as with any service, you are going to be the hiring party; it's not much different from hiring an employee for a company. You need to think about what is important to you and your pets. Remember, you will be allowing someone to enter your private home and to care for your pet. You won't be able keep tabs on their activities while away, so they need to be someone you can really trust. Here are some things to think about and questions to ask of your potential pet sitters.
Obviously, you will ask for references, both professional and personal. Many pet sitters will already have anticipated these kinds of questions, so don't be surprised if they present you with a form with names and references already listed. This is not only acceptable, it's great! Feel free to ask about particular references and why they were chosen to be on the list, as anyone could just throw some names on a list. If there are no specific phone numbers listed, ask for a couple. If they refuse to give you these, suspect trouble as real references are usually fine with taking calls. They may give you excuses about them not wanting to be bothered, and that's fine for some, but not every single reference. There should be at least a few you can call to confirm the reliability of your pet sitter.
Next, after you have selected a few that seem to have good references, get the full names and addresses of the companies or persons you are interested in. If you have problems, you will need to know where to track down the owner.
Are They Qualified?
Once you have all contact information, ask about personal experience with the type of pet you have. Clearly, there are different levels of care between taking care of a fish tank versus a Mastiff dog. Ask how many times they have worked with your type of pet. If they just say that they love all animals and just seem to have a "natural" ability to take care of any animal, follow up with more specific questions related to pet care. Taking proper care of any animal is work, and the chores don't get done with "love" alone.
Next, consider how many times you want them to come to your home and also the pet sitter's hours of availability. Many pets have special feeding times and requirements, and you need to know that they will put your pets' needs first and not just do what is most convenient to them.
Thinking about Exercise
If you have pets that need exercise, ask them what type of exercise they would be comfortable providing. If you wrestle with that Mastiff every night, don't expect that they would be willing to also. You can always ask though! Either way, make sure you bring up exercise needs as some pet sitters may not be active enough your pets' needs and should thus be ruled out.
Home security is another important item to bring up, so if you have a alarm system, security company, or private gate, give them these details up front so you can be clear what is expected. Pet sitters may be younger adults too, so be sure to give careful details as to how the security of your home or neighborhood work. The last thing you want to happen is have your sitter get locked out, set off alarms, or arouse the police or security company all because you didn't familiarize them properly with the procedures. It's also not a bad idea to get the type of vehicle and the license plate number of your sitter, so your security can clear them to come into your neighborhood. While you're at it, let your neighbors know that you will have strangers coming to your home.
One more thing to think about is damage to your home and property. This can be a real concern for pet owners, so be sure to ask if the sitter is bonded and insured. Some will be; some won't. You will have to decide how important this is to you.
There are many more questions one could ask. Those named here are both basic and important and will help ensure proper care for your pets and also peace of mind for you while away.