You may be thinking of taking a vacation, but leaving your pets on their own for any length of time, from days to weeks, is usually not an option. That's where a professional pet sitter can come in.
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 sunny beach?
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 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.
A great way to check on someone's experience and reputation is to 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. You can find out if any pet owners listed have pets similar to yours, and how recently these references were in contact with the sitter.
If there are no phone numbers listed on the sitter's reference list, ask for a couple. If they refuse to give you these, suspect trouble as real references are usually fine with taking calls. There should be at least a few people you can call to confirm the reliability of your pet sitter.
Next, after you have selected a few sitters that 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 pet sitter or company.
Are They Qualified?
Once you have all their 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 simply say that they love all animals and 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 the pet sitter to come to your home and their hours of availability. Many pets have special feeding times and requirements and some will need medications at certain times, so you'll need to pick a sitter who can comply.
Thinking about Exercise
If you have pets who need exercise, ask the pet sitter what type of exercise they would be comfortable providing. Be reasonable---if you wrestle with that Mastiff every night, don't expect that a sitter would be willing to do the same. (You can always ask though!) Either way, make sure you bring up exercise needs and find a sitter who will be able to provide it.
Home security is another important item to bring up, so if you have a alarm system, security company, or private gate, give the pet sitter these details up front so you can be clear what is expected. Non-professional 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 a sitter coming to your home.
One more thing to think about is damage to your home and property. 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.
Use these questions to help ensure proper care for your pets and also peace of mind for you while away.
More on Pet Professionals
How to Find a Vet