What to Expect from Professional Pet Sitters How To Choose a Great Pet Sitter

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 youโ€™re unavailable to do so. A professional pet sitter may stay in your home while youโ€™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 youโ€™re leaving town or if youโ€™re otherwise unable to look after your own pets for a period of time, the question of how to get the proper care will come up. Hiring a professional pet sitter is a great option for those who donโ€™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 youโ€™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 peopleโ€™s pets. But how can you know if a particular pet sitter is the right one for you and your family?


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 shouldnโ€™t just attend to your petโ€™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 momentโ€™s notice.

Questions to Ask a Professional Pet Sitter 

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 to 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.

Checking References

A great way to check on someone's experience and reputation are 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, but it's also 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 your 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.

Security Checklist

Home security is another important item to bring up, so if you have an alarm system, security company, or private gate, give the pet sitter these details upfront so you can be clear about what is expected. Non-professional pet sitters maybe younger adults too, so be sure to give careful details as to how the security of your home or neighborhood works. The last thing you want to happen is to 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.

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