Pet Sitters: What You Should Know
By Michelle Wray, Coast to Coast Dachshund Rescue

Have you ever been in the situation that you needed to be away from home for a while, and didnít want to have to kennel your pets?  If so, a pet sitter may be a good choice for you.  Hiring a pet sitter has many benefits over boarding kennels or having family and friends watch your pets.  Your pets get to stay in their home environment, which is much more comfortable and less stressful than putting them in a kennel.  They get to keep their normal routine of bathroom breaks and feeding.  Plus, they get loving attention every day.  The benefits to you are also numerous.  You donít have to burden your family and friends with taking care of your pets.  You get someone who is trained in taking care of pets, so you can rest easy knowing that any problems that come up will be dealt with promptly.  Your pet sitter can perform additional services for you, such as bringing in the mail and paper, or watering plants, usually free of charge or for a very small additional fee.  Also, you donít have to rush around right before you leave and as soon as you get back ferrying your pets to and from the boarding kennel or family memberís homes.  

When you decide you want to hire a pet sitter, how do you go about it?  If you know anyone who currently uses a pet sitter, ask him or her for a recommendation.  You can also ask for one from your vet, groomer, or trainer.  You may also find them in the Yellow Pages under ďPet Sitting Services.Ē  If you donít see any listings there, try one of the national pet sitting accreditation organizations.  Both the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) (1-800-296-PETS, http://www.petsitters.org) and Pet Sitters International (PSI) (1-800-268-SITS, http://petsit.com/default.asp ) will refer you to pet sitters in your area.  Once you find a pet sitter who services your area, how do you know youíre getting a reputable pet sitting professional?  Here are some questions to ask.

  • Is the pet sitter accredited with NAPPS or PSI, and what training has the pet sitter had?
  • Does the pet sitter have liability insurance and is he/she bonded?  If so, ask to see copies of the policies.  Donít use a pet sitter that doesnít have these things.  They protect you against accidental damage caused by the pet sitter and theft by the pet sitter or his/her employees.
  • What information will the pet sitter require about your pets?  A reputable pet sitter will want to know as much as possible about your petsí routine, personality, health, medications, etc.  They should also want to meet your pets before hand and also have a tour of your house.
  • What are the fees, and what services are included in them?  These fees and services should be spelled out in a written contract that is signed before you leave on your trip.  Donít assume the pet sitter will do anything other than what is specifically listed in the contract.  The contract should also list the approximate times of day when the pet sitter will visit so that your pets are kept on their normal schedule as closely as possible.
  • Does the pet sitter have an alternate that will care for the pets in the event the pet sitter becomes ill or for any reason cannot care for your pets?  Donít use any pet sitter that doesnít have a backup plan.
  • What will the pet sitter do for your pet in case of emergency?  Does the pet sitter have a vet they take pets to, or will they use your own personal vet?  Your pet sitter should also ask you for the name and telephone number of someone who has a spare key to your house, in the event they lose the key.
  • What happens if youíre delayed getting back?  A good pet sitter will continue to care for your pet until you notify them that you are home.


Okay, youíve found a pet sitter and now youíre planning your trip.  How can you ensure the best care for your pets and make your pet sitters job as easy as possible?  

  • First off, reserve your time with the pet sitter in advance.  This is especially important if youíre traveling during a holiday.  Donít be surprised if you call at the last minute before a holiday weekend and find that your pet sitter is already booked.
  • Make sure you have plenty of food and other supplies (medicines, cat litter, etc.) for your pets.  While itís possible that the pet sitter could get these things for you if you run out, it will make the pet sitterís job much harder.
  • Have all your petsí rabies certificates and tags available to the pet sitter.  Make sure all your pets have some form of identification on them in case they get away from the pet sitter.  Make sure the pet sitter knows what form of ID youíre using (tag, microchip, tattoo), and how to locate your pet if it does get away.
  • Make sure your pets are up to date on all vaccinations.  Even though you arenít subjecting your pets to a kennel situation in which they would be directly exposed to many other pets, the pet sitter does visit many other pets and some diseases can be transmitted through casual contact.
  • If any of your pets have any behavioral problems or fears, identify these clearly and detail how the pet sitter is to handle any situations that come up.  Make sure the pet sitter is comfortable in dealing with the problems.
  • Give them a key to your house and make sure to check that it works.  Donít identify the key with your name.  Use a number or a petís name instead.
  • Give detailed instructions for each pet in regards to feeding amounts, medications needed, etc.
  • Leave the pet sitter with information on how to contact you while youíre away.  Also give them contact information for your vet and a close family member who can take messages for you if the pet sitter is unable to reach you.
  • If you have an alarm system, show the pet sitter how to operate it.
  • If anyone other than the pet sitter will have access to your home while youíre away, let them know who and when.
  • Lastly, most pet sitters do what they do because they love pets, not to make boatloads of money.  Be considerate by paying your bill before you leave.
Using a professional pet sitter can be a wonderful option for you and your pets.  If you follow these guidelines, you and your pet will tolerate your separation much more easily.

Links

Pet Sitters International http://petsit.com/default.asp
National Association of Professional Pet Sitters http://www.petsitters.org/ 
HSUS, Choosing a Pet Sitter http://www.hsus.org/programs/companion/pet_care/pet_sitter.html
About.com, Considering Using a Pet Sitter http://dogs.about.com/pets/dogs/library/weekly/aa080197.htm
Two Dog Press, Selecting a Professional Pet Sitter http://www.twodogpress.com/petsitter.html

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