Spending extra time at home with our pets during the pandemic has strengthened our human-animal bonds, making the idea of leaving town for that long-awaited vacation hard to fathom. But that’s where a professional pet sitter comes in – someone who can ensure that your pets have a great time, too (and that your cats don’t host any wild parties).
To choose the right pet sitter, first determine what your pets will want and need while you’re away. Some important factors to consider:
- Most dogs that stay at a quality boarding facility think THEY are the ones on an all-inclusive doggy vacation. Some pets, however, especially cats, rabbits, and many birds, would prefer a “staycation” with minimal changes in their routine. If this is the case, how involved would you need your pet sitter to be? Think meals, toileting, exercise, socialization, and interaction. A pet’s needs can determine whether a pet sitter needs to stay overnight or just check in once or twice a day.
- Pets with medical conditions may need more involved care from a pet sitter with special training or experience to administer medications, monitor for specific changes in health or behavior, and who knows when to call your veterinarian. In these cases, it may be best to hire a veterinary technician to care for your pets while you’re away.
- Consider whether your pet has specific behavioral needs (e.g., fear aggressive dogs, cats that become fractious when handled). A veterinary technician or qualified trainer may be the most responsible choice to minimize stress and the risk of injury for both your pet and the sitter.
Now that you know how involved and experienced your pet sitter needs to be, how do you go about choosing the best one? First and foremost, meet the person you intend to hire BEFORE making any agreements. Watch how they interact with your pets and ask the following questions to help make sure any “gut feelings” you have are accurate:
- What kind of special training or experience do you have? Enquire about any veterinary and handling experience, how long they’ve been providing pet sitting services, and how they care for their own pets.
- Do you have references? Ask for the contact information of consenting current or previous clients and the vet clinic(s) or pet services businesses they work or have worked for.
- Are you able to take my pet to the veterinary hospital in case of an emergency? Make sure they are flexible and have reliable transportation if an emergency occurs. Discuss how authorizations and payments will be made. Will you authorize the pet sitter to make health care decisions on your behalf? Will you leave your credit card information on your account?
- Considering my pets’ needs, what will a typical visit look like? Find out how much time they intend to spend with your pets at each visit and how they plan to spend that time.
- Will you send me updates with photos if I request them? No explanation needed!
- How will you ensure my pets are cared for in the event of a personal emergency? Make sure they have a substitute who meets all the above criteria (and get their information, too).
By now, you might be thinking this whole pet sitter thing is too complicated and you should probably just stay home. Thanks to technology, there are pet sitter websites and smartphone apps that can “match” you to the right pet sitter based on your criteria. That said, you should still be cautious when using these services and only use those where:
- Pet sitters are identity-verified, background checked, provide references, as well as provide a detailed profile with photos;
- Pet sitters and pet owners can rate and review users they have worked with;
- There is guaranteed coverage for veterinary costs and property damage incurred while one of their professionals is caring for your pets.
If the idea of finding a pet sitter online doesn’t sit well with you, you can always ask your veterinary team for recommendations (it may even be a staff member you already know).
Now, focus on your own needs and start planning that getaway! What’s that old adage, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder”? It’s true. And just think of the reunion celebration when the more refreshed version of you comes back home!