When You Need a Pet Sitter

Going on vacation without the dog? Need to leave your cat for the weekend? You might want to hire a pet sitter. If you have never done that before, this article can help you avoid mistakes. Knowing you have a competent, reliable person taking care of your pets will make your trip less stressful. Start by asking your vet if they recommend anyone.

Pet-owning friends may also have names for you. There may be people who do it occasionally, like I do, just not as a business. Some pet sitters will advertise in the yellow pages or newspapers. Most will leave flyers or business cards with veterinarians. There are professional Pet Sitter organizations that have websites.

Some of them offer a search feature, but remember that only their members will be listed. Some smaller towns may not have local professional pet sitters. Keep your expectations realistic. Normally, a pet sitter will feed the animals, let them out or walk them, change litter boxes and do whatever else is needed to care for the animal. They will spend an average of thirty minutes for each visit.

They might even pick up your mail and water your plants. There is usually an extra charge for additional visits during the day. Some sitters may be willing to spend the night - something you may desire if you have older or sick animals. Make sure the pet sitter will come and meet the animals before you hire her.

It is important that both the animal and the sitter be comfortable with each other. Be sure to plan well in advance, as pet sitters are usually in heavy demand. You should ask for the pet sitter's fees and policies in writing, so you know exactly what to expect.

I would suggest getting references; a trustworthy businessperson will have these readily available. Ask what other kinds of animal experience the person has. Someone with veterinary experience, such as a technician, is a good choice for special needs pets. A dog trainer, or someone who has trained a few animals will know how to handle dogs with behavioral issues. A pet groomer will have experience handling both dogs and cats in stressful situations. Pet sitters are not required to have any special licensing, but those who have gone to the trouble of acquiring accreditation from one of the pet sitter organizations show a high degree of professionalism in my opinion.

They will have been required to take a course that usually includes business management, animal care and animal health instruction. Accredited pet sitters will therefore likely have more diverse knowledge and experience than someone who has not been through the course. Once you have found the right sitter for you, be sure to give and get all the information you both will need. You will want to leave phone numbers for where you can be reached, as well as a friend or neighbor who might be able to answer questions or help out in emergencies. Provide the sitter with the name, address and phone number of your veterinarian, and leave a signed letter giving permission for necessary medical procedures to be preformed.

Additionally, make sure you have a way to reach the sitter at all times, in case something comes up. Be sure to tell the pet sitter of any special behavioral problems or quirks. If your dog is afraid of people in hats, say, the sitter will not make the mistake of wearing her rain hat indoors! Point out where all the supplies are; food, dishes, toys, beds, etc. Tell the pet sitter your rules on treats, how much you feed, how often and when. If you can put everything the pet sitter may need in one central location, so much the better. If your animals are on strict schedules for feeding or medication, ask if these can be accommodated, and work out an acceptable compromise if need be.

Be sure your pet sitter is bonded and insured. Don't forget, she will have the keys to your home. Also, make arrangements for payment and the return of your keys.

It is a good idea to have a contingency plan in place in the event that your return is delayed. Arrange for the sitter to call, or for you to call her at a specific time on the date of your return. The pet sitter should also have a backup plan in case he or she is unable to attend to your pets for some reason. If not, you had better make a backup plan of your own. Leaving the pets behind can add unnecessary stress to your trip.

Knowing that you have hired an experienced pet sitter, and that you have provided her with everything she needs to do the job right can help ease that stress.

The author is an experienced pet owner, with knowledge of pet nutrition, feeding and training. She is past owner of a natural treat company. Elyse is also a herbalist, and uses herbs and holistic remedies for her animals.

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