At one point or another, everyone needs someone to care for their pets while they’re out of town.
Many people prefer that their pets stay home — a familiar and relatively stress-free environment. This means they need to find a pet sitter.
Pet sitters don’t just take care of your pets. They also take care of your home, where they have access to your possessions as well as your pets. So it goes without saying that you need to choose your sitter carefully.
The first step? Reach out to other people with pets and see who they use and if they’re satisfied with their sitter’s services when they go on vacation.
Network in your community, and don’t be afraid to ask tough questions, such as:
- How did the pets look when their humans’ returned home? Were they groomed? Infested with ticks? Underweight? Nervous and/or scared?
- How did the house look afterward? Was it a mess — were floors/counters dirty? Was the mail collected? Was the house locked up? These may seem like strange questions, but don’t forget: Pet sitters should always respect their clients’ properties.
- Was anything missing? This is a big one, and don’t be afraid to ask it. Avoid a situation like a woman on this forum experienced.
Find sitters who are responsible, have good references, maintain happy former/current client relationships and may even have a website for their services. And, please, don’t post on Craigslist, where you can’t verify someone’s identity or background in pet sitting.
Meet and Greet
When you have a pet sitter in mind, schedule a meet and greet in your home before you leave for your trip. Any good pet sitter will insist upon it, so be wary of those who do not.
There are several reasons for this:
- Your pets will be more comfortable with a stranger in their space if they have met him or her in your presence before.
- You can engage the sitter in conversation and evaluate his or her reaction to your pets in person.
- Good pet sitters will ask about your pets and want to see how you handle security in your home.
- You can go over any medications and show the pet sitter where things are kept — as well as areas that are off-limits to the sitter and the pets.
During this meeting, your pet sitter should engage with you and your pets by asking several questions and taking notes. Many pet sitters — including myself — do not charge for this meeting regardless of how long it takes. It is considered part of the job. If your chosen pet sitter does not believe this meeting is necessary, reconsider your choice.
Once your sitter is a regular visitor, these meetings won’t be necessary unless you need to go over something new, but your sitter should always be open to meeting with you at your request.
Taking a trip? Here are some more helpful tips to prepare your home for a pet sitter:
Security matters, particularly in today’s digital world. Thieves often troll social media to find out when homes will be empty in addition to watching properties to see any activity changes. Good pet sitters are aware of this and make every effort to maintain your preferred level of security.
I can’t emphasize this next statement enough: Pet sitters should never post photos of your home or pets on social media without your permission. If you do grant them that permission, they shouldn’t ever post anything that identifies you or your home directly.
When leaving your home during the day, pet sitters must always ensure that the property is locked up and alarm systems are activated. Sitters should raise and lower blinds and shades, ensuring that exterior lighting is turned on at dusk.
In short, sitters should care for your home as well as your pets.
Take Your Time
Finding the right pet sitter can be challenging. Our pets are our babies, and we want what’s best for them. We also need someone who will respect our privacy and security while in our homes. So it may take a while to find the perfect pet sitter for your household.
Do your research, ask around and don’t be afraid to interview several people before you pick the right person for the job.
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Editor’s Note: The writer, Melissa, operates Fresh Start, a highly rated pet sitting service on Cape Cod. However, to call Fresh Start a “pet sitting service” doesn’t quite do it justice given the sheer number of other services on offer — vet visits, errand assistance, courier services and more. Give Fresh Start a try if you’re in the area.