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How To Choose a Pet Sitter

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Learning how to choose a pet sitter is a major part of being a pet parent—after all, you are trusting someone with your best friend. Whether you want someone to walk your dog every day while you’re at work, to come check on your cat when you’re gone on weekend trips, or you are considering boarding your pets, it’s essential you find the right fit for you and your four-legged pal.

How To Find a Good Pet Sitter

Though it can be incredibly fun to travel with your pet, they, unfortunately, cannot join for every adventure. As a pet parent, there will undoubtedly come a time when your best pal will have to stay behind. When instances like this arise, it’s (opens new window) helpful to have a pet sitter you can call.

One of the best places to start when it comes to finding a reliable pet sitter is to consider your close acquaintances. Do you have a pet-loving friend, family member, co-worker, or neighbor? Someone you know who has perhaps already met your pet may be the perfect fit. Consider who lives relatively close to you, isn’t incredibly busy, and is responsible.

If no one comes to mind, consider which of your acquaintances have pets. They might have previously worked with pet sitters and thus have some good recommendations. You could also consider asking your pet’s groomer or veterinary office if they have any suggestions about local pet sitters.

In the instance that you are new to your area or don’t know many people who live close by, you can turn to online resources to find a pet sitter. Some neighborhoods have community boards where you can ask for recommendations. Plus, there are many online pet-sitter sites where individuals can post their profiles, including their experience level, location, and rate. A benefit of these national sites is that some require their sitters to go through background checks, and they give people the option to leave reviews.

What To Look For in a Pet Sitter

When looking at pet sitter qualities, there are many different items to consider. Is the person trustworthy and responsible? Do they have prior pet-sitting experience? Are they comfortable around both cats and dogs?

Though the list can go on, it’s helpful to start this process by first figuring out what type of sitter you would like. You can better determine this by considering your pet and figuring out their needs.

  • Health

    It’s important to bear in mind your pet’s medical needs when searching for a pet sitter. If your pal requires daily medication or has a severe health problem that may show symptoms while you are away, it’s crucial that you find someone comfortable with providing your pet with the medical care and attention they need. This may also include ensuring that your sitter would be comfortable driving your pet to their veterinarian in case of an emergency.

  • Activity level

    Your pet’s energy level can depend on their age—puppies and kittens have much more energy than their senior counterparts. Not to mention, some dog breeds require significantly more exercise than others. It’s best to be transparent with how much play and exercise time your pet will need. If the sitter doesn’t think they can take your pup on a long walk every day, or they don’t like the idea of a cat having zoomies and possibly waking them up throughout the night, they may not be the right fit.

  • Time frame

    Whether you need a pet sitter for just one day or someone to stop in for a week or two, it’s vital that you check with your sitter that they are available the entire time. Coordinating with how long you will be gone, it’s key that you pay your pet sitter appropriately for the amount of time they are taking care of your pal.

  • Schedule

    During the process of looking for a pet sitter, it’s necessary that you talk about their schedule. Of course, you can’t expect your pet sitter to be available at all times, every day, but it is helpful to get an idea of how often they are free. If your pet sitter has another full-time job, you need to consider if your pet can be by themselves all day long. This can be particularly significant if you have a puppy and need someone who can let them outside relatively frequently.

  • Species and breed

    Before booking a pet sitter, it’s crucial that you check if they are okay taking care of cats or dogs (based on which you have) and your pet’s specific breed. Cats can vary in size and personality significantly. Though your sitter may have experience with some felines, they may be unfamiliar with breeds that have unique needs or high energy levels. The same is true for dogs. Some pet sitters may only be comfortable watching smaller dogs, so they may not be the right fit if you have an extra-large breed.

Since your dog or cat sitter will be the full-time caregiver for your pal while you are away, it’s essential that you are transparent with them about any quirky habits, particular behaviors, or unique needs your cat or dog may have. For instance, if your cat hides away during storms or your dog refuses to walk by trash cans, these little insights can be quite helpful to know.

What Questions Should You Ask a Pet Sitter?

Whenever you are going through the process of finding a pet sitter (opens new window) , it may feel as though you are interviewing someone or going on a date to discover that “perfect match” for you and your pet. However, since your pet is an irreplaceable member of your family, it’s important that you find someone that you and your pal are comfortable with. Not to mention, if the sitter will be staying at your house, then they need to be someone you can trust around your home and belongings.

To help you when talking with potential sitters, here’s a list of questions you can ask.

  • What is your pet-sitting rate?
  • Are you willing to stay the night?
  • Do you have prior pet-sitting experience?
  • Do you have access to transportation?
  • Are you comfortable with the number of pets I have, their breeds, and sizes?

Of course, you can add more of your own questions to this list, but this is a great place to start in getting the conversation moving.

young woman being affectionate with an orange and white longhaired cat

Difference Between Pet Sitter and Boarding

When you hire a pet sitter, you have a few options to discuss with them. They can either stop by your home as needed, stay at your home full-time (including spending the night), or take your pet to stay at their house.

If you decide to board your pet, you will have to make a reservation at a boarding facility (some veterinarians offer this service), and you can drop your pet off for the pre-arranged amount of time. Depending on the facility you choose, some offer the option to pick up and drop off your pet from your home.

There can be benefits to both options, but one may be a better fit. With a pet sitter, your cat or dog can stay in their home environment, which can help ease some anxiety they may experience while you are away. This can be particularly beneficial for cats, who often experience more stress when traveling and staying in a foreign place. Pet sitters can also provide much more one-on-one attention, including more walks and playtimes.

Some pet parents like the added benefit of having someone at their home who can keep an eye on the property, check the mail, and water the plants. The rates of pet sitters and boarding facilities can vary significantly from one to another, though sitters typically charge less.

Choosing to board your pet can include a different list of benefits. Many boarding facilities offer playtimes that allow your pet (typically dogs) to run, play, and socialize with other dogs—if your canine pal is a social butterfly, this could be perfect. Some places may also offer options to groom your pet while there and send you photo updates on how your pet is doing. Another major benefit of boarding is that there are typically multiple professional staff on-hand instead of just one person being responsible.

Just as you would ask around and do research for a pet sitter before hiring one, it’s equally important that you shop around for boarding facilities. Not only can there be many different options in your area, but each place typically offers different services at different prices. There are even luxury options that resemble a pet spa where your four-legged friend can have a vacation of their own.

Finding a Dog Walker

It doesn’t always take you being gone on an extended trip for you to need someone to check in on your pet. Perhaps you are particularly busy at work, visiting an ill family member every day, or having a wedding that requires you to be out of town all day. Though it can seem a little excessive to board your pet or hire a pet sitter for just one day, that doesn’t change the fact that your pet still needs to be taken care of. In many instances, cats are often okay to be left alone for an extended time, but you may still want someone to check up on them—if anything, just for your peace of mind.

Dogs are a different story—they need to be let outside every so many hours. A dog walker may be the perfect solution for the days when you aren’t able to be home as much as you would like. Depending on your dog’s needs, dog walkers can stop by in the middle of the day or a few times throughout. This is an excellent opportunity for your pup to get some time out of their kennel, stretch their legs, and burn off extra energy. If you also have a cat, your dog sitter can check up on them too when they visit. Plus, the sitter can give your cat more food or water and some bonus playtime and ear scratches.

Finding a dog walker is a similar process to finding a pet sitter. In fact, if you already have a pet sitter lined up, you may want to check if they’d be interested in this role. Otherwise, you can ask your friends for recommendations or check online sites to hire someone.

Whether you are hiring a pet sitter or dog walker, you may want to do a trial run before they officially start. Walk them through the process of how you give your cat their pill or what house rules you need them to enforce with the pets. Allow your sitter to walk your dog and just spend some time around your pets before leaving them for a week.

You can additionally help your sitter by providing a list of any information you think could be useful. This can include how much food your pet receives for each meal, where the extra litter is located, and emergency contact numbers.

Finding the perfect pet sitter may take a little bit of time and research, but this extra work will be more than worth it when you find a reliable and responsible person to care for your pet when you are away. Not to mention, your pet sitter could quickly become your pet’s new best friend.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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