Trying For a Pet Sitter? 9 Ideas You Ought to Take into account!
It’s ‘Professional Pet Sitters Week’ (March 3-9), a time to recognize the kind, caring, responsible individuals that we trust to watch over our furry, feathered and scaly family members when we are going to be away from home. While it may seem easy to type ‘pet sitters near me’ into your search engine, pulling up countless options – you don’t want to leave your pet with just anyone! Looking for a pet sitter can be a challenging search… Today I’m going to share my tips for finding that perfect professional before your next trip!
As a pet owner, we always want the best for our pets. We splurge on the best quality toys and food, seek out highly recommended veterinary care and go to great lengths to ensure that our pets are getting the exercise and attention they both need and require. Why, then, would we trust our pet with the first person we see advertising themselves as a pet sitter?
Don’t take that statement the wrong way – there are some INCREDIBLE pet sitters out there! However, as with any industry, there are also bad apples. Not only do you want to find someone with the qualifications/experience necessary to provide your pet with the best care while you’re gone, but also someone who genuinely loves their job and the animals in their care. After all, a pet sitter is more than just someone who provides your pet with food and water in your absence – they are also responsible for exercising and loving your pet, as well as keeping them safe and knowing when to seek veterinary care in an emergency.
This isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly!
When booking your next vacation, set aside some time to do your research and find the perfect pet sitter to meet your individual needs. Looking for some help finding the ‘right’ one? I’ve got you covered! Check out these tips and tricks to guide your search!
9 Tips to Help Find the Best Pet Sitter For Your Next Vacation:
#1 – Know Your Needs
Before you even start your search, take a step back and consider what you need from a pet sitter. While some sitters will be willing to bring in the mail, others may offer better credentials for your pet’s unique medical needs. If you want to find the ‘perfect’ pet sitter, you must first know what you’re looking for!
Make a list of your unique needs. This includes medical concerns, small chores around the home (turning off/on lights, bringing in the mail, etc.), and more. When you contact a potential pet sitter, be honest and open with your expectations. This will allow them to focus on meeting your needs or to advise you if it’s more than they are prepared for.
If you do have a pet with unique medical needs, be prepared for a pet sitter to say ‘No’. That’s okay! You want to find someone that is familiar and comfortable with your pet’s needs to ensure that he/she is properly taken care of. If that means talking to a few pet sitters before finding the perfect fit – keep searching. Don’t settle for less than your pet needs.
Some types of pets or breeds will require specialized care and attention. This is something else that should be considered when searching for a sitter. If you’re looking for a pet sitter to care for an exotic pet, seek out someone with experience caring for that type of pet in the past. We have a German Shepherd, a breed known for being overly intelligent and high energy. In order to ensure that a sitter isn’t overwhelmed by these needs, I prefer to find someone who has previous experience with the breed.
#2 – Weigh the Pros/Cons of Care in Your Own Home vs Someone Else’s Home
There are two basic kinds of pet sitters you will encounter – those who are prepared to care for your pets in your home and those who want you to bring your pet to their home. There is no right answer here. The biggest deciding factor – Is your pet comfortable in some else’s home?
We have 2 dogs in our home. Once is super ‘people-friendly’. If we were to bring Daviana to another home and give her some time to adjust, she’d be good. That being said, Indiana is far more skittish and nervous. Having to stay somewhere outside his ‘safe space’, which is his home, makes him nervous. That combined with not having us close by is more than he’s comfortable with. Therefore, if we’re looking for someone to stay with our dogs, we’re looking for someone specifically willing to stay in our home.
#3 – Does the Pet Sitter Have First Aid Qualifications?
There are specific qualifications for pet-related first aid that one can obtain. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your potential sitter has gone to school for veterinary medicine or that they are in the veterinary field. However, if they take their job and the care of your pets seriously, did they take the time to invest in a pet first aid course? Reputable courses are offered by the Ontario SPCA, Walks ‘N’ Wags and St. John Ambulance.
#4 – Check Pet Sitters International
When you simply search ‘pet sitters near me’ in your go-to search engine, you are going to be bombarded with a list of potential sitters. Not only are you going to be presented with a number of potential sitters, but you’re also going to see articles about pet sitters, products relating to pets, and more. It can be a lot to sort through! Why not cut down on the time required by accessing a list of high-quality professional pet sitters through an organization like Pet Sitters International?
The ‘Pet Sitters International’ database is designed to allow you to search based on your postal code/zip code as well as which types of pets they specialize in caring for (including a specific option for special needs pets).
It is important to note that the pet sitters included in this database are NOT inspected. You must still do your due diligence, asking questions and determining if a sitter is a good fit for you and your family. The database is simply that – a collection of pet sitters who have chosen to list themselves as being available in the area.
#5 – Ask for References
Don’t be afraid to ask your potential pet sitter(s) for references. This could include pet owners that have hired them in the past as well as veterinarians that are willing to speak to their ability to care for your pet(s). Don’t just ask for these references and sit them aside – Set aside some time to sit down and call the individuals listed and ask questions specific to your needs and expectations.
If the pet sitter that you are considering has a website or Facebook page, check their reviews. This will allow you to see not only the people they’ve chosen to share with you (like the references) but also anyone that may have provided a negative review and that person’s explanation of ‘why’. Keep in mind, not all negative reviews are a sign of a bad sitter. Just as there are ‘bad’ pet sitters, there are also ‘bad’ customers. Carefully read through what they have to say to see if their complaints are realistic.
#6 – Commercial Liability Insurance
This is a factor that many pet owners overlook, however, failing to ensure that your pet sitter has commercial liability insurance in place could be a costly mistake! A proper insurance policy will cover any damages that occur as a result of your pet sitter while in your home. This could be something as simple as the tile accidentally getting cracked or broken while the sitter is playing with your dog in the kitchen or your beautiful big picture window getting smashed by a flying dog toy. Knowing your sitter has an insurance policy in place will give you that extra peace of mind while you’re away.
#7 – Make Sure to Have A Contract
Another important point that is often overlooked while looking for a pet sitter, a contract will ensure that you and your sitter are on the same page when it comes to the services that they will provide/your expectations and the agreed-upon cost. Your contract should be specific, listing any services that they will be responsible for with each visit (watering plants, picking up the mail, feeding/exercising your pets, etc.) as well as the frequency that their visits are required or if they are overnight stays.
This is designed to protect both you AND your sitter, so make sure that you are both comfortable with the terms as outlined in the contract. If that means you need to clarify points or do a revision before reaching the final copy, then it is important to invest that time. Don’t sign any contract without reading it over in its entirety and receiving clarification for any points that may find vague or confusing.
Your contract should also state a contingency plan in the event that your sitter is unable to provide the services discussed. If you are on vacation and your pet sitter comes down with a horrible stomach flu, what steps will they take to ensure that your pets are cared for? Do they have a backup plan?
#8 – Introduce Your Pet
This point is obviously going to be more important for some types of pet than others. If you’re looking for someone to come in and feed your fish, you can probably skip the formal introductions. However, if you’re looking for a dog sitter, this is an important step. Before you leave your pet in the care of a stranger, you should bring him/her over to meet your animals at least once. This will allow you to observe your pet’s behaviour to make sure that everyone is going to get along.
We have an overly skittish dog that is selective about who he trusts. Therefore, we allow him to lead this step of the process. If we can see that he’s untrusting of someone, that is going to create problems for the sitter the entire time we’re gone. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the sitter is a bad person, simply that there is something about that person that makes your pet uncomfortable. Your pet(s) may be put off by specific features due to experiences in their past. For example, some pets don’t like people with beards, while others will prefer females over males.
Keep in mind that you are leaving your pet alone with this person for an extended time. You won’t be around to make your pet feel comfortable or to step in if necessary. Take your time during this process and make sure that everyone (including your pet sitter) is comfortable.
#9 – Compare Pricing
You should NEVER select a pet sitter based solely on their pricing structure. However, if you’ve already gone through all of the other points on this list and are now down to a couple of great candidates, it’s time to look at the last point.
If you are working with a budget and your top choice is just outside of it, don’t be afraid to have an open and honest conversation with them about it. They may be able to negotiate their terms, making it work for everyone. However, don’t be insulted if they stick to their initial pricing quote. After all, they are offering a professional service.
A pet sitter is a great way to ensure that your pets are safe, content and cared for when you’re away from home. By doing your due diligence while looking for a pet sitter, you can alleviate your stress and allow yourself to enjoy your next vacation! Bon voyage!
What important factors do you consider when looking for a pet sitter? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.