There are times where a pet sitter may be a good choice for you and your pets when you travel without them. Unlike a boarding facility or kennel, your animals stay at home and the pet sitter comes to your house (usually once or twice a day). If you have a single pet or a highly social animal, such as a dog, it is better to board them at a facility where they will have lots of attention. However, if you have several cats, horses, birds or an animal not suited for a boarding facility, a reliable pet sitter may be the best choice for your pets. Multi-pet households often benefit from pet sitting services because it's usually less expensive and less stressful to hire a pet sitter rather than transporting and boarding all your animals. The following suggestions are designed to help you find a good and reliable pet sitter.
Ask friends or veterinarian for a pet sitter referral.
Even if you are new in a neighborhood, or don't know your neighbors well, it's pretty easy to identify people who value their pet. Ask several neighbors for recommendations. Try to find a little bit about your neighbors pet and their pet sitter experience. This will give you a good indication as to the level of care you can expect from the people they recommend. Many veterinarians, in addition to having boarding facilities, may have a veterinary technician on staff that also provides pet sitting service, or they may know of a high quality pet sitter.
Research your pet sitter.
As you call potential pet sitters ask them the type of animals they like to work with, how long they've been in business, how they got started in business, and specific questions about your pet's needs. People who have some experience as vet techs, animal shelter employees, or veterinary students often supplement their income by pet sitting. Some excellent animal care workers start a pet sitting service if they've suffered from career burnout. Pet sitters with these type of credentials can offer the best type of service because they are more likely to recognize illness in your pet, and may be more experienced with administering medications or tending special needs. However, the most important thing is to find someone who will be attentive, reliable and responsible with your pet. Once you feel a level of comfort with a pet sitter, ask for three client referrals. Follow up with the referrals, and use your intuition before you provide the pet sitter a key to your home. If you are not able to get a pet sitter referral in your area and you cold-call a potential pet sitter, I'd recommend a criminal background check on your pet sitter. A quality sitter won't mind your concerns for safety.
Shop around for services and fees.
Most pet sitters charge a per visit fee, regardless of the number of animals you have. However, if you have more than three animals or an animal that needs medication, it's normal to expect a slightly higher fee per visit. Ask the pet sitter how much time they will spend with the pet, and what they charge per visit. Some pet sitters give a break if they are doing two visits a day, or if you are taking a long trip. A few pet sitters offer overnight visits-where they sleep at your home. If your trip is long, ask them if they will call or email you every few days.
Meet your pet sitter.
Several weeks prior to your trip, have the pet sitter stop by so she can be introduced to your animals. Watch how they are with your pets. Are they gentle, and non-invasive? If the pet sitter breezes in and out of their first visit with you, most likely that's what they'll do when you are paying them to care for the pet. If you have any negative feelings or thoughts, do not give them a key-trust your instincts. However, if you feel comfortable, provide them with a key, and show them around your house; pet food storage, where pets are feed, how to administer medicine, toys, alarm system, and anything else that will make them comfortable. I always encourage my pet sitter to feel free to watch t.v. or take a nap at my house. The more time they spend with the animals, the better.
The day before your trip, call the pet sitter and confirm your travel plans. Inform them of your expected return, but ask them to continue pet care until you call them to say you've returned. Leave a note on your kitchen table or refrigerator that has a brief description of each pet, your veterinarian's name and phone number, unique habits or medical needs, how to reach you, where you will be staying, expected return date, and who to call in case of an emergency-such as your trip being severely delayed or if you have a health emergency. I typically check do a quick check in with my pet sitter every two to three days. This gives me peace of mind. If you require a daily call from your pet sitter, please be respectful of their time and give them a generous tip upon your return. Pay all pet sitting fees promptly. When you consider gas, travel time, and the initial and post visit key exchange, you'll realize most pet sitter charge a low fee for their time. Also, let your closest neighbors know what your pet sitter looks like, so they won't be concerned when they see a stranger going in and out of your house or apartment.
If your travel plans are more than 10 days, or if you travel frequently, you may want to consider whether or not you should have a pet, or you may want to find a roommate who loves animals and does not mind taking care of them for you as you travel. Having a pet and finding quality care is similar to being a parent. A reliable pet sitter can make travel plans fun and relaxing.
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