If you’re reading this it might be too late but it’s worth a shot. You’re headed to your in-laws or even off to the tropics this winter break but you just looked down and saw Bella and Bandit staring up at you – shoot – you forgot to book a pet sitter!
The good news is there are many options and the sort of good news is you may still have just about enough time to find a good match. I don’t want you to think all hope is lost and you are only left with the dredges of the pool, but in general – good pet sitters book quickly.
“Sorry, we’re booked!”
I am going to lay out the ways in which you can go about finding and hiring a great pet sitter for your favorite furry kids.
Finding a sitter
Word of mouth is always a good option, especially from other local pet owners. Be careful consulting with friends that live far from you, often pet sitters have very restricted service areas. As a pet sitter myself, I get referrals from client’s friends that live nowhere near my client that referred them! Veterinarians and your local groomer are also good resources for word of mouth, otherwise, there is the Internet but be careful where you go. A quick search for “pet sitters near me” will draw up a sizeable list but just like the word of mouth – you’re going to want to do some further research.
Qualifications and Training
So you’ve gathered a list from friends, neighbors and the Intenet of sitters that cover your area, now do they meet your criteria – time to do some research. Do they list that they care for your specific pet(s), do they provide the services in which you want such as boarding or in your home? If in your home would you like them to spend the night? These are all questions they should ask you if you have not already provided the information. Once you list out your criteria, go down the list and see who meets those. Most should display on their website or pet sitter profile what services they provide and for what fee.
Besides the services, now you have to vet them. Do they have insurance and bonding, are they certified in pet first aid & CPR (and by whom), are they educated in how to handle your pets, what are their fees, what is the contact policy and have they passed a background check? It’s a lengthy list but its an important one. Things happen, hiring the right pet sitter will help reduce those chances and if an accident does occur – the right sitter will know what to do. Ultimately you want your pets well cared for, kept safe and the peace of mind to enjoy your time with family – or on the beach!
Insurance & Bonding
Insurance protects you from them and them from you. Should something awful happen make certain they are fully covered. Many listing sites for sitters provide insurance for your pets, but if the pet sitter gets hurt, they could come after you or your home owner’s insurance. Most professional pet sitting companies carry liability insurance that protects your property (including your pets), the public from your pets and the sitter from on the job accidents with your pets or in your home. That is one of the biggest areas of importance – how covered is your proposed sitter? Bonding protects you against theft.
Pet first aid and CPR certification
Ok, they display a badge on their site or next to their listing that says they know pet CPR & first aid. Did they take a class and if so who taught it? Unfortunately, this is an unregulated industry so making certain the pet sitter knows the safest and best way to help your pets is key. ProPetHero is the only online pet first aid and CPR certification course that is taught by an ER vet AND she is also a professor of veterinary medicine. As a vet she has saved a ton of pet lives so she’s probably the best one to teach a pet sitter how to save your pets – that’s the badge I would look for.
There are awesome pet sitter education resources out there like FetchFind that educate pet sitters on what they can do best and safely for your pets. Who trained the prospective sitter on how to care for your pets?
Services and Fees
What do they charge and what does that get you? What are their policies and are there any hidden fees? What if your trip gets canceled, do you still have to pay? Make certain you know what you are about to pay for so that accountability can be established between you and the sitter. Also what’s their emergency plan? Will they take your pet to the vet if they need to go and if your flight gets delayed can they continue care?
How does the sitter let you know what’s going on while you are away? Can you contact them and how? Do you get daily updates? No one wants to be bothered while they are away but we like to know that all is well. Communication is key, so how exactly do they do it?
These have become so affordable now, and many pet sitter education sites like Pet Sitter’s International offer background checks on pet sitters – make sure they have one and its clean!
Meet with Them
After they go through the vetting process your list should be much smaller and now it’s time to schedule a meeting. You definitely want to meet in person, ideally in your home so you can see the prospective sitter interact with your pets and you. They should ask questions about care, confirm they have the requested dates available and answer any and all questions you can think to ask.
Also what information do they need from you? Obviously, contact information but they should be gathering info about your pets, your emergency contacts, who is local if they get locked out, and very importantly – will they be given pet power of attorney – the right to make executive decisions about your pet regarding health or ownership should something happen to you! How much money would you authorize someone to spend on your pet on your behalf if they couldn’t reach you? These are the serious questions that need to be answered before the serious happens.
This face-to-face meeting is also a good time to show them around, show them where your pet’s food is stored, their routine etc. Do you have a sticky door that you need to show them how to open or certain lights you want to be rotated? Do you have plants that need watering like your Christmas tree?
It’s a lot but everything mentioned is so important. I have been interviewed thousands of times, and I have interviewed thousands of people as a pet sitter. Oddly enough when I go to a meeting, my questions that I will ask you will determine if you are the right fit for me. Some pet owners are not good matches and I will be happy to recommend another company.
At the end of the day gut feelings matter. Did you feel really comfortable with that person or company, how they will handle your pets, your home and you? Pet sitting is a service; care and consideration are the main pieces to it so make certain that sitter exudes those characteristics.
Now your list should be narrowed and you better be calling them, like RIGHT NOW!