Pet parents are always extra cautious when it comes to their beloved dogs and cats. If you go out of town, you want to leave your pets in good hands and make sure they're treated well. That's where the quest to find a pet sitter comes in. But how can you feel confident about your choice?
Here's how to find a pet sitter that's perfect for your dog or cat.
1. Check With People You Know
When looking for a pet sitter, the internet is a great place to start. Similar to childcare, there are online services available where you can find individual pet sitters that are local to you. You can also check review sites and search online for pet sitting companies. But don't forget to also ask the people you know personally.
"Ask neighbors for recommendations too," says Patrick Lewsen, co-owner of the pet sitting, dog walking, and errand running service Everything and the Dog. "Your vet might have a few good recommendations as well."
2. Always Screen Potential Sitters
If you want to make sure you get a good pet sitter, it's important to do your due diligence. Always ask for and talk to references, Lewsen says, and don't just rely on online reviews. If you're using a company, ask how they hire and screen their sitters. And make sure the company is licensed and bonded.
"There are hundreds of uninsured small pet sitting companies," Lewsen says. "Liability insurance is very important. Ask the company to email the insurance certificate."
You should also check if the sitter is a member of a professional pet sitters association or a local group. These organizations typically require members to have professional training and insurance.
3. Ask the Right Questions
Just like any other job, hiring the right pet sitter often comes down to the interview. Always have the sitter come for an in-person visit, and expect them to be on time and look professional.
"Integrity, honesty, and compassion for your pets are almost impossible to measure without an in-person meeting," Lewsen says. "You're giving this person access to your home. You absolutely must meet them first."
Take the opportunity to ask the right questions while the person is sitting right in front of you.
"Reliability and availability are the most important things to gauge when interviewing a sitter," says Lewsen.
Ask when the sitter will be arriving for appointments and how you can easily reach them. Ask about their past experience with pets like yours, and what they might do in certain situations, like an emergency.
If you have a security camera, let the sitter know that he'll be recorded when visiting. Not only is this often a legal requirement in many states, but a sitter is more likely to be on time and do a great job if he knows he's being recorded.
Keep an eye out for potential red flags during your interview. A pet sitter with no other clients may not be experienced enough; one caring for 30 at once might be too overwhelmed to adequately tend to your pet. And if the person just doesn't feel like a good fit, trust your gut.
4. Watch Them Interact With Your Pet
It's hard to fake being a pet person. If you feel an interviewee is a good potential candidate, introduce them to your pet. Step back and let them interact without any prompting. Do they know how to greet an excited dog or shy cat? Do they communicate well and seem at ease with your pet?
Watch how your pet responds to them as well. While you're the ultimate judge of who will care for your pet when you're away, your dog or cat is sure to give you either a stamp of approval or reason to cross a candidate off the list.
Ultimately, you want a pet sitter who is happy about their job, knowledgeable, and willing to follow your instructions to the letter. Don't be afraid to ask the tough questions, and don't settle until you've found a great sitter for your dog or cat.
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