Is Pet Sitting Right for Me?

By Alan Mansfield

To answer this question successfully, we recommend checking with your veterinarian about all potential options for the care of your pet(s) while out of town.  Many clinics offer basic boarding services and most will typically have recommendations of other facilities should they not have enough room for your important family member.  Boarding is a wonderful service, offering a structured stay for your baby.  Pets will routinely go out for exercise and potty breaks and receive their medications (if there are any) on a set time schedule.  Many veterinarian clinics also offer bathing and grooming services.  The added benefit of boarding your pet is that there are many individuals taking responsibility for the care and treatment of your pet as opposed to just one.

Pet SittingAfter checking with the veterinary clinic, you may determine that pet sitting is a more attractive service, but what is it?  Though services provided will ultimately differ from pet sitter to pet sitter, in general, the pet sitter will come to your home a predetermined/negotiated number of times per day.  It is best to try and mimic your pet’s routine as closely as possible as if you were home yourself taking care of them.  This includes feeding and water schedules, cleanliness of their living space, potty pick up duty outside as well as the litter box inside, treats for whatever activities you desire, walking and/or other exercises, medication administration as you designate, and any other special needs your baby has come to love.

Other services may include bringing in the mail, paper, watering of plants, lawn and gardens, basic pool maintenance such as pump activation and skimming services, porch lighting requests, fish and pond duties, and even overnight stays of your pet sitter, effectively combining house and pet sitting.

To find a reliable pet sitter, once more, start with your veterinarian.  Many will have pet sitters on staff, although the hospitals themselves are not usually responsible for the services or actions of these individuals.  However, if the clinic believes in the employee’s work competencies enough to hire and maintain them on staff, that’s an immediate and trustworthy reference right away.  This should also provide comfort to you that the individual is able to spot any medical needs that may arise during your trip and knows exactly where to take them in case of an emergency.

Once you have the names of potential pet sitters, you should ask each for a list of references.  Once finding out if a certain staff member is a pet sitter, you may be able to skip the step of narrowing down your selection if you’ve been going to a certain animal hospital for an extended time frame and already have a working relationship with that individual.  However, it is still good practice to obtain at least three references from this person; after all, they’ll be coming into your home and taking responsibility of your extended family member’s care.

Finally, the initial visit of your pet sitter takes place, preferably before your trip and with you present, so that your baby sees this person come into your house with your permission.  This is when you’ll clarify all of the services you will require of them, including but not limited to the number of daily visits, feeding, potty pick up, medications, mail, newspaper, lawn watering, etc.

A payment schedule is usually derived at this initial meeting.  How a pet sitter charges is determined strictly by that individual.  In general, many have a fee schedule based solely on the daily number of visits to your home, and others will have a base fee for two visits plus feeding/watering with additional charges for extra visits or services such as walking, medicating, and lawn or pool care.  Before the initial visit, you may want to speak to the potential pet sitter about their fee structure, as well as when they expect payment.  Many accept payment after services are provided, while others ask that it is left at your house at the onset of your vacation.

Again, if you’re going on vacation and need help deciding your pet’s care while away, consult with your veterinarian about the most proper care of your baby.  It all depends on yours and your pet’s needs.  Together you can come up with a plan most suitable for your beloved family member.