So you're in the market for a pet sitter. Scary, right? You're thinking of having a total stranger come into your home and care for some of the most beloved beings in your life, so, naturally, that task can be daunting, if not downright frightening. What can you do to make sure you find a great pet sitter?
As a professional pet sitter with over ten years of full-time experience, I've developed a few tips to help you with the process:
• Ask for a personal or professional referral. There are quite a few web sites on which you can search for care providers, but I prefer the good ol' fashioned referral. Ask your friends who have pets, and ask your vet and groomer. These are trusted "pet people" in your life, and they are more likely to steer you in the right direction than a random guess from a search engine. Ask your referrer why they would recommend the pet sitter they are suggesting. And if you hear the same thing from multiple sources, all the better! If you get different suggestions, call them all and see who you feel most comfortable with.
• Make contact. Call or email the pet sitter. Do you get a good feeling from the person? Are they able to answer your initial questions? Check out their web site. Do they provide clear information about services offered? Do they have adequate experience in caring for pets like yours? If the answer is "yes," then they are a good candidate.
• Meet and greet. Reputable pet sitters will offer an initial consultation, which is usually free. They will come to your home to meet you and your pets, get the lay of the land, and answer and ask questions. If the pet sitter is not willing to meet with you prior to booking, that's a deal-breaker.
• Actions speak louder than words. When your prospective pet sitter meets your pets, how does he or she act. Is the sitter comfortable around your pets? The sitter should be respectful and loving. He or she might ask about the "house rules" right away. For example, do you care if your dog jumps on the sitter? As a professional pet sitter, I follow my client's lead. If they are cool with the dog jumping on me, I'm good with that. If not, I respect the rules from the start. The person you're considering should be professional with you, yet loving to your pets.
• Take note. Does the pet sitter take notes during the consultation? It's a must. There are so many details to consider and remember, so you want to make sure the sitter you're hiring is thorough and writes down the specifics.
• Consider security. Everyone has a different idea of security, but make sure your sitter's sense gels with yours. Are they bonded and insured? How do they identify your house key? Do they drive an unmarked vehicle (they will likely be parked in your driveway while you're away)? Will they rotate lights and window coverings to give your home a lived-in look? These are some security measures to consider.
• Are they flexible? Most professional pet sitters have standard services, but don't be afraid to ask for something special like an extended visit or a visit during a non-standard time. Though it probably isn't reasonable to ask your sitter to visit at 3:00 a.m., and there may be an extra charge for special requests, your sitter should work to help service your needs.
• What's included? Some pet sitters include "extras" such as dog walks, litter box scooping, medication administration, mail retrieval, etc., in their standard rate, as I do, but some do not. Many will be happy to provide you with a daily update or even an update after each visit, but some may charge extra for that. Ask what is included so you know upfront if you'll have added charges for services you need.
• The price is right. The saying "you get what you pay for" often holds true for pet sitters. I'm not saying to select the pet sitter with the highest price, but I am saying to be skeptical of sitters whose rates seem too good to be true. They probably are. A professional pet sitter's time is valuable, so consider that when making your selection.
• References. Ask your prospective pet sitter for references. He or she should be able to direct you to multiple people who will give a glowing review. Think about the aspects of hiring a pet sitter that are most important to you, and ask the sitter's references about those things.
Finding a professional pet sitter who is a great fit for your family doesn't have to be scary. By following these tips, you should be able to find someone who will love your pets as much as you do, and a partner in your pet's care you can trust for life!
Did you know it's National Pet Sitters Week? Do you have a pet sitter you love? Tell me why!