The holiday season is just around the corner, and for many that means lots of traveling! Not every trip can accommodate your pet, and finding someone to watch them can feel stressful on top of packing, planning, booking, and ohh crap, did you remember to buy your plane tickets yet? Take a breath and relax. That’s why we spoke with a professional to bring you tips on picking the right sitter for you and your pet!
Alisha from Alisha’s Pet Playcations has been working in the pet care industry for over 7 years and provides pet parents in Colorado Springs, Falcon, Black Forest, and a few of the surrounding areas a customized care option for their pet’s needs.
Where is the best place to start when looking for a pet sitter?
Word of mouth is so important for many pet sitters, so one of the best ways to start your search for a pet sitter is by talking to others! Reach out to friends with pets to see if they have someone professional they trust and use for their pets, look on local social media groups for pet owners as many often leave referrals and recommendations across those pages. Many professional pet sitters network with other pet pros such as vets, groomers, and local pet supply stores, so talking with your local providers is a great way to know who is trusted in the community. Once you have a few initial leads, Google will give you plenty of info about reviews for sitters, will lead you to their official websites and contact info to get an initial communication stream and quote started, and you’ll be able to find other information about if they are a member of local organizations such as their Chamber of commerce, if they are BBB certified, etc. Make sure you do your research to find a sitter that meets your needs. Not all sitters have experience with exotic animals for example, so if you have small critters or exotics, you may want to seek out someone with that specialty or experience. Some sitters provide care in their home while others only offer services in your home, so take the time to read through the experience and services offered by each individual business or provider.
Are there any qualifications or certifications you should expect a pet sitter to have?
It’s always a good idea to check that your pet sitter is insured. Not only does this protect you and your home in the event of some emergencies, but it lets you know that the sitter you are considering has thought of these potential situations and is prepared. If your sitter/pet care company has multiple employees, ask if they are bonded as well, which can protect you in the unlikely event of theft or fraud. There are no specific regulations surrounding most pet care providers, but there are many optional accreditations and licenses that can be looked for to find a sitter that really stands out! Things like making sure they are CPR and First aid certified, if your pets have specific medical needs, you may want to seek out a pet sitter that is or was at one time a vet tech. Memberships to organizations such as Pet Sitters International (PSI), the Pet Professionals Guild (PPG), National Association of Pet Professionals (NAPPS), or Fear Free Certification also show a dedicated commitment to understanding current trends and expectations in pet care and continuing education.
How should you prepare your pet for their stay?
Each pet care company works a little differently from one another, with protocols to ensure that everyone is all ready for a stay. Pet Playcations utilizes a software called Time to Pet, that allows clients to prefill information about your home, your pets, and the expected care all ahead of time. This allows us to know as much as possible even before doing a meet n greet! Other sitters may use things like a Google Docs with a questionnaire or will go over instructions through a phone consultation. It’s always a good idea to have your sitter come by for a run through of expectations and to go over where all of those important tools are like bowls, leashes, crates or carriers, and more are located to make sure they are as prepared as possible for your pets. Make sure your pets are current on their vaccinations to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, and we always strongly encourage having your pets on flea, tick, and heartworm preventative, especially during wetter times of the month. It is strongly encouraged to let your vet know that someone will be caring for your pets while you are away so if a vet visit is needed, your sitter has authorization to get your pets the care they need. Let any friends or neighbors that keep an eye on the goings on of the neighborhood/your house know that someone other than you will be coming and going to prevent any worry about different vehicles and persons on your property. Finally, if your pets are cautious of new people, it may be a good idea to schedule a few practice visits to help your sitter and pets begin building a strong relationship and trust!
What all should you do to prepare for a sitter staying in your home?
When having a pet sitter come to stay or visit with your pets, make sure leashes and crates/carriers are laid out and accessible not only for routine walks, but for potential evacuation. Ensure your pets of all species have food prepped and labeled, medications filled and prepped (and be sure to go over medication needs with your sitter ahead of time), and make sure any documents and questionnaires are filled out ahead of time. Your sitter will also likely request a copy of your vet information in case of emergency as well as proof of most recent vaccinations. We always recommend that pets that have some separation anxiety have an article of your clothing (that you don’t mind getting potentially chewed on) available to them as it carries your scent and can be used as a calming aid. Make sure your sitter has reliable access to the house through codes/keys and always has a secondary backup option such as a hide-a-key on property and discuss any security information prior to the start of a stay; nobody likes having an alarm go off without warning when entering a home! Discuss which room/area you’d like your sitter to stay and go over any off-limits areas or individual quirks of your home that would be good to know (even things like leaky faucet warnings or doors that have a hard time closing are good to know). Leave plenty of treats appropriate for your pets to help your sitter build a lasting, trusting relationship without causing any stomach upset, and be sure your sitter has a local emergency contact for you in case anything happens to you while you’re away!
Anything else that someone should know when searching for a pet sitter?
Not all pet sitters are created equal, but there are ways to filter through sitters to determine the hobby sitter vs. the professionals. While there are many pet lovers out there and pet sitting seems like an easy, and fun job at first, there are many things a professional sitter will do to stand out from the crowd. Make sure your sitter has business insurance, ask about emergency preparedness plans (fires, evacuations, gas leaks all need to happen when you least expect), and aim to find a sitter or pet sitting company that cares for pets as their primary role to ensure reliability. We all want to spend our days walking dogs and cuddling cats, but a professional pet sitter knows that there is so much more to this job and is ready to clean up the messes that may happen, assess, and handle emergencies, and go above and beyond to ensure your pets and home are safe, cared for, and happy while you’re away.