I have to admit, when it comes to my pets, I am super picky about who I leave them with when I have to travel without them. I’d love to take them with me, but sometimes, it just gets too complicated. Plus, I feel like I may be putting my two Chiweenies through more stress than necessary — I mean, I know that I would rather stay tucked in a cozy bed than endure a five-hour flight!
My mom has always been my go-to pet sitter. She has my instructions down, and Daisy and Dodger love being spoiled by their “glam-ma.” This plan has worked well so far, but this May I’m going to have to come up with an alternate option. My brother is getting married across the country, and that means my mom, along with the rest of my family, will be traveling with me. Now, I’ve thought about packing their doggie bags and toting them along for the journey, but keeping them alone in a hotel room for most of the time doesn’t make me feel any better about the whole thing. Leaving them with a close friend has crossed my mind, but between my long list of care instructions and everyone’s busy schedules, I think that it may be best to broaden my pets’ horizons — okay, and my own — by looking into getting a professional pet sitter.
Obviously, I really don’t know where to even start. What exactly would a pet sitter do and how should I go about finding one? Not to mention, let’s say I do find one; what can I do to prepare for the whole thing? I figured it may be a good idea to run my questions by someone with a little more experience in this department. So I asked pet owner Annie Angell, a certified dog trainer and co-owner of My Two Dogs Inc. in Brooklyn, New York, to weigh in.
“I have used pet sitters a few times,” Angell says. “I’m one of those pet moms who is probably considered crazy by pet sitter standards!”
Of course, her confession is like music to my ears. Here are some tips from Annie on where to begin.
What Pet Sitters Do
“A good pet sitter will take really good care of your pet,” says Angell. “They should treat it like it’s their own, and they should make you feel comfortable that you are leaving your pet in their care.”
For cats, you can usually have the sitter come in once or twice a day to feed and scoop the litter box. For dogs, you have to decide if you want the sitter to come in and walk the dog during the day and spend the night, or come in several times during the day only. Some sitters will offer a package that might cover a 10- to 12-hour time period and includes relief walks.
All sitters are different, so you need to make sure that you are clear on what you want covered and what their fee includes. If you have a pet who is on medication, be up front about when and how it needs to be administered and note any possible side effects. Some sitters will do “extras” for a small fee, like watering the plants, checking the mail and turning lights on and off.
How To Find The Right One
“If you use a dog walker, you can ask them as well,” Angell adds.
When finding a pet sitter, timing is everything. Try to plan in advance and don’t wait until the last minute to book a sitter before you go away. The better and more established a sitter, the faster their time will fill up — especially around holidays.
It’s a good idea to meet the sitter in advance of your trip. You’ll want to know who will be coming into your home while you’re gone and taking care of your pet.
“Ask questions, as many as you want,” says Annie. “Personally, I feel a good sitter will answer all your questions, no matter how ridiculous you think they are, and put you at ease. You are leaving one of your most prized possessions in their care. If they don’t have the time or become annoyed, call someone else.”
One question Annie suggests asking: “Ask if they are bonded and/or insured. This covers your personal possessions in the event that anything happens while you are away.”
What To Do Before The Pet Sitter Arrives
Just as it’s a good idea to meet your sitter before the trip, it’s also important to have your pet become acquainted with the sitter, too. This way, you can be sure your pet is comfortable with them and will recognize them when they come around in your absence.
Writing out your pet’s routine is another important step to complete before your pet sitter arrives. It will give you peace of mind that all of your pet’s needs are being met, and it will give your sitter a chance to ask any questions face-to-face rather than during your trip over the phone. Here are some things that should be one your list:
- What and how much your pet eats
- When does your pet get his treats
- What medication he gets and when, if any
“You also will want to make sure that the sitter understands what to do in the event of an emergency,” Angell says. “We don’t like to think about it, but if your pet needs medical attention in your absence, you need to be clear about what you want them to do as well as how quick to contact you.”