iStock_000020863550_LargeAs you plan your summer vacation this year, you’re probably wondering what to do with your pets. For many pet owners, boarding their four-legged friends at a local kennel is the only option they will consider, but for others, the idea of keeping their pets at home, under the care of a pet sitter, is an appealing thought, too.

But how do you hire a pet sitter? What should you look for? And, perhaps most importantly, what information should you leave for your pet’s temporary guardian? Before you hit the road, consider these tips and use them to make up your mind on what care is best for your pet while you’re away.

Reasons to Hire a Pet Sitter

While a boarding kennel or pet resort might be a fun option for some pets, not all animals thrive outside of their home environment. This is especially true if your pet suffers from severe separation anxiety.

Letting your pet stay at home and hiring a pet sitter can be just the answer for this situation: your pet gets to stay in his or her home environment and can rest easy knowing that home is still home, and that your return is assured.

Pet sitting is also a great option for multi-pet households, where the cost of boarding can be prohibitive to going on vacation at all. While you should certainly pay your pet’s caregiver, the cost of at-home care can often be less than boarding multiple pets at a boarding facility.

Depending on which route you go when hiring a pet sitter, having someone care for your pets at home can also provide the added security that someone is checking on your house, bringing in your mail, watering your plants, and keeping the lights on at home.

Finding a Pet Sitter

When hiring a pet sitter, you ultimately have one of two options. You can either look for a bonded, professional pet sitting service, or hire someone you know (and trust) personally. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and ultimately you will need to go with your gut on this one.

Professional Pet Sitters

A professional pet sitting service can offer you the peace of mind that your pet is in capable and experienced hands. Depending on the service you choose, you may be hiring an individual who has gone “pro” at something that started small, or an agency that will send employees to feed, water, and walk your animals.

Do your research if you opt for a professional pet sitting service. Ask friends and colleagues, your vet (of course), and your family for referrals. Likewise, be sure that the agency is bonded and insured, and that there are plenty of references to back up their sales pitch.

You’ll also want to consider the agency’s services and how much time will actually be spent with your pet, as well as if the same person will be caring for your pet throughout the duration of your vacation.

People You Know

Finding someone you know to stay with your pets is a great option, too. For starters, it’s likely that whoever you ask won’t be a stranger to your pets, and that will be a comfort to your fuzzy family while you’re away.

However, unless your life is ripe with college students, friends still living with their parents, or folks that haven’t settled into a home and pet ownership routine of their own, finding someone from your circles to stay with your pets can be a challenge. Especially someone you trust. Here are a few things to consider when making your selection of potential candidates:

    • What is their work routine? Will their work schedule allow them to spend enough time with your pets while you’re gone?
    • What does their personal life look like? This isn’t so much about their professional success, as it is about how often they like to go out. Will they be away more than they’ll be present with your pet?
    • Are they party animals? While it can be OK to have a friend over for a glass of wine on the patio, you need to ask yourself if they are going to rock the Casba in your living room while you’re on vacation.
    • Are they pet people? Not everyone is, and not everyone will take the responsibility seriously. You’re not just looking for a warm body, but someone who will really care for your pets – physically and emotionally.
    • Will they follow through? Sure, they might swear on a stack of Bibles that they will stay with your pet, but will they? Or will they just pop in, throw down some kibble, let your pet out for a minute or two, and take off for the bar?
    • Do you trust them to be in your home, alone? A pet sitter isn’t just a pet sitter, but a house sitter, too. Do you trust this person enough to give them unfettered access to your life for days on end?

There are a lot of considerations to make. But they are considerations worth making. And once you find the right person, they can become a valuable asset to your pet-owning life.

And yes, you should pay your pet sitter, even if he or she is “just” a teenager. Money gives value to a service, and if you value your pet’s well-being, you’ll express that through financial compensation. Depending on the number of pets you have, their needs, and the age of the sitter, payment can range from a well-stocked fridge and $50 to $20+ dollars per-day.

In Case of Emergency…

No matter whom you hire to stay with your pets, you’ll need to leave them with detailed care instructions. These instructions should be similar to what you would leave a baby sitter, and include the following:

  • Your contact information, including where you’ll be staying while you’re away
  • The name and number of an emergency contact (or two)
  • Your pets’ daily routine, including feeding times and amounts, potty breaks, and walk schedule
  • Medications and instructions
  • Locations of your pet’s favorite hiding spots
  • Routes your pet may take if they escape, and instruction on what to do if that happens
  • Details on your pet’s personality cues and quirks
  • The contact number and address for your family veterinarian
  • The contact number and address for an emergency / after-hours vet
  • Authorization for treatment
  • Payment instructions for vet services, if needed – you can either have your payment information on file with your vet and have them as an authorized agent, or leave a credit card and authorization form at home with the sitter.

You’ll also want to leave your pet sitter with household instructions, too; including where the breakers and water main shut-off to the house are, sprinkler schedules, etc.

For your convenience, we’ve created a form covering these items for you, please feel free to download it as often as you need.

If you have any other questions about leaving your pets with a pet sitter, how to prepare for their needs, or about how to vet a potential candidate, please don’t hesitate to contact us.