Before you leave town, here are 10 questions you should be asking a potential pet sitter.
BY REBEKAH OLSEN
Perhaps the most stressful part of a vacation for any pet guardian is wondering how well your pet is being cared for while you’re gone. Is your cat getting the two cups of dry food with one scoop of Fancy Feast like he loves? Does your pibble get his 30-minute walk around the park every day and then a belly rub every night?
Hiring a pet sitter can be tough. And more often than not, you probably just settle for your neighbor or family friend to stop in and fill up the water bowl. But is that really best for your pet? Your neighbor may forget to visit as often as you asked. And your friend might only have time for a short walk around the block before dashing off to work.
More importantly, pets can be sensitive to change; just moving the furniture may throw off your cat’s entire feng shui. So bringing someone new to your house, changing their schedule or suddenly limiting their interactions with other animals and humans can cause stress, anxiety and sometimes even weight loss. Hiring a qualified and experienced individual, however, will make the transition easier for both you and your pet.
To get you started, here are ten questions you should ask a potential pet sitter. You can ask these questions over the phone or in person, but a professional sitter should require a consultation to meet with your pet and become familiar with the home and responsibilities before you leave town.
Question #1- What training have you received?
Anyone can be an animal lover, but not everyone is experienced in caring for them. Find out what experience or training your pet sitter has received. Does he/she have their own pets? Have they cared for someone else’s pets before? Maybe they used to work at a kennel or a veterinarian office? Are they trained and certified in pet first aid or CPR?
Question #2- Are you insured or bonded?
Pet sitting isn’t a highly regulated industry, meaning a pet sitter isn’t required to be insured, bonded or have a license. But accidents happen. Eliminate the stress of answering these questions by hiring someone who is prepared to handle the good and the bad of pet sitting.
Question #3- Can you provide client references that I can contact?
Most of the time, your potential pet sitter was referred to you by someone you know, but if not, always ask for 2-3 client references, and then actually call them! Just because someone has experience in pet sitting doesn’t mean they did a stellar job. Ask references what they liked and didn’t like about the experience, if they would hire the sitter again and if their expectations were met, or hopefully exceeded.
Question #4- Can you provide proof of a clear criminal history?
Don’t rely on Google to tell you whether or not a potential pet sitter has a criminal history. Request documentation that shows your pet sitter is honest, trustworthy and responsible. After all, this person will have access to your house, possessions and most importantly, your furbaby.
Question #5- What is your plan if you become ill or cannot make it to my house?
Brainstorm potential hiccups and how they will be handled with your pet sitter before you leave. This will give you peace of mind knowing that even if their car breaks down on the way to your house, her sister lives just around the corner and can step in for the day. You should also have a back-up pet sitter or a kennel on call in case your pet sitter bails at the last minute.
Question #6- What types of services do you offer? In-home grooming? Play-time? Dog Walking?
Ask your pet sitter if they will give Fluffy her weekly spa bath or Duke a trip to the dog park. A pet sitter who is willing to make your pet’s schedule as normal as possible, nightly hair brushing included, is going to be someone who will care about your pet just as much as you do.
Question #7- Will you be living in-home, take my pet to your home or make daily visits?
Clarify whether or not the pet sitter will be living in-home, take your pet to their home or just make frequent visits. Before interviewing your pet sitter, you should decide which you prefer and are more comfortable with first. For example, since my Mastiff, Midas, is finicky about change, I only hire in-home pet sitters that stay with him overnight. Consider your pets’ needs and what would be the best situation for them.
Question #8- How many other pets are you currently sitting for?
I once hired a pet sitter only to discover later that she was a full-time nanny. Seeing a picture on Instagram of Midas (who’s never around children) next to a stranger’s newborn child sent me into full on panic mode. Aside from terrifying liability issues, I was upset finding out that she didn’t really have the time to care for my dog like I had hoped. Ask your pet sitter if they have another job, if they’re pet sitting for other people (and how many) or if they have any other obligations that may interfere with his/her work with you.
Question #9- What is your plan in the event my pet goes missing or has an emergency?
When I hire a pet sitter, I give them a 500-page leather-bound book filled with back up plans to my back up plans—you can never be over prepared, right? But your pet sitter should also have a few emergency steps of his or her own. Like in Question #5, discuss potential emergencies and how they should be handled. Also leave your pet sitter with a list of contact numbers to your preferred veterinarian clinics and family members.
Question #10- Do you have a contract?
A contract shows that the pet sitter takes his/her the job seriously and understands the responsibilities associated with caring for your pet. Even if you have just a one-page scope of work that details the expectations, work dates and pay, this will help everyone stay on the same page.