Leaving Fido and Fluffy at Home

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It’s the one sign all pet owners dread seeing when booking a vacation: No Pets Allowed. Unfortunately, while our four legged friends are considered family by our own terms, some places of business have yet to adopt this mindset.

As a result, pet owners have to turn to pet sitters or professional pet boarders for help. A pet sitter, much like a babysitter, vows to look after our furry family members and provide for their care during the times when the pets can’t join the vacation fun. Much like finding a babysitter for their children, pet parents take finding the perfect care provider very seriously. Here are some tips and resources for finding the perfect sitter.

Ask for Recommendations
Many pet sitters book jobs through recommendations from previous employers. Ask friends or relatives with pets who they have used in the past. Reach out to your veterinarian’s office or grooming salon for names of highly regarded sitters they’re familiar with. If all else fails, a simple online search will provide sites with a directory of local pet sitters in your area; oftentimes feedback and reviews are available for your perusal before you reaching out to any prospective hires.
If leaving your fur child with a private party doesn’t feel right to you, consider professional boarding facilities. Boarding facilities have high standards to adhere to and frequently employ around-the-clock staff as well.

The Interview Process
Once a few potential sitters have been narrowed down, it’s best to have a brief interview over the phone. An initial interview is a good way to determine if the candidate would be a good fit without needing to have a face-to-face interaction. If all goes well, schedule a follow-up interview with your pet present to watch how they and their new sitter interact with each other. Whether the pet sitting will be taking place in your own home or at the sitter’s residence, make sure this person seems qualified and is willing to provide daily updates via phone or text. We know our pets better than anyone else and we will immediately be able to judge their take on the new person in their life by their body language. Wagging tails are a thumbs-up equivalent!

There are a few topics to cover during either part of the interview process that would prove to be beneficial. What training, if any, has the pet sitter completed? Do they offer a safe and enclosed area for pets to get exercise? Are they willing to work with pets that have special dietary needs? Are they able to provide any additional yet related services such as grooming, walking and training? Is the pet sitter associated with any local veterinarian offices and are they able to provide emergency services should the need arise? Are they able to provide names and numbers of past clients as references? Do they attend educational industry conferences? Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Pets can generally smell fear and discomfort, so we want to cover all bases in advance to ensure they aren’t afraid in someone else’s care.

There are other areas to keep in mind when picking a sitter besides how they interact with your critter. Leaving your pets and, oftentimes, the spare key to your home, is very personal, so it’s important to make sure you trust the hands you’ve placed care in. Beyond experience, it helps to know if the sitter is flexible, and asking for references is also a good idea. A background check wouldn’t hurt, either; some websites perform the background check themselves and include that with the sitter’s information along with whether the sitter is bonded and insured, a true mark of professionalism.

Help Them Help Your Pet
After they’ve become the chosen one for your pet sitting needs, it’s beneficial to outline all duties to help the sitter fill your shoes (and prevent them from being chewed) while you’re away. All vaccinations for your pet should be current and paperwork easily accessible in the event of an emergency. Any specific pet-care related responsibilities should be communicated in writing should the sitter need to reference them. Medications, if applicable, should be labeled and all pet food and supplies should be located in one place or boxed up neatly to make the trip to the sitter’s home.

If the pet-sit is occurring in your home, make sure your new team member knows about important details such as circuit breakers or security systems. Last but not least, make sure to show your pet sitter where the treats are kept. Checking all of these off the list will certainly be a treat for you, for them and for your pet.

Your dog, cat, fish or bird may not be able to join your family in making memories during a family getaway, but the peace of mind you will gain knowing your pet is well cared for with make the trip that much sweeter. ■

Sources: care.com, humanesociety.org and petsit.com.