Whether you’re a pet parent who’s logging long days at the office or preparing for a weekend getaway, finding a pet sitter is probably one of your biggest priorities. Leaving your furry friend is a big deal for both you and your pet—and you can’t trust them to just anybody! So how do you find a pet sitter who’s reliable, responsible and ready to treat your pet with all the love and care they deserve?
We reached out to two experts—Beth Stultz-Hairston, president of Pet Sitters International (PSI) and editor of Pet Sitter’s World magazine, and Cathleen Delaney, administrative director for the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS)—for their best tips on how to find a pet sitter you can trust.
Do I Really Need a Pet Sitter?
No matter why you’re away from your pet, there’s a limit to the amount of time they should be left alone. If you’re a dog parent, you should always have someone check in on them if you’re going to be away for more than four hours, our experts agree. Cat parents can get away with up to 24 hours, as long as their cat has access to food, water and their litter box, but will need a pet sitter for longer stretches of time.
But does that person need to be a professional pet sitter, as opposed to a friend or family member? Not necessarily—but professional pet sitters can offer benefits that friends and family typically don’t, including:
- Experience caring for pets
- Specialized pet health and behavior knowledge
- In-home service (as opposed to leaving your pet at a friend or family member’s house)
- Maintaining your pet’s daily routine
Plus, when you hire a pet sitter, you don’t have to feel like you’re imposing on your friends and family members’ time. (Not that they’d ever admit that hanging out with your pet is an imposition, of course!)
How to Find a Good Pet Sitter
Not all pet sitters are created equally, nor are they all professionals with an impressive resume and skillset. Finding a pet sitter you trust is important since they’ll work closely with your pet, have access to your home and will need to be in communication with you while you’re away. Follow this step-by-step guide on how to find a pet good sitter.
1 Use a Service or Get Recommendations
A referral from someone you already trust is a great place to start when finding a pet sitter. For example, you can ask your veterinarian or get a recommendation from a family member or friend. You can also use a professional pet sitting network, such as:
These networks typically do background checks and offer credentialing and certification courses to their members to boost their knowledge and professionalism.
2 Do Some Preliminary Vetting
Once you’ve narrowed your list down to a few potential pet sitters, you can do a little bit of research on their backgrounds. Visit their websites to review their rates, services and service areas, and make sure they can provide the type of service you need, whether it’s daily afternoon walks, administering medication or staying overnight in your home. If you found your candidates through a network like NAPPS, Care.com or PSI, you can also check reviews at those websites, too.
3 Draft Questions and Interview the Pet Sitter
This is your opportunity to make sure that the professional pet sitter is a fit for your family. Some good questions to ask include:
- What type of pet care training and certifications do you have? For example, do they have Certified Professional Pet Sitters (CPPS) designation, which is awarded to PSI members who successfully demonstrate their knowledge and professionalism? Are they experienced dealing with certain breeds, medical issues, senior pets and young pets?
- What will a routine visit to my house look like? This will help give you a feel of what to expect when they tend to your pets.
- What is your communication style like? Will they send pictures, notes, or updates?
- Do you have a backup plan in case you’re unable to make it to my home? Life can get in the way, even for the most professional pet sitter. Your pet sitter should have a backup plan ensuring your pets are cared for no matter what.
- Do you provide additional services? Some pet sitters offer grooming, walking, training or playtime.
- Are you insured? Professional pet sitters should have insurance and bonding that protects you, your pets and them.
- How do you deal with pet emergencies? Gauge how your pet sitter would handle unexpected issues. You can also ask about previous experiences they’ve had and how they handled them.
- Can you handle my pet’s specific medical needs? Is the pet sitter able to give medicine or accommodate your pet’s disabilities?
- What are your payment expectations? Discuss whether payments will be made up front or after, and your sitter’s preferred payment method.
- Can you provide a recent cleared background check? This common request is important for anyone who will have access to your home.
- Can you provide me with several references from other pet parents? Speaking with others who’ve worked with your sitter can help you better understand their style.
Don’t feel uncomfortable asking lots of questions during the interview process—it’s your job to find the best care for your pet, and a responsible pet sitter will understand that.
“Professional pet sitters are happy to answer your questions,” Delaney says. “They want you to feel at ease with their services.”
4 Have the Sitter Meet Your Pet
If you’re satisfied with the interview, then it’s time to bring the pet sitter into your home so they can meet your pet. These initial consultations or “meet and greets” are a crucial step of the process of finding a pet sitter, Stulz-Hairston says, because it’s the first chance you’ll have to see how this potential pet sitter and your pet interact.
During this visit, the pet sitter will get to see how your pet behaves in their home environment and become familiar with their routine. You can share any additional info about your pet that didn’t come up during the initial interview. Plus, you’ll get to watch as your pet meets the sitter for the first time—and judge how they react.
Essentially, during this meeting, both you and the pet sitter are checking each other out to determine if you’re a good fit. At this stage, you should feel like your pet will be in good hands with this candidate, and that they’re open to your questions, feedback and concerns. If the pet sitter seems dismissive, disinterested or difficult to deal with, that’s a red flag.
5 Hire Them and Set Up a Schedule
Have you found the one? Book them! The hiring process will vary from pet sitter to pet sitter, Stulz-Hairston says, but professional pet sitters should ask you to sign a pet sitting contract at the point of hiring. It’s likely you’ll also fill out a pet profile sheet with need-to-know information like:
- Care instructions
- Your contact information
- The contact information for your pet’s veterinarian
- An emergency contact in case you cannot be reached
Though finding a good pet sitter does take some time, it’s absolutely worth the peace of mind!
Other Tips and Tricks
As you walk through the steps of how to find a dog sitter or cat sitter, consider the following:
- Make sure they’re OK with your pet. Not every pet sitter is necessarily a cat person, dog person, bird person or lizard person. Make sure they’re good with your pet type and breed.
- Be transparent about your pet’s quirks. As incredible as they are, all pets come with a bit of “baggage.” Make sure your pet sitter is aware of any odd habits, medical issues or behavioral problems. This might include potty issues, tummy troubles, barking or separation anxiety.
- Provide your pet’s routine and important contacts. Pet sitters should receive detailed information about your pet’s diet and exercise routine, as well as emergency contact info.
- Hire your pet sitter well in advance. Once your travel plans are confirmed, your next call should be to secure pet-sitting services. You may even want to check your pet-sitter’s availability before booking that flight! While some pet sitters can accommodate last-minute requests (about one to two weeks’ notice), many book up weeks or months in advance. This becomes even more important during busy times of year, like summertime or holiday travel periods.
Finding a Pet Sitter: Frequently Asked Questions
How much do you pay a pet sitter?
Is it safe to hire a pet sitter?
How do I find a trustworthy pet sitter?
A:To find a trustworthy pet sitter:
- Start by asking for references or using a professional network.
- Perform a light background check and narrow your list down to a few good picks.
- Schedule an interview with your top candidates
- Set up a “meet and greet” to introduce your sitter to your pet.
- If you’re confident in the pet sitter’s abilities, hire them to care for your pet.
Now that you know the ins and outs of finding a pet sitter, it’s time to jump into action. Having someone you wholly trust with your pet and home can make a world of difference between feeling uneasy or relaxed while spending time away.
Alternately, have you considered pet boarding? Find out how it's different from hiring a pet sitter—and the pros and cons for your pet.
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