If you’re like me, your pets are part of your family. When you go away and can’t take them with you, you want someone reliable that you can count on to give them the best possible care.
Although boarding can be a viable option, it really depends on your individual pet. Older dogs, dogs that are health-compromised or under-socialized, and most cats do not respond well to boarding. And if you have several pets, boarding is generally not a feasible option for the care of all of them. Homecare is a much better solution but inviting a stranger into your home to care for your animals can be a daunting prospect.
So, how do you go about finding the best possible person to care for your furry, gilled or feathered kids? Do your due diligence. Although there are several listings online for pet-care services and even apps you can download, a quick assessment in this situation may not be a wise move. Instead, take your time to do some research. What you want is a true professional; someone who has credentials, experience, skill, knowledge, and the capability to handle an emergency should it arise. And remember, the person you select will not only be caring for your pets but will also have full access to your home.
Start by asking your vet, groomer or your friends if they have ever used a professional pet sitter they feel comfortable recommending. If they have, get the name and call the person to set up a face-to-face consultation appointment.
If no one has had any personal experience, I suggest you go to the Pet Sitters International website at www.Petsit.com. It has a national listing of all the professional sitters that belong to the association along with the types of animals they care for, the services they provide, their credentials, and the geographical areas they cover.
(Editor’s note: Pet Companion Magazine has a number of pet sitting/boarding resources, please refer to the resources in the back of the magazine.)
Pick out a few and contact them for consultation appointments. To make the appointment as expedient as possible, use this checklist of things you should ask and look for in a potential pet sitter:
■ Are they bonded and insured and able to provide the appropriate documentation as proof?
■ Do they have a proper business license if required by your state?
■ Have they been background checked?
■ Do they have pet first aid certification or any other pet training certificates?
■ Do they belong to a professional association?
■ Are they certified as a professional pet sitter?
■ Do they have species-specific training? For example, if your pet is a parrot, are they knowledgeable and do they have experience caring for parrots?
■ If your dog has any behavioral issues-e.g., leash reactivity, aggression toward other dogs-do they have experience in dealing with that particular issue?
■ Can they administer medication should it be necessary?
■ Are they able to provide references?
■ When they come to your home for the consultation, observe how your pet(s) reacts to them. Does it appear to be a good fit?
■ Is the person who comes to your home the only one who will be caring for your pet?
■ Do they ask questions about your pet’s health, diet, behavior, likes and dislikes, and your veterinarian contact information?
■ How will they communicate with you while you are away regarding your pet’s well-being?
■ Do they have a written contract for you to sign?
Make sure you understand the fee for the pet sit and methods of payment they accept. Although the cost of pet care should not be the determining factor in whom you decide to contract, it should be included in your travel budget. Keep in mind, the best professional pet sitters get booked up quickly, especially over the holidays, so be sure to book early. If you do your due diligence and select the best professional pet sitter for your fur babies, you can rest assured that you will have peace of mind while you are away and your pet(s) will have a good time, too.