If you have a pet who needs to be looked after, don’t rely on next door teens or the family across the street for help. You will have to choose a pet sitter who is competent enough to take proper care of it, else he will end up endangering the health of your pet.
For animal lovers, their pets are their life. They simply cannot (will not!) stay away from them. But there are times when the unavoidable happens, and pets have to be kept in the care of someone else. Pet owners might sometimes find this idea very unpleasant.
‘Pet sitters’, as they are commonly called, are those people who work as full-time pet caretakers, and do more than just providing the pet with food and water. They are just like you, the owner… animal lovers, but who have made it their profession to take care of pets. Nowadays, to become a pet sitter, ‘love for animals’ is no more the only parameter, but it also requires proper certifications and adequate experience.
After you have decided that you are going to leave your pet in the care of a pet sitter, while you are on vacation, it’s time for you to start the search for a good pet sitter. Given below are some pointers that you need to look out for when searching for a pet sitter.
You may remember a host of people who you would want to turn to, when the word ‘pet sitter’ strikes your mind. The teen next door, the couple across the street, or the family in the next block, you just have to choose! But I would advice you against it, because, they might say ‘yes’ just out of obligation, and not out of choice.
It could also be possible that the teen you thought would help, would chance upon the idea and use your home for having a get-together or a party. To add to it, lack of training and experience in handling pets would cost you your pet’s health.
This is why the services of a professional pet sitter should be availed. Due to his presence, you and your pet, both remain comfortable and happy. Your pet gets to stay in his familiar surroundings with his regular diet, routine and grooming. You get peace of mind when you know that a professional is caring for your pet. Watering the plants, carrying the thrash out, picking up the newspaper and mail while you are away, are the added benefits that the pet sitter might provide.
Start your search by scanning the listings in your local newspapers. The next step is to ask your neighbors, friends, and co-workers. The point is that you have to keep dropping the word. One more point of contact where you could possibly hope to get an excellent referral is your veterinary doctor.
Use the power of the Internet, and check out the pet sitting organizations in your city. To make your search easier, I’ve listed out two of them. First one is National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS). It is the only nation-wide non-profit organization that provides certification and training to amateur pet sitters. You can use their search facility and locate a pet sitter in your locality. The second one is Pet Sitters International. They also offer search facilities. You can refine your search by zip code, type of sitting services required, and type of sitter required.
The rates that pet sitters charge depends upon various factors. Be ready to see a wide range of prices. To start with, the rates vary with the locality you live in. It may also depend on what time of the year you have planned your vacation. If your vacation coincides with the holiday season, then the prices may be higher. You should compare prices and services offered carefully, before narrowing down on a final choice.
Normally, a pet sitter would charge around $10 to $20 for half an hour, for basic pet sitting services, and the rates may increase for every extra 15 minutes thereafter. Overnight rates may vary between $40 to $80, with the obvious average of about $60. Overnight is considered to be a duration of 12.5 hours. For a longer period of time, where in-home boarding is involved, the charge would be around $40 per day.
Make sure the pet sitter is certified by organizations like NAPPS, because if your pet requires some medication or first-aid, he should be able to provide the same. Certified pet sitters are also trained for crisis prevention and management, so that you do not worry while you are away.
You may not believe it, but a potential pet sitter should also be insured. Why? Because while playing with your pet, if the pet sitter accidentally cracks a tile or breaks something, his insurance should be able to pay for the damage. It is called commercial liability insurance, and usually covers the damages caused due to negligence or an accident.
After you shortlist a few of them, schedule some short interviews. Preferably conduct the interviews face-to-face. Though this might not always be possible, but if you schedule one at your place, you would be in a better position to judge their behavior based on their interaction with the pet.
Nevertheless, be it an at-home or phone interview, ask a few questions like:
» Do you have any previous pet sitting experience?
» What type and breed of pets do you sit for?
» What related services do you provide?
» Can you give some references?
» Are you in contract with any veterinary doctor, in case an emergency strikes?
» Does he have a backup, in case he is not able to tend to the pet?
After you get some satisfactory answers to these questions, the important thing that goes into decision-making should be the sitter’s way of interaction with the pet. Observe if your pet feels comfortable with the person or not. Actually, it can be put this way, it’s not you but your pet who will select its sitter.
After you have finalized the sitter, it is very essential for you to introduce him to your pet. Before the actual pet sitting session, you should ideally call the pet sitter home, so that they familiarize themselves with each other. You should also discuss the pet’s routine in detail with the sitter. Give him a complete list of things that are essential for the pet’s well-being. Inform him about the timings the pet should be fed or taken for a walk, etc.
If the pet is on any medication, tell the sitter the dosage and the way in which it should be administered. Keep an extra stock of pet food and medications at home. It is advised that you keep a spare key with a trusted neighbor, so that in case the sitter does not turn up, the neighbor can pitch in and at least feed the pet. You can give your neighbor and the sitter each others phone numbers, though, with prior permission from both.
Before leaving for the vacation, make sure you have an ID tag affixed to the collar of the pet, with your name, address, and phone number written on it. You can also mention the phone number of the pet sitter and your neighbor on it.
Lastly, I can only say that you can peacefully enjoy your trip, and be assured that your pet will be safe and healthy, because you made the correct decision of choosing a professional pet sitter over an acquaintance.