Planning for vacation is a lot of work (and a lot of fun). You have to book the flights, find the perfect hotel, and figure out how to get around while you’re in a new location. But if you’re a pet parent, finding the perfect sitter to watch your four-legged family members is equally important.
While more and more hotels and resorts are becoming pet friendly, sometimes it’s nice to leave your furry friends behind and feel confident that they’re being cared for properly. Here are a few tips on finding the right pet sitter.
They Are Fully Licensed
Your trip is booked and you’re ready to begin your search. The first step is to make sure the pet sitters you’re considering are properly licensed and insured.
“It’s important that pet owners research any site they are considering using to find a pet sitter and pay special attention to the service providers listed,” says Beth Stultz, vice president of marketing and operations for Pet Sitters International. “Make sure those listed are actual professionals, not teenagers or individuals just looking for some extra cash.”
They Are Quick to Return Calls
When first reaching out to a prospective pet sitter, whether online or over the phone, a responsible sitter should return your call within 24 hours, advises Stultz. Any longer could be a red flag and suggests that there could be communication problems down the line.
They Get Along With Your Pet
A meet and greet between you, the sitter, and your pet beforehand is customary to ensure a match, and the sitter should be happy to arrange one. Be sure to schedule some time in a comfortable environment, such as your home. “Meeting the pet sitter at your home allows for both you and your pet, and the potential pet sitter as well, to determine if this is the best fit,” explains Stultz. “This will allow you to see how they interact together.”
They’re Willing to Be Interviewed
During the meet and greet, ask the sitter detailed questions about his or her background and pet sitting history to get a feel for his or her character. Most trained professionals will appreciate the vetting process and won’t mind being interviewed for the job.
According to Cathleen Delaney, administrative director of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, most sitters will share the same basic qualities. “The qualities of a good pet sitter should always be experienced, committed, qualified, educated and professional,” says Delaney. “Most every professional sitter should carry those qualities.”
They Specify a Care Plan
How much time does the sitter spend with my pet? How often do they go on walks? Is spending the night an option? These are all great questions to ask your potential pet sitter. Every case is different, but getting an idea ahead of time will allow you to plan accordingly.
“Generally speaking, 30 minutes is the average visit per pet, and most require two or three visits per day,” says Stultz. “Be sure to factor in time for walks and play time as well. Most sitters can accommodate special requests ahead of time.”
They’re Familiar With First Aid
It’s not necessary for your sitter to be a veterinarian, but it helps if they’re knowledgeable about minor medical issues, administering medications, and what to do in case of emergency.
“Make sure any and all arrangements are made with your vet to allow for medical care while you’re away if necessary,” recommends Stultz. “But aside from that, understanding pet first aid or other pet care training certainly goes a long way.”
They Clearly Explain Their Fees
Before agreeing to terms, make sure your sitter clearly explains the fees and puts everything in writing. Paying an up-front deposit with the balance due upon completion is the standard, but each sitter is different.
“Just as there’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to finding the right pet sitter, the same goes for payment terms,” advises Stultz. “There is no industry standard, and some might require payment in full beforehand for first time customers.”
They Ask for Reviews
Just as your pet enjoys being told they’re a good boy or girl, your sitter should also be invested in positive feedback. Customer assessments following completion of services are standard, and a true professional should welcome reviews.
“Ask them about their rating system and how you can evaluate their business afterwards,” mentions Stultz. “If they’re truly invested in their business, they’ll want to know you’re satisfied.”
John Plichter is a writer and advertising professional from Philadelphia. He and his girlfriend share their home with rescue dogs Murph and Elmer, who are three-legged and blind respectively.