Dear Paws: I love my two Corgis, but my job as a nurse is demanding with long hours, and sometimes I don’t get home to see them for over a day. My sister has been great, dropping in to feed and walk them, but her work hours are changing soon. I have to get a pet sitter but I have no idea where to start. – Sara in Dothan, Alabama
Dear Sara: Mark out a little time and start doing some research on pet sitters in your area, as well as reading up on common services provided by sitters. And ask around at work and anywhere else you socialize: word of mouth recommendations are valuable.
Pet sitters differ from dog walkers in that they go above and beyond a walk: they spend time in the home with your dogs – from 30 minutes to overnight, if needed — give them food and water and their daily medication, monitor their well-being, and provide any additional pet care services that you agree upon. Some pet sitters provide long-term care in their home or facility if you’re away for several days.
- How much does the service cost?
- Is the sitter bonded/insured?
- What kind of training does the sitter have in caring for pets? Does he or she have any sort of professional certification or is he or she a member of a professional organization like Pet Sitters International or the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters?
- Does the sitter have business references from other clients?
- Is a written contract required/available?
- How many other pets does he or she sit for?
- Will the business owner be the pet sitter or will an employee or contractor do the job?
- If an employee/contractor will be used, how are they screened and trained? Can you meet them first?
- What happens if the sitter can’t make it?
- How does the sitter handle pet emergencies?
Contact at least three different pet sitters and compare their prices and their responses to your questions.
Additionally — and I mentioned this already in the tips, but I think it’s important — meet the sitter in person. All the certifications and client recommendations in the world mean nothing if you’re not comfortable with the person who’s going to care for your pet.
If the sitter has a written contract for services — some do, some don’t — read that contract through carefully before signing it. If there is no contract provided — and this isn’t unusual, as many pet sitters are individuals just starting out — get as many details as possible from them about how they’ll provide care for your pet, what they will charge, and any possible extra fees. Take notes, or save the emails that pass back and forth as you negotiate services. That way, you will both be clear on what services will and won’t be provided during a pet-sitting session.
Send your tips, questions or comments to email@example.com.