Picture this: It’s the end of the school year and your family decides to take that long-awaited vacation. After carefully planning every detail, you notice your beloved Beagle, Charlie. She tilts her head as her eyes ask the inevitable question, “What about me?”
Since Charlie won’t be traveling with you this time, how do you make sure she’s in good hands while you’re away? Here are some important tips to consider when hiring a pet sitter.
Finding a pet sitter
It’s a good idea to book a pet sitter at least three to four weeks ahead of time. During holidays and peak travel seasons, more advance notice may be needed to ensure availability. While some professional pet sitting services take last-minute clients, many don’t. Plus, you need enough time to screen your caregiver.
When looking for a pet sitter, first see if friends, family members or neighbors can refer you to someone. If you come up empty, consider an online pet sitting service such as:
CAT RIB is a handy acronym to help you remember what to look for in a good pet sitter. Be certain your pet sitter is:
- Certified through a reputable organization
- Schooled in first Aid
- Responsible and has References
- Self Insured (more on insurance later)
Preparing your home for a pet sitter
Just like with your human family members, your first concern for Charlie is her safety. You might think your home is already pet-proofed, but prepare for possible behavior changes when you’re away. Charlie might chew things she normally wouldn’t because of separation anxiety, so make sure electrical cords and fragile items are safely out of the way.
Always make sure your home is well lit, especially if your sitter is coming over at night. You may want to install a timed lighting system to help make both Charlie and her sitter more comfortable.
Also consider how your pet sitter will access your home. In the past, pet owners sometimes left keys with a trusted neighbor. However, many pet-sitting companies now only want the key in the sitter’s possession, while an increasing number of pet sitters require the client to use a lockbox. Generally, two sets are needed: one kept in the main office and one left onsite in the lockbox. Never under any circumstance leave a key under the mat—a quality sitter will not ask this of you. Remember garage doors and openers can malfunction, so be sure to provide back-up keys along with the codes for these.
Set up a visit
Have your pet sitter meet you in your home to make sure he or she interacts well with your pet. This is also the time to observe your pet’s comfort level with the sitter. A good sitter will ask the important questions concerning your pet’s care, such as:
- Does she have any food allergies or special health needs? Your sitter should have training and experience in handling medical emergencies.
- What are her medications, if any, and how are they administered? All necessary meds should be sufficiently stocked and readily available.
Conduct a thorough interview
It’s important to ask for references and check them. Verifying credentials is also crucial. The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) offers a comprehensive certification program for its members. Certified members complete rigorous qualification requirements and ongoing continuing education credits to maintain their credentials. According to NAPPS president Yvette Gonzales, “Hiring a pet sitter is a serious process. Your sitter will not only care for your pet, but will have regular access to your home.” Never take short cuts with this step.
Review your insurance
So, who would be responsible if your pet sitter caused damage to your home or was injured while there?. The good news is that most pet sitters you hire through a professional pet sitter organization are insured against these kinds of risks.
The other good news is that your ERIE homeowners policy will most likely cover many claims if your pet sitter doesn’t have any—or enough—coverage. That said, it’s a good idea to check in with your insurance agent before hiring a pet sitter to make sure you have all the coverage you need.
Make a plan
Your sitter should have a contract outlining the scope of services as well as policies and procedures. You should make the sitter aware of your expectations as well. Provide your sitter with emergency numbers to reach you at any time and make sure to outline what to do if you pet escapes or becomes injured or ill.
Payment plans differ with every provider, but most will ask for an up-front deposit. You may want to ask what the pet sitter’s refund policy is. Also, if you pay up front and in full, find out if the funds held until the final day of the service. These are valid questions that your potential provider should be happy to answer.
By hiring a pet sitter, you help lay the groundwork for a relaxing vacation. Charlie is happy and healthy in the safe care of a new friend. But, of course, she can’t wait to see you when you get home.
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