While boarding facilities are a great option for many people, some pet
parents feel more comfortable hiring a pet sitter to stay home and care for
their pet while they are away. Pet sitters and pet parents can make for a
winning combination in companion animal care, but the secrets to this
relationship are preparation and communication. If you are planning on hiring a
pet sitter, here are some tips that help ensure a seamless experience:
1. Make sure that the pet sitter you hire is bonded and insured. Ask if they
have any certifications relevant to sitting. And don’t be afraid to ask for
references. A big plus is if they are current members of a pet-sitting
2. Try to make reservations as far in advance as possible. Some of the best
sitters book up months in advance, so plan ahead to ensure the best care for
your pet kid.
3. Gather everything needed to care for your pet in one easily accessible
area. Supplies could include food, treats, food and water bowls, medications, a
leash, a can opener, toys, garbage bags, litter and scoop, a dustpan, a broom, a
watering can for plants, etc. Be sure to leave your supply well-stocked on the
off-chance your return is delayed.
4. Clean out the refrigerator and empty the garbage before leaving the house,
to help avoid food spoilage and to remove all temptation from your dog to go
excavating. Pre-program the thermostat before you leave and give specific
instructions for the sitter about an acceptable temperature range. Remember – an
unventilated home can become very hot, very quickly.
5. Notify your veterinarian in writing that a pet sitter will be caring for
your pet. Pre-authorize the sitter to provide emergency medical and/or surgical
care during your absence, should a crisis arise.
6. If you plan to leave a gift for your sitter, i.e. garden produce, candy or
a tip, leave a note of explanation. As a group, pet sitters pride themselves on
honesty - if you don’t make it explicit that the gift is for them, they usually
will not take it.
7. Communication is key to a successful pet-sitting experience. By-and-large,
pet sitters want to learn as much as possible about your pets. They want to know
about their health, habits, routine and how they might react to certain
situations. In addition to exchanging contact information, they also want to
know detailed information, such as if the toilet tends to run, if other people
will be checking on your pet and veterinary contact information. Specific
information helps a sitter to do their job to the best of their abilities. Here
are some examples of unclear and clear communication to help you know what level
of detail you should share with your pet sitter:
Unclear: Feed twice daily, fill the bowl half-way.
Clearer: Feed 1 cup of Life’s Abundance kibble in the morning and 1 cup in the
evening. Food is located in the pantry off the stairs, and the bowl should
remain by the back door.
Unclear: Pills in the morning and evening.
Clearer: Willy gets 1 tablet (0.4 mg) levothyroxine in the morning and in the
evening with food. Willy and Starfox each get one tablet of Life’s Abundance
Skin & Coat Supplement once daily in the morning. Pills are on the counter next
to the kitchen sink. Willy and Starfox will eat the Skin and Coat supplement,
but you have to hide the levothyroxine for Willy in a piece of cheese. Starfox
will eat the medication if Willy drops it, so make sure Starfox is in a
different room when you give Willy his medication.
Unclear: Feed dogs separately.
Clearer: Starfox eats his food more quickly than Willy, and then tends to bully
Willy away from his food. This has resulted in a couple of aggressive acts, but
that’s rare. Feed Starfox in the living room and Willy in the kitchen. Be sure
to keep them separated until they’ve both finished their meals. It generally
takes Willy 20 minutes to finish his food. Each dog may have one dental treat
after they finish their meals. Willy prefers to have his cookies broken in
This information should be kept in the same area as all the supplies. Save
everything in a computer file and you won’t have to duplicate the task every
time you hire a sitter. Providing the right information, with all pertinent
details, not only makes your sitter’s job easier, but keeps your pets happier
and safer, which is the common goal we all share!
Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for companion animals.
Dr. Jane Bicks