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For many of us, travel can bring on an onslaught of stress. Last minute packing combined with hurried hotel and plane reservations is enough to disorient anyone. If you’re a pet parent, you have even more to worry about. It is of the utmost importance, though, that you devote time to researching and hiring a qualified and reputable pet sitter. After all, they are responsible for your sweet animal’s safety and well-being while you are away.

Not everyone can, or should, care for an animal. Some individuals seek out pet sitting jobs because they pay well, are short-term, and can be relatively easy. If the wrong person is hired, he or she could put your animal’s happiness and safety in serious jeopardy. Before your next trip, dedicate some time to learn about the measures every pet guardian should take when hiring a pet sitter. While these steps are simple, they make all the difference when your pet’s welfare is at stake.

Do Your Research

When first beginning your search for the perfect pet sitter, start by asking for recommendations from people you know and trust. You might ask friends, neighbors, colleagues, or consult with your veterinarian to ask for a reference. If none of these options work out, check out professional pet sitting forums like Pet Sitters International, which offers a free online directory and conducts a background check on all listed individuals.

When you find sitters that sound like a good fit, arrange a series of telephone interviews. Make sure to ask the candidate a variety of questions. You can include questions like …

  • What will you do in the event of a medical emergency?
  • How much time will you spend at my home each day?
  • How much time will you spend doing outside activities (i.e. taking a walk, visiting a dog park, swimming)?
  • In the case of travel delays, are you prepared to stay longer than our original agreement?
  • Is there anything in my pet care instructions that you won’t do?
  • What was your most challenging situation while pet sitting, and how did you handle it?

Meet The Pet Sitter

Once you have selected a candidate and checked his or her references, arrange a time for them to meet your animals prior to your departure. It is important to make sure your companion animals like the sitter, especially if they are inclined to be aggressive or timid. You want to see how this person bonds with your animals. Make sure to inform the sitter about any medical or behavioral issues that your pet experiences. It is important to know if the sitter has any hesitations or questions before hiring.

This in-person meeting is also an opportunity to show the sitter where food, medication, toys, leashes, etc. are located. Show the sitter how to lock doors and turn on alarms if you have any. Essentially, you want to prepare this person as you would a babysitter. You are entrusting the care of your beloved companion with them, so don’t be afraid to cover every small detail.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

The day before your sitter is to arrive, make sure to print out any email addresses or phone numbers they may need. Include the best numbers to reach you, the number of your veterinarian, and an emergency contact that lives nearby. If you will be staying in a hotel, include its name and phone number in case you cannot be reached on your cellphone. Include clear, detailed instructions on feeding your pets, and how to administer any medications. Don’t leave any stone unturned!

Finally, if possible, contact a neighbor you know and trust. Leave them your contact information and the dates you will be away, as well as a spare key in case of emergency. This person can monitor the comings and goings of the sitter and report if there is any suspicious activity.

Check In Regularly

Arrange a regular check-in schedule with your sitter. This way, you can speak on the phone and ensure that your sitter has adhered to your introductions and requests. This will also provide a time for your sitter to ask any questions or voice any concerns. If possible, suggest using Skype or FaceTime with the sitter, that way, you can actually see your home and how your pet is doing. Plus, you get to see your sweet animal’s face in real time!

Image source: Steve Baker/Flickr