why hire a pet sitter?

Fido and Fluffy may have a bone to pick with you for going on vacation without them — but not if you choose a sitter who loves them (almost!) as much as you do. Sometimes, you don’t have to search very far to find trustworthy pet sitters. Family and friends are often happy to open their homes to your furry friends — you get to enjoy peace of mind, and your pet gets spoiled rotten while you’re on vacation!

But other pet parents may need to search outside their doghouse. We put our noses to the ground to help you determine if hiring a pet sitter is right for your furry family.

pet sitters are pawesome if:

  • Your dog or cat has a medical condition that makes travel tough.
  • Your pet isn’t so into new people, places or things.
  • You’re traveling to a place where pets aren’t welcome.

explore other options if:

  • You aren’t able to find a reliable pet sitter in your area.
  • Pets are welcome at your final destination.
  • You and your pet can’t bear to be apart.

highs + lows of pet sitting

pup-ular pros

  • Your dog gets lots of personal attention and love while you’re away.
  • He’s near his own vet in case he needs an unscheduled visit.
  • Fido can still see his favorite friendly faces (and fire hydrants!) on his daily walk.

consider the cons

  • Depending on the duration of your trip, a pet sitter can become expensive.
  • It can take time to establish trust with someone taking care of your furry family.
  • You’ll definitely miss your furry face-licker while you’re apart!

bark up the right tree: finding the right pet sitter

When you hire a cat or dog sitter, you’re entrusting your entire life to them — often not just your pet, but also your home and everything in it! Since you can’t hire just anyone, here’s how to pick a winner:

  • Get personal recommendations from your veterinarian, pals at the dog park or neighboring pet parents.
  • If you’re using a service, check their reviews online. Click over to sites like PetSitUSA, Yelp.com and Angie’s List to get a balanced perspective. Contact reviewers to follow up about their experience.
  • Make sure your sitter is insured and bonded, for your protection and peace of mind.
  • Determine how much attention your pet prefers. Will he be okay with a few visits per day, or do you want someone who can spend lots of time — and possibly the night — at your abode?
  • Start searching a few months in advance, especially for busy holiday and vacation seasons. Good sitters book up fast!

questions to ask

When selecting a caregiver for your furry family member, it can be tricky to know what questions to ask first! Start with the basics and then determine if you’re ready to set up a meet-and-greet:

  • Do you work in my area often?

    sniff out: How familiar they are with your area and whether they will come to your neighborhood ― some pet sitters stick close to home!

  • How many pets do you care for at a time?

    sniff out: Whether they will be able to stick to your pet’s established schedule, or whether they might have to squeeze you in with many other mutts!

  • How much do you charge?

    sniff out: Pet sitting prices vary — depending on your preference, the sitter may charge an hourly rate, a per-visit rate or a flat fee. While prices vary by geographic area, sitting is likely to cost $15–$25 for daily visits and walks or $25–$50 to stay in your home. Be sure to ask about tipping, too!

  • Is this your primary job, or do you have another profession?

    sniff out: Whether this is a side job or if pets are their passion and profession! Either way, be sure they’re bonded and insured for your protection.

  • How much time can you spend with my pet?

    sniff out: How many hours a day you can expect your pet to be on his own. For feline friends, will your sitter simply scoop the litter box and refresh water for Fluffy, or will playtime be included as well?

  • Do you keep notes or send updates about the pets you sit for?

    sniff out: Many pet sitters will keep you posted on your pet, even down to bathroom breaks. (Some will even send photos to separation-anxiety-suffering pet parents.)

  • Do you have any references or clients I could talk to?

    sniff out: A reputable sitter should not hesitate to provide references.

Want even more ideas of what to ask?

Pet Sitters International has comprehensive interview checklists and advice for pet parents searching for at-home care for furry friends

first visit at the (dog)house

Now it’s time to introduce your precious pup to his stay-cation caretaker! If your sitter will be watching your pets at your place, arrange a home visit well before you plan to travel. At this time:

  • Make sure your pet gets a positive first impression ― slip the potential sitter plenty of healthy treats to offer if furry friends seem apprehensive.
  • Go over daily routines, including exercise, mealtime and bathroom routines — and idiosyncrasies!
  • Review any health problems or food allergies, including all daily medications or vitamins.
  • Show where food, medications, leashes, poop bags, litter, toys and cleaning supplies (accidents happen!) are located.
  • Take a tour of your dog’s favorite hiding spots, and where he likes to stash toys.
  • Walk through the neighborhood to familiarize her with your dog’s favorite places and any four-legged friends you’re likely to meet.
  • Hand over an extra set of keys or set up a lock box. (Make sure they work first!).

before you take off

Before you leave your pet in the care of another two-legger, a trip to the vet is in order! While you’re there, remember to:

  • Request a copy of your pet’s health records to leave with the sitter.
  • Get heartworm and vaccination boosters (if needed).
  • Pick up extra prescription meds.
  • Leave your pet sitter’s name and information, as well as dates you’ll be away.

Did you know that most vets recommend daily pet-sitting visits for feline friends? Because health emergencies like urinary blockages can occur quickly, having a sitter stop by every day can help ensure any irregularities in your furry friend’s behavior or health can be addressed immediately.

Parting can be such sweet sorrow, but it doesn’t have to be stressful for you or your four-legged love. Don’t forget to include these in your final preparation for de-paw-ture to ensure a successful separation:

  • Print out and paw-sonalize this handy Instructions for Care PDF for your pet sitter with your destination details, emergency contact numbers and instructions for your pet’s care.
  • Leave extra portions of food and medications within paw’s reach, just in case your trip home is delayed.
  • Provide contact info for a neighbor, friend or family member who can help in the event of an emergency.

sleepover at the sitter’s

Some pet parents prefer to have their dogs spend vacation at a pet sitter’s home. (Many cats, on the other paw, generally prefer the comfort of their own home over the stress of a strange house.) Fortunately, there are many sitters who will gladly watch pets at their own home. Ask ahead to make sure your pet will be the only pet there — or will get along with others — and follow this timeline to make sure your dog gives his vacation digs four paws up:

weeks before your trip

Take your pup to visit his vacation home. See how he gets along with the sitter and other pets and sniff out how he reacts to his new environment. If the visit doesn’t go well, look into other options, such as having a dog sitter stay at your place.

week before your trip

It’s time to try an overnight stay! Ask the dog sitter how your pup handled himself when you pick him up the next morning and check in with your dog to see how he’s doing. He should be happy to see you, but also seem comfortable and at ease with the sitter and his new surroundings.

weeks before your trip

Drop your dog off for a few hours, along with a blanket and a few toys that smell like home. When you come to pick him up, it helps him know that the sitter’s house is just a place to visit, and that his fur-ever home is with you. You never want Bowser to feel abandoned! Repeat this process again in a couple days.

time!

Be sure to pack a doggie bag for your pooch’s stay. Tip — Download our handy packing guide for reference. At this point, your dog should be happy to see the sitter, knowing that he’ll be treated well there and you’ll be home to give him doggy-kisses before he knows it!

Now go enjoy your vacation — and the extra purrs and licks of love when you return home!

travel tail: to grandma's house we go

“Jackson is one lucky (and very loved!) pup. Our family and friends love him so much that he stays with them when we travel ― usually at my parents’ house ― Camp Virginia, as they like to call it! Jackson is always on his best behavior at Grandma and Grandpa’s, partially because he knows he's going to get spoiled! My parents have a big house with a big yard and live in a very dog-friendly development, so he gets lots of room to run around and gets to see his ‘friends’ out on walks. When he's on vacation in Virginia, his favorite thing to do is sit in the sunroom on a gliding chair and watch neighbors and their dogs walk by all day. He also loves getting in a good nap in that very spot, as well!”

- Leslie, www.andherlittledogtoo.com