Saturday, May 24, 2014

5 Things to Consider When Hiring a Pet Sitter

Special thanks to Lindsay from ThatMutt.com for sharing these valuable tips on hiring a pet sitter. 


Some of us are lucky enough to bring our pets along on vacation or to be able to leave them with trusted family members. But what if neither of those is an option?

Since I’ve worked as a professional pet sitter for the last six years, I wanted to share some info on what it’s like to hire a pet sitter so you can decide if doing so is the right choice for you and your pets.

What to think about when hiring a professional pet sitter

First, consider your pet’s special needs

Some dogs love the noisy, eventful environment of a large boarding facility, especially if they get to play with other dogs. If your dog is friendly and enjoys that type of interaction, then a boarding facility may be the best option for him. Personally, I don’t like dog-boarding facilities for my own dog because he tends to get overly excited and obsessive about toys.

So, just consider your own unique dog. If he has any type of aggression or anxiety issues around new areas, people or dogs, he may be more comfortable being cared for by a pet sitter in your home. The same may be true if your dog is older, has special medications or requires a regular routine such as insulin shots every 12 hours.

Some kennels can accommodate these needs just fine, but a good pet sitter can offer your dog more one-on-one, individualized care. It’s also much easier to check in with a pet sitter to see how your dog is doing. She’ll probably even send you lots of text and email updates throughout the day if you’d like, with photos. You typically don’t get that kind of service at a boarding kennel.

A pet sitter is great for cats and small pets

It’s often easier and less stressful to leave a cat at home with a pet sitter vs. trying to board a cat somewhere. Since most cats are pretty independent, the pet sitter may only need to stop by once a day or even every few days. Hiring a pet sitter is also a convenient option if you have other small animals such as ferrets, birds, fish, etc.

People often think of cats and dogs when they think of pet sitters, but many pet sitters are capable of caring for a variety of creatures. Just make sure to ask so you’re on the same page. I once had someone ask if I would pet sit his alligator. I’m not sure if that was a serious question, but I had to tell him no!

Take the time to find the right pet sitter

It’s important to feel comfortable with the person who will be entering your home, walking your dog, giving your cat medications, etc. Because of this, I recommend looking for a pet sitter a good month or more before you head out of town if possible. That way, you can take the time to meet more than one pet sitter if necessary, and really think about your decision.


Obviously, it’s good if the pet sitter has lots of positive reviews on Yelp and Google+, as well as personal references. On the other hand, it’s more important to trust your own instincts when you meet the actual pet sitter. Most pet sitters will schedule a “meet and greet” where they will come to your house to meet you and your pets for a half-hour or so at no cost. This is the perfect time to ask whatever questions you may have and to see how the pet sitter interacts with your animals.

Ask the right questions

The following are some questions you may want to consider asking the pet sitter:
  • What do your rates include? For example, are dog walks included, or is that extra? Is there an extra charge for giving the pets medications?
  • How long will each visit last?
  • What times will you visit? Do you offer overnight visits (“sleepovers”)? What is the cost for that, and what does it include? (For example, maybe the pet sitter typically stays from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.) Or, how late at night and how early in the morning are you willing to visit my pets?
  • Also, are you the only person who will be visiting my pets?

A serious pet sitter will carry pet sitting insurance

It’s OK to ask the pet sitter if she is insured. This is a reasonable question to ask for your own peace of mind. I don’t recommend hiring a pet sitter who does not carry insurance.

Pet sitting insurance would cover things like property damage the pet sitter may accidentally cause in your home or injuries that may happen to your pets while under her care. These instances are very rare, but it’s good for both sides to have that protection if something were to happen.


Don’t worry so much about whether the pet sitter has a license because there is not really a serious “pet sitting license.” In the sitter has a license, it means she has taken the time to pay a fee to the city or county to be registered as a local business, which anyone can do.

Hopefully these tips have given you a better idea on what it’s like to hire a pet sitter. If I can answer any questions or concerns you may have about pet sitting in general, don’t hesitate to leave your questions in the comments.

Have you every hired a pet sitter? Let us know about your experience in the comments.


About the Author: Lindsay Stordahl maintains the blog ThatMutt.com where she writes about dog training, adoption, dog walking and more. She also owns the pet sitting and dog walking business Run That Mutt. You can also follow her blog on Google+.

30 comments:

  1. As a fellow pet sitter, we agree and like your blog post. We would add to see if the pet sitter is a member of any professional pet sitter organizations or networks and if they are trained in pet first aid.

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  2. Very interesting. I never thought about all that goes into hiring a pet sitter before. I didn't even know there was pet sitting insurance. Thank you for the tips!

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  3. It is very scary to me to think of hiring a stranger to pet sit. Thank you for great tips on what to ask and what to look for in a pet sitter.

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  4. That was very interesting. We have never had a sitter, ever.

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  5. We have, and we love the fact that one special staff member at our shelter does it on the side! YAY! We think insurance is a pawesome idea, too.

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  6. Great article about pet sitters. We use pet sitters when we travel because my dogs would not enjoy a boarding facility. They like lots and lots of quiet time. Being in the military, we have to constantly find new pet sitters every time we move. Thanks for the tips :)

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    1. I hardly ever travel and am able to leave Shiner with family usually. One time, I did leave her at work (we boarded at the vet hospital) and I don't think she liked that much. Apparently she wouldn't eat until they gave her canned food lol...

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  7. Our problem with hiring an actual pet sitter is the hours: our pets are never alone for more than four hours and need a couple of hours of exercise every day. Finding an actual professional full time pet sitter (which I don't consider dog walkers or pop-in visit pet care people to be- a baby sitter wouldn't just pop-in for 2, 30 minute visits a day!) seems virtually impossible. We had an affordable, caring, professional, full-time pet sitter we trusted once but she passed away suddenly. I doubt we will ever be able to leave the pets again.

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    1. I'm sure it's harder to find a pet sitter who can stick around full time with the dogs. That's too bad about your previous pet sitter :(

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    2. There are some pet sitters that offer this service. For example, with my business, I offer the option of "drop in visits" or 24-hour care. The price structure is just different. Other pet sitters offer this too, but sometimes you have to ask.

      And I agree, it is more challenging to find someone who will spend more time with the pets. Most people just want the 30-min drop in visits because it's typically more affordable, so pet sitters offer what most people want. I would suggest doing a search for "overnight pet sitting" or "pet nannies" in your area.

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    3. Thank you Lindsay. I have tried overnight pet sitter searches and they still all seem to be pet care providers who work another full or part time job and will spend 6PM to 6AM with our pets. :( I have never tried a "pet nanny" search though so maybe that will finally be the way to get our pets he professional care they need!

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  8. I don't think Austin would like to be on his own for very long. He's a very interactive cat lol He likes company, even if he's busy ignoring for some reason. I was wondering about pet sitters here in the UK, just the other day, strangely! Thanks for the interesting post.

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    1. I don't know much about them in the UK... wonder what the differences are? And Austin, it's important to always have a human around so you can ignore them!

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  9. Hi, good advice. I've nominated you for a Liebster Award. Please come by and pick it up and answer the questions on your blog. Thanks.

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  10. Great post! Bacon, the minipig wrote a great post about petsitters once too, it was hilarious to read about the woman who read "pug" instead of "pig" and how stunned she was as she saw Bacon :o) have a great sunday!

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    1. Haha! That was probably hilarious!

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  11. Thank you for the information, Ann! If I can talk my family into helping me go, I want to go to next year's BlogPaws and am very nervous about leaving my babies with *anyone.* I don't think it would be a good idea for Carmine to go to a boarding place because he gets so anxious when we go out of the house, he shakes his entire carrier and sweats through his paws. Poor baby. I don't think he would be certified to travel due to his special needs, so I don't think I could take him with me. If I can't get a friend to pet sit, what would you recommend looking for for a cat with special needs? He takes numerous medications and it takes a while for him to warm up to new people. Do any pet sitters offer to visit a few times before I leave my babies with them so they can get used to him/her? Should I look for a vet tech or someone with veterinary experience for a special needs kitty? Any thoughts are much appreciated!

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    1. I hope to go next year too, so maybe we can meet each other. A lot of veterinary professionals will do pet sitting on the side, so maybe you can ask the employees at your vet clinic if any of them do it. I think any qualified pet sitter would probably have experience with medicating a cat and caring for one that has special needs. I think the best way to find out is to look for one and then ask them these questions! They all sound reasonable to me anyways.

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    2. Yes, this is good advice. I know some vet techs, etc., who offer pet sitting part time.

      There are also pet sitters who have experience with administering basic medications, insulin shots, etc. It's all about finding the right person. A couple of my cat clients have needed multiple visits per day so they could get their meds at specific times. And yes, that is a great idea to have the pet sitter visit a few times before you leave.

      I hope I can make it to blog paws next year as well!

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  12. Thumbs up on your article :-) I never thought about the pet sitting insurance and trained in first aid. I am not into dog boarding facilities but looking for the right pet sitter is difficult nowadays. I hope there will be more groups that will support quality pet sitting services.

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  13. That's really interesting, lots of things to think about

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  14. Great tips and food for thought although we are very uncomfortable thinking about a pet sitter. Maybe we should just get over it.
    Have a serene Sunday and let us get some big easy on today,
    Best wishes Molly

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    1. It's understandable, letting a stranger in your home and care for your furkids. But I think if you could find one you trust with a good background everything would be OK. :)

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  15. Mom wishes we had a really good pet sitter, but we don't. Sometimes us dogs stay with Mom's cousin, but she only watches one or two of us. They neighbors are great cat sitters. One time Mom hired a friend's daughter to pet sit four of us (pre Bailie time). She just never felt real comfortable with it. The neighbors emailed reports of her comings and goings and Mom knew we were being cared for, but we really wish we had a really good one.

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  16. Great post and topic Ann! With 12 cats and 1 dog it used to be a real production for us to go anywhere…but working in animal welfare for five years was a blessing. There are a lot of great folks who work in shelters and shelter related vet clinics that do petsitting and the person who takes care of our kids is amazing. They are comfortable with her and she understands them so well (as they are all adopted from shelters) and in turn we don't worry at all when we want or need to go somewhere because she is staying at our house. It was eye opening at BlogPaws this year though…we met someone with a petsitting business with contracted sitters and she looked at us like we had three heads when we told her how many pets we had. It reminds us that we are not your average pet parents, but also that we should be mindful of the people we would have babysit for us. Based on her semi-offensive reaction without even knowing anything about us, we realized that if and when we need to find another person to babysit for us, it's probably not going to be a traditional pet sitting service.

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    1. It makes such a difference to have someone you are comfortable with! So glad you have someone. Maybe if she is every unable to watch them she would be able to recommend another sitter who she trusts.

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  17. My husband and I are going on a trip but need to find someone to take care of our dog. I didn't know there was such a thing as pet insurance. I'll have to make sure to keep that in mind das I'm trying to find a good pet sitter.

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Thank you for your comments!

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