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9 questions you must ask a pet sitter before you hire them

Most pet parents hate leaving their animal companions home alone, but sometimes it can’t be helped. Maybe you’re going on a business trip or taking an overseas vacation, forcing you to hire a pet sitter. Finding the right professional can be daunting. Reaching out to family, friends, and neighbors for referrals is a good place to start your search. Your veterinarian and groomer may also have recommendations. Never decide, though, without interviewing a few sitters from your list of referrals. Here are nine questions to ask pet sitters before deciding whom to hire.

What type of service do you offer?

Individual pet sitters offer different types of services. Some will come and stay in your home. This is a great option if you prefer not to leave your pets alone overnight. Other sitters take pets into their homes. If this is the case, you want to know how many pets the sitter cares for at one time. You also want to know what vaccinations are required and if dogs are crated. Additionally, experts at Pet Sitters International (PSI) say you need to confirm that the sitter has the proper licenses and permits required for boarding pets. For sitters who visit your house a few times a day to care for your pets, you want to establish how many visits and for how long. You also want to confirm that your key will be kept safely in a lockbox and your security code will be protected.

Two women with dogs and a cat in a carrier.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Are you insured and bonded?

Reputable pet sitting companies who take their business seriously are insured and bonded. Experts at PSI recommend asking for proof of coverage. Pet sitters insurance covers a client’s pets and home while in the sitter’s care, so having it is extremely important. Bonding helps protect clients against losses from theft or damage done by a company’s employees or contractors. If you’re planning on using a pet sitting company with several staff members, you want to meet the sitter who will be caring for your pets.

Can you provide proof of a recent background check?

You will be placing your pets in the care of this professional, and depending on the type of service you choose, she may have access to your home. That makes it imperative that you confirm she doesn’t have a criminal record. While there may be regulations that prevent the sharing of background checks, especially for pet sitting staff, you can still ask for details on the type of background check and screening the company uses.

What are your pet care qualifications and experience?

Loving animals and growing up with pets doesn’t automatically make someone a good pet sitter. Ideally, the sitters you interview will be members of a professional organization such as PSI or the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS). Both organizations offer pet sitting certification and ongoing pet care training. At the very least, you want a sitter with pet first-aid training.

Can you describe a routine visit with my pet?

Depending on what type of pet you have, you want to know how your sitter will interact with the animal. Experts at NAPPS suggest asking a sitter to describe what she does on a routine pet visit. If your cats are friendly and seek out human affection, will she spend time engaging with them in between feeding and cleaning the litter box? If you’re leaving a dog in her care, will she be walking the dog? Is she willing to give belly rubs and back scratches if your pet enjoys that attention?

How do you deal with pet emergencies?

You want to know what hospital the pet sitter plans to use in case of an emergency. Also, what plans are in place for inclement weather? What if the sitter gets sick or can’t take care of your pets; does she have a professional who can take over from her? If yes, can you meet that person?

How will you communicate with me while I’m away?

Will your sitter send you updates after every visit? Some sitters text these updates, while others use pet sitting applications. Updates may include photos of pets playing, walking, or otherwise engaging with the sitter. These images can be so reassuring when you’re on the road and missing your beloved companion.

Do you use a pet-sitting services contract?

Reputable pet sitters ask clients to sign a contract outlining the details of the services that will be provided, including the dates, length of each visit, and the cost of those services. Typically, the contract will include a contact person in case of emergency, veterinary information, and specific care needs for individual pets in your household.

Man playing with a dog.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Can you provide me with client references?

Professional pet sitters will be happy to provide client references, which may include contact information to current clients or a link to verified online reviews of the pet sitting company and its services.

Interviewing pet sitters and reviewing references will give you a good sense of the best professionals in your area. In addition, pay attention to how your pets engage with each sitter. Does your dog seem to prefer male pet sitters over females, or maybe it’s the other way around? This can be challenging to observe with shy or nervous pets, but the friendly ones might just help you choose the best professional for the job.

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Vera Lawlor
Vera was the pet columnist for 201 Family magazine and has contributed pet and animal welfare articles to Bone-A-Fide Mutts…
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