You have the vacation of your dreams planned for this summer — but you know you will not have a good time unless you are confident that your pets are safe and happy while you are traveling.
If you will be using the services of a pet sitter, now is the time to begin your search. Just as if you were hiring a babysitter for your human children, you will need to interview that potential pet sitter to ensure that she provides you with the peace of mind you need to leave your pet in her care. Whether the sitter will help you with short stays or for a long vacation, here are 15 questions to ask your pet sitter during your initial meeting:
How long have you been a pet sitter? What kind of experience does this potential pet sitter have? If she has been sitting for a while, she will have references, which leads to our next question.
Can you provide references? Ask for three references, including a pet professional, such as a veterinarian. (Then contact them!) Have you ever taken care of a pet like mine? Some pet sitters specialize in particular types of pets; some will be much more comfortable with dogs than cats, for example. If your pet has any special needs, whether it is a shy dog or a cat that needs medication, determine if the sitter has experience in that area.
Do you belong to any professional organizations? The largest groups are the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPA) and Pet Sitters International (PSI).
Do you have pet sitter liability insurance? Be sure to clarify that the liability insurance covers your particular type of situation. For example, some insurance policies cover the sitter while in the client’s home but not their own home, if you are considering leaving your pet in the sitter’s home.
Are you bonded? A fidelity bond or dishonesty bond is primarily to cover theft in a client’s home and it functions like an insurance policy — the bonding company would cover the cost of the items stolen.
Do you have any pet first aid training? Many pet sitters have taken special first aid courses that specifically address the needs of pets. They will be better able to assist your pet in the event of an in-home emergency and assess whether it is a problem that needs to be handled by your veterinarian.
How do you handle pet emergencies? How has the sitter handled prior pet emergencies? Ask for an example of an emergency that has arisen with a pet in her care.
How do you handle personal emergencies? Problems happen — whether that is a sick pet sitter or a disabled auto. How has the sitter handled personal emergencies in the past? Does she have a fellow pet sitter she can call on in the case of an emergency?
How do you communicate with traveling clients? Some pet sitters are happy to snap a photo and email it to clients every day.
How many clients do you typically see in a day? Just how packed is your pet sitter’s day? If she has got clients stacked one after the other, she may be rushing through your pet’s visit. On the other hand, if she is doing a full-time job somewhere else and just taking on one or two clients, she may be worn out from her job by the time she gets to your home.
What do you typically do on a home visit with the pets? You will expect your sitter to feed and water your pets, but what other care or attention will she give during the stay?
How do you like to play with the pets? Find out how the sitter likes to interact with her furry clients — and see if the sitter is interested enough to ask how your pets like to play.
Can you tell me about your own pets? Part of hiring a pet sitter is just to act on your own gut feeling about her as a fellow pet lover. Find out more about her and her own pets. Does she light up when she talks about them?
How did you decide to become a pet sitter? Again, you will want to learn more about her as a person so you can make this important decision.
If possible, you should try to introduce the pet and the potential sitter, and assess the situation. Go with your gut… and your pet’s.