How To Hire The Right Pet Sitter

| August 9, 2012

It’s no secret that the economy is hurting and that many people are out of work because of it. Unfortunately, I’m seeing a trend in the growing number of people who decide that they are qualified to become “professional” pet sitters or “professional” dog walkers because it’s “fun,” they have pets and/or they “love” animals. That’s all it takes to be a “professional” pet sitter or dog walker, right?

Wrong. Personally, I would apply a lot of the same principles for hiring someone to care for my pets as I would finding someone to watch my children. But then again, my pets are just like my children to me, and in this article I’ll be speaking to like-minded individuals.

The first thing that most people consider when looking for a pet sitter is, unfortunately, price. Now, don’t get me wrong – I can appreciate and understand the fact that most people are working within a budget when looking to hire a pet sitter. My father always told me, “you get what you pay for.” This is certainly true when you are looking for a professional pet sitter.

As far as rates go, you can pay that college kid, next-door-neighbor or “cheap” pet sitter $10 per visit. But be prepared to be lucky if they show up on time, or at all. I can’t tell you how many horror stories I heard from clients who hired “discount” pet sitters, only to find out that their pets weren’t cared for as promised, and some that discovered their pets were not cared for at all. I recently read a story in the news about a poor family in Arizona who hired a “discount” pet sitter for overnight care of their three dogs. When they got home, two of their three dogs were dead in the back yard. The pet sitter had come over once, let the dogs out in the back yard and left them out so she wouldn’t have to stay overnight. A bobcat came into the yard and killed their poor pets. Turns out she was also a convicted felon, and was still on probation for theft! It’s important to realize that you aren’t just paying for a pet sitter, you are paying for safety, security and peace of mind. Can you place a price on your peace of mind?

On the flip side, watch out for pet sitters who want to nickel and dime you for every little service – like the ones who charge you $2 to rotate the blinds, $1 per pill they have to administer to your pet, $3 to take out the trash, etc. At Paws Pet Care, you are charged one price and receive full service. All the little extras are included at no charge to our clients, with no extra hidden charges and fees.

Also be wary of pet sitters that charge by time. At Paws Pet Care, we would rather concentrate on providing care to your pets than watch an egg-timer or stop-watch. Would I charge a client extra for time and a trip fee if something happened and their pet needed emergency care? No, and you shouldn’t settle for someone who would. You can expect us to make sure your pet gets to the vet, notify you of the situation and stay with them until you’re able to get there. A babysitter wouldn’t charge you extra to provide emergency care for your children, and we don’t think it should be any different for your pets. This is why, at Paws Pet Care, we only charge by the service. We believe in quality and not quantity.

Make sure you do your homework before you invite a stranger into your home, to work with your pets and to have access to your most precious possessions. There are several things that you should consider before you hire a professional pet sitter. Here’s a list of general recommendations from several websites, including NAPPS (National Association of Professional Pet Sitters), PetSitUSA and some of my very own, that you can print out and use when you are interviewing professional pet sitters.

  1. Do they answer or respond to your calls in a prompt manner?
  2. How long has this pet sitter been in business? Make sure they have been in business for at least two to three years, and plan on staying in business and servicing your area. That way, you don’t establish a trusting relationship with someone who is going to disappear.
  3. Are they licensed to do business in the state in which they are providing services?
  4. Are they accredited through the Better Business Bureau?
  5. Are they Pet CPR/First Aid Certified or do they have any other type of certifications?
  6. Are they properly insured and bonded (if they have employees)? Are they willing to show you their certificate of insurance?
  7. Do they offer to visit your home before the first assignment to meet you and your pet(s) so you can make sure that they are a good fit for you and your needs? We offer a free “Get Acquainted” visit to our clients, which lasts as long as the animal needs for us to be there in order to feel comfortable with us.
  8. If you do meet them, do they present themselves in a professional manner? I would never hire a pet sitter that didn’t give me their undivided attention at our “meet and greet” and who didn’t act interested in my pets or what I had to say about them.
  9. Do they provide a professional service contract, and go over and clearly explain specific services and their fees
  10. Are they available when you need them? Make sure that you check your pet sitter’s availability. Most people travel on holidays and weekends. Do they provide services during those times? What about peak times, like summer vacations? What times of the day do they provide services? Do they charge extra for early or late visits?
  11. Are they qualified? I suggest asking questions like: What would the sitter do if they arrived and couldn’t find the cat? What would the sitter do if there was a storm and they couldn’t get to the house right away? What if the pet was injured and required veterinary care?
  12. Do they have an emergency back-up plan? If your pet sitter has employees, what is the plan if one of their employees has a car accident on the way to care for your pet? What if their car breaks down, or a tree is in the roadway blocking their way? Does the owner have a follow-up method to make sure that their employee has actually provided care?
  13. Do they provide complimentary pictures or texts of your pet when they visit? Paws Pet Care does, at least once a day, so you know we’ve been with your pet.
  14. Do they confirm that you arrived home, or ask you to call or text them? At Paws Pet Care, we continue service until our clients call us and let them know they are home with their pet. Ask what kind of confirmation procedure he or she uses.
  15. Do they offer an online profile management system? How do they keep information about your pet updated? Do they offer any kind of online scheduling or bill-pay?
  16. If they offer a client profile management system, is it secure and confidential?
  17. What are their requirements regarding payment? Up front? Half before and half after?
  18. Do they have an active web presence (website) and social media presence? A website can speak volumes about how professional a company is. Also, check out their Facebook Fan Page, Twitter feed or other social media profiles to see what others are saying about them and to see what kind of posts they are making.
  19. Are they active in the community? Do they volunteer or work with other like-minded businesses? Do they write a column, teach a pet-related class? Network in the community?
  20. Are they willing to leave you feedback forms? We call them “Care-Notes” and leave them for every client, every time.

Have you ever hired a professional pet sitter? Beth would love to hear from you regarding your experiences. If you have never used a professional pet sitter but have questions about how one can benefit your family, feel free to give Paws Pet Care a call at 502.802.5052, email them at info@pawspetcareathome.com or visit their website at www.pawspetcareathome.com for more information. 

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Category: The Weekly Scoop

About the Author (Author Profile)

Beth Green is a Louisville native and owns Paws Pet Care, a local award-winning pet sitting and dog walking company. She is a self-proclaimed “animaniac”. On a typical day you may find her caring for her fur-clients, spending time with her husband and three children, reading, writing, shopping or her two boxer-babies – Maddie and Riley – walking her around the block.

Comments (3)

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  1. Sara Beavin says:

    Great information. Many pet parents are not aware of what is involved in hiring a top notch pet sitter for their fur (fin or feather) family members. Beth’s article provides the details that many overlook in making sure that their pets are properly cared for. Looks like lots more pets will be getting the care and pampering that they deserve.

  2. Great article! This is really good information with lots of questions every new client should ask!

  3. Meghan says:

    Great information. I think the most important thing is finding a pet sitting COMPANY – not just Suzy from the mailbox board – that takes time to vet the sitters. It’s about finding QUALITY people to come and care for your pets when you are unavailable.