Thursday, August 27, 2009
By Julia Williams
In my last post, I explained the benefits of hiring a professional pet sitter to care for your dog or cat while you’re away, as well as how to find a reputable one and conduct a phone interview. The process of hiring a pet sitter is not overly complicated, but should not be taken lightly. After all, you’ll be entrusting them to take good care of your faithful four-legged friend, and you need to be sure you’re choosing the right person.
With that in mind, the next step in the process is to invite a prospective pet sitter to meet you and your animal in your own home. An in-person meeting will help you decide if this is someone you want to care for your pet. They may sound great over the phone and look good “on paper,” but first impressions are equally important. Notice how they’re dressed, how they carry themselves, and how they interact with you as well as your pet. Does your pet seem to like them and feel comfortable in their presence? Do you feel at ease when talking with them?
It’s imperative at this stage of the hiring process to trust your instincts. If anything about the person makes you or your pet uncomfortable or wary, then do not hire them, because that “gut feeling” is never wrong!
Trade important information
Besides helping you decide if you want to hire a potential pet sitter, the in-home interview also helps them know if they can handle your pets and their specific needs. Be sure to tell the pet sitter everything they might encounter when caring for your pet, such as medications, conditions, dietary concerns, feeding and walking schedules, behavior issues, and any other pertinent information.
A professional pet sitter will likely have a written contract spelling out their services and fees. Before you sign, read it over carefully, and ask any questions you may have. Make sure you understand their rate, how many visits they will make, and what will happen in case of an emergency with your pet. Give them your cell phone number, and/or a number where you can be reached while away. Provide your vet’s name, address and phone number, and consider signing a form which lets your vet know that the sitter is authorized to seek care for your pet. You may also want to give them the phone number of a nearby friend or family member who could help them in an emergency.
If the interview goes well and you’re satisfied that the sitter will take good care of your pet, you may want to start by hiring them for just a day or two first rather than for a week or longer.
Even the most experienced and reliable pet sitter could run into problems if you haven't properly prepared for your absence. Be sure your pet has current identification tags and vaccinations. Stock up on their regular pet food and other supplies, and buy extra just in case your return is delayed. Leave everything in one place, where the pet sitter can find it easily. Give your spare key and the sitter’s phone number to someone you trust as a backup; also give their phone number to the pet sitter. Make sure the pet sitter understands your home's safety features, such as the circuit breaker and alarm system.
Leave Detailed Instructions
During the in-home interview, you should go over the care of your pet verbally, and ask your pet sitter if they have any questions. They will probably take notes as you go over your instructions. However, it’s still a good idea to leave them a detailed written list they can refer to, in case their notes are incomplete or get misplaced.
Write down everything the pet sitter will need to know about your dog or cat — including their likes and dislikes, medications and conditions, habits, fears, and anything else you think may help them when caring for your pet. You may also want to prepare a daily checklist of tasks the pet sitter can use during each visit. This is particularly helpful if medications, special food or specific exercise routines are involved. Post your instructions on the fridge, or leave them with your pet’s food and supplies.
Remember to bring your pet sitter's phone number in case your plans change, or you want to find out how your pet and his temporary caretaker are getting along. Some of these suggestions may seem like overkill to you, but honestly, it’s much better to prepare for anything and everything rather than deal with it on the fly. And when you feel confident that your beloved pet is in the care of a capable pet sitter, your vacation will be all the more enjoyable!
Read more articles by Julia Williams