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Top Ten Tips on Finding a Qualified and Professional Pet Sitter

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Who You Gonna Call?

By Yahaira Cespedes

You might want to take your non-human family member with you everywhere you go, but sometimes, that just isn’t possible. Finding a responsible, professional individual to take care of your pet may be a more preferable option than leaving them housed in a boarding facility. What about a pet sitter? Here are ten tips on finding a qualified and professional pet sitter to care for your pet.

#10 Ask Your Veterinarian

Any pet sitter worth their salt will have a support network. What better place to get a recommendation than your veterinarian? Especially for older and special needs pets, a pet sitter who has an established professional relationship with your pet’s doctor will provide you with peace of mind should there be a medical emergency.

#9 Word of Mouth

Let’s face it, anyone can look good on paper and even display impressive credentials selling their expertise at pet sitting. However a qualified pet sitter will come recommended by either a fellow pet parent or a trusted pet trainer who has experience leaving their non-human loved ones in said care.

#8 Compile a Questionnaire

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has a comprehensive list of qualifications you can use to screen potential pet sitters. Among the pertinent questions to include is: Can they provide written proof of commercial liability insurance coverage to cover accidents and negligence? Are they bonded to protect against theft by a pet sitter or  employees?

#7 Ask for References

A qualified and responsible pet sitter will have a list of both regular clients and pet care services that would be willing to vouch for their professionalism. When provided with references to speak with, be sure to ask questions that cater specifically to your expectations and your pet’s needs.

#6 Select a Certified Pet Sitter

As an alternative to personal recommendations, the HSUS suggests contacting two national agencies dedicated to training and certifying pet sitters: The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS), or Pet Sitters International (PSI). PSI even has a “Pet Sitter of the Year” award for excellence, which has been granted since 1995.

#5 Find a Pet Sitter Affiliated with a Reputable Boarding Facility

Although this list focuses on selecting qualified individuals, an established pet sitter will be able to provide a back up housing plan should they suddenly be rendered unable to care for your pet. A reputable boarding facility will have equally stringent standards for working with qualified pet sitters. After all, their reputation depends on their quality of care.

#4 Double-check the Contract

The prospective pet sitter will have complete access to your home and personal belongings, as well as being entrusted to care for your pet. Take special care when studying the contract to ensure that all the discussed and agreed-upon services have been included.

#3 Let Your Pet Give Them a Try-out

Even after you’ve selected a potential pet sitter who has met all of your criteria, there are equally important members of your family who have yet to approve them – your pets! A qualified pet sitter should agree to your request to have them visit your home so you can watch them interact with your pet. What better way to feel at ease than knowing your pets approve of your choice!

#2 Ask About Emergency Plans

Accidents and mishaps happen, and you’ll want to select a person who is experienced and resourceful enough to protect your pet as well as you would. For older and special needs pets, the potential sitter should document medication, feeding, and other health-related cycles. A comprehensive veterinary and/or partner pet sitter network should provide help if needed.

#1 Level of Service

Pet sitting is as varied as your needs may be. Some services may include grooming along with live-in care, while others may offer play time, outdoor exercise, and training. Some pet sitters may also combine their services with nutritional regimens such as weight loss. Once you and your pet have determined which is the best level of care, a bit of research will have you finding the best fit for your pet care needs in no time!

How Can You Tell if You Have a Bad Sitter?

Pet sitters are a great solution, but how do you know when the person you've hired does not have your pet’s best interests at heart? Read 5 Signs of a Bad Sitter so you'll know what to look for.


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  • I <3 my sitter!
    03/09/2012 04:00pm

    We use DogSmith and they are great!

  • Pet sitting
    03/08/2013 07:02pm

    I am a pet sitter. My specialty is dogs and horses, though I will also take care of cats, feed chickens, whatever else needs doing. I compete in Rally and Obedience with my dog and I trained and showed my own horses for years. As a pet sitter, I as a lot of questions. I want to know the animals' feeding schedules, exactly what they eat, who to call if they get sick, any odd habits they may have, any problems that may occur on the property. As a horse sitter, I have delt with broken water pipes, leaking sprinklers, gates off hinges, injuries, all sorts of things. You want a sitter that is aware and paying attention.

    I am also flexible. Last month I took care of three poodles for a week. Initially, we figured two visits a day, which would include one good, long walk either morning or evening. On the first day it was obvious that this would not be enough for the older dog, so I went a third time each day, late in the evening. The poodles were much happier with the extra visit and I was glad to know they were okay. (These are dogs I walk weekly, so I know them, and their owners, well.)

    It is also a good idea to look at the sitter's own pets. Are they healthy, well trained and happy? Finally, is there a back-up plan if the sitter gets sick? I, who NEVER get anything, was hit with a really nasty stomach virus on January first. When you are vomiting and passing out, it is pretty hard to drive out to care for a barn full of horses. Fortunately, my husband had gone with me in the past and knew the animals' routines. While I stayed home being cared for by my sheltie, my husband went and fed and cleaned up after three percherons and one very sweet great dane mix. I was on my feet by the next day but if I had not had a substitute it would have been bad.

    Caring for others' animals is a big responsibility but I love doing it!

  • Other suggestions
    03/04/2014 11:46pm

    I have owned a pet sitting company in Seattle for the past 13 years. Most of the suggestions in this article are excellent. I would even take it further and say not only to ask for references, but be sure to call them! Many people go on their gut instinct, and that is likely to be right, but I still urge people to call references and ask if they're still using the sitter, and if not, why not. I also ask if there is anything they would have liked done differently. That way, they don't have to bad-mouth their sitter, but you can get an idea if something important is being overlooked. In my experience, most pet sitters are good, responsible, ethical people, but for your peace of mind, better to be safe than sorry.

    I do warn against putting too much emphasis on the certification. I have been active on national pet sitting forums for all my years in business, and of the hundreds of pet sitters I've gotten to know, both locally and online, only a tiny fraction have taken a certification course. Life-long experience with a variety of pets, and a strong sense of responsibility and common sense are key to good pet care. I do recommend looking for sitters who are trained in pet first aid.

    The second recommendation here that I'd modify a little is #5 that suggests picking a sitter with an established relationship with a boarding facility. A solid back-up plan in general is the important thing to have. For example, I have a large network of pet sitters in Seattle whom I could call on for help if something happened to me. These are people I know and trust. I also require the name of a client's neighbor or nearby friend who has a key to the client's house and can step in if weather or natural disaster should prevent me from getting to the home. I have the client's vet and nearby emergency clinics mapped out. And I have a written procedure on where to find schedules, files, keys and their codes, etc., so that if I should die or be unconscious, my sister or friend who have the procedures could step in and avoid animals being left unattended.

  • SitYourPets
    11/23/2015 07:46pm

    There's a website wwww.sityourpets.com where you can find and book pet sitters in your area. It makes it easy to find a qualified, licensed, and insured pet sitter.
    Its also a good platform for professional pet sitters to use to get bookings for their services.