5 Signs of a Bad Pet Sitter

PetMD Editorial
Updated: October 15, 2020
Published: March 07, 2013
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Avoiding the 'Black Sheep'

Naturally we all want the best care possible for our pets, especially if we're away for days at a time. Pet sitters are a great solution, but how do you know if you've hired someone who has your pet’s best interests at heart? Here are some clues to pay particular attention to upon your return. While some of these tips seem obvious, overlooking them can lead to insufficient care going on longer than it should.


Portions excerpted from a Pet360 article by Valerie Trumps

Image: WilleeCole / Shutterstock

1. Disorderly Feeding Area

What is the condition of your pet’s water bowl? Is it dirty, or worse, completely dried up? Even if the water bowl has run dry from an accident like your pet knocking it over, an attentive sitter should be checking the water level daily at a minimum, and twice a day if the weather is especially hot.


And don't forget the food bowl. Are there bugs in it? Has dry food gotten wet and left to putrefy, or canned food gone crusty on the plate? A pet sitter who can’t stay on top of the minimal is someone who should be shown the door.

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2. Evidence of 'Accidents'

Do you see or smell any evidence of “accidents?” Not so obvious indications that your dog was taken out too late can include a scratched up door, suspicious carpet stains, or a lingering odor. On an extended basis, your dog can develop bladder infections from trying to hold his urine for too long, and possibly even behavioral issues regarding his potty practices. If you are a cat owner, does the litter box show signs of neglect? Too infrequent or inadequate cleanings may cause your kitty to seek out other places to relieve himself, or refuse to use his box at all.

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3. Lack of Respect for Your Property

Is your once-full refrigerator now bare? Do you smell cigarette smoke? Are your items moved around, or do they show signs of tampering? Is anything, especially valuables, missing? Have your neighbors reported unacceptable behavior, such as strangers being admitted into your home? Even if your pet sitter is providing overnight visits, appropriate behavior includes respect for your property. A pet sitter who does not inherently know these things should not have the responsibility of caring for your pet.

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4. Unexplained Injuries

While occasional injuries to outdoor pets are not that unusual, a sudden or unexplained injury may be a cause for alarm. Signs to look for include a limp, cuts, bleeding, swelling of the limbs or around the face, and a general malaise.

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5. Fearful or Hostile Pet

Another indication of potential abuse is when your pet is afraid of the sitter. Uncharacteristic hostility and aggression towards the person means it’s time to find another pet sitter.

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What to Do with Bad Pet Sitters

Making the decision to dismiss your pet sitter can be awkward and difficult, especially if your reason for doing so is nothing more than a sneaking suspicion. Regardless of whether the cause for dismissal is obvious or imagined, your pet’s health and well-being are dependent on your good judgment. Neglecting to take necessary action can have a far-reaching impact on both your psyche (i.e., guilt) and on the happiness and security of your pet.

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What's the Best Way to Find a Great Sitter?

Now that you know what to look for in a bad sitter you may have to start looking for a new one. You don't want to end up with another bad apple. Read our list of Top 10 Tips on Finding a Qualified and Professional Pet Sitter so that you'll be well-prepared to ask all the right questions.

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