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Leaving Pets Behind: Choosing Pet Sitters

by | Mar 6, 2022 | Cat Behavior & Care, Dog Training & Care | 9 comments

When the holidays or business travel rolls around, pet sitters can be a big help when you plan vacations with or without your dog or cat. After delaying plans for over two years due to the virus, many of us now will travel to visit family and friends, have folks visit, or spend vacation time away from home. Time off from work and a change of routine offers humans much-needed stress relief. But the same is not always true for furry family members. That’s where pet sitters come in.

28th annual Professional Pet Sitters Week™ to be celebrated March 6-12

Pet Sitters International is highlighting the resiliency of pet sitters during this annual observance that recognizes the importance of professional pet-care services and the viability of pet sitting as a career.

Lying on red sofa young woman with cat and dalmatian dog

“Professional pet sitters and dog walkers’ businesses were significantly impacted by the pandemic, but they persevered, continuing to tailor their safety measures and their service offerings to meet the needs of their clients,” said PSI President Beth Stultz-Hairston. “We’re thrilled to see business rebounding for so many pet sitters across the globe and are happy to celebrate their dedication and highlight their value this Professional Pet Sitters Week.”

“It is also the perfect time to highlight the viability of professional pet sitting as a career,” said PSI Founder and CEO Patti Moran. “Professional pet sitting has long been a profitable and rewarding career option, and with 70 percent of U.S. households now owning a pet, the need for professional pet sitters will continue to grow.”

VACATIONING WITH & WITHOUT PETS

FCC noticeCats prefer staying in their home amid familiar surroundings. Some do well if left alone for a day or two when provided with adequate food and water, and extra litter boxes. That’s not appropriate for kittens, cats older than 10 years, or any cat with a health issue that needs attention, though.

No pet should be unsupervised for longer than a couple of days. Make arrangements to have a friend, a neighbor, or a professional pet sitter visit at least once a day to clean the toilet facilities, check food and water (and medicate, if needed), and perhaps play or cuddle with the cats.

Leaving dogs at home is also an option. But unless your dog is litter box trained (yes, it can be done!), people visits must be more frequent for potty breaks and meals. Some dogs eat four-days’-worth of food at one time if it’s all left out at once.

Beautiful cat exploring an old open suitcase on hardwood floor.

PICK A PET SITTER

Pet sitters are the ideal choice. You can search via professional organizations such as National Association of Professional Pet Sitters and Pet Sitters International or even Roverto find members in your area. You can also learn more and perhaps become a TrustedHousesitters Member! Whatever you chose, check out the pet sitter’s credentials, how long they’ve been in business, if they’re bonded/insured, what services they provide, and be specific about fees. Find out how much time the pet sitter spends on each visit—average is 30 minutes but for dog walking (especially multiple pets) or grooming/medicating it may take more time and require a higher cost.

Ask for references (and check them!) before you decide if the service or individual is a match for you and your pets. It’s also important to see if the candidate interacts well with your cats and dogs. Some pet sitters specialize in special needs animals. For instance, they may be able to medicate your diabetic cat or “pill” your reluctant dog.

PROVIDE INFORMATION

Be sure to leave caretakers with detailed information about each pet’s care needs, veterinary contact information, and emergency phone numbers to reach you. Leave your pets’ leash, medications and other “must haves” in an easy access area and show the pet sitter where to find them.

Alert the neighbors about the pet sitter or family friend coming and going from your home so they expect them in the neighborhood, and give the pet sitter your neighbor’s name and phone number. Talk with your veterinarian about signing a “just in case” authorization for medical care (you can designate the dollar amount). That way, emergency care is available and funded even if you are unavailable to give your okay in person.

PREP YOUR PETS!

Of course, you can’t ask your cats and dogs about what THEY want when you’re gone. So do your best to prepare them for the absence. A fractious or fearful pet may not accept even the most dedicated and friendly pet sitter. Gradual introductions are key, and it may be love at first sight (YAY!) or could take some time for especially shy felines to accept that stranger in the home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plan for your vacation or absence at least a couple of weeks in advance, especially for cats. Ask the pet sitter to meet with your pets to see how they get along. A savvy pet sitter knows what pets expect and won’t push the fur-kid past limits. For instance, they won’t force petting or close interaction when the dog or cat prefers distance. Over time, though, when the “stranger” visits several times and perhaps plays a favorite game or drops treats for the pet, a more positive association develops. You can find more detailed tips in my short quick tips guides, MY CAT HATES MY DATE as well as MY DOG HATES MY DATE.

Benefits of Planning Ahead

Preparing for your pets’ comfort during your vacations gives you peace of mind so you can enjoy your time free from worries. After all the joy they bring you throughout the year, don’t your cats and dogs deserve happy howl-adays, too?

So…do you contract with a pet sitter, or perhaps a neighbor or family member to care for pets when you’re gone? Or do you board the dog? How does that work for you? How many readers take the dog along for the trip–or even the kitty? What tips and tricks make the travel problem free? Please share!


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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

9 Comments

  1. Karyl Cunningham

    I had folks use me as a regular pet sitter. It was a lot easier on them knowing it was going to be the same person every time. It became a treat for the pets involved because I was that lady that gave them stuff they didn’t usually get (I was often instructed to dole out extra treats during my visit so they wouldn’t see it as a bad thing).

    A friend of the family had a doberman who tended to have… issues with the kennels. Ate her leash on multiple occasions (which frustrated said friend after the first round because she had left strict instructions to keep the leash WELL out of reach). So as a test run, my folks ran me over to her place, and she and my mom went out shopping for a bit, left me alone with the dog to make sure the pup trusted me enough to handle me being her keeper for a couple weeks at a stretch. It went well, so I became regular babysitter and housesitter. Packed up some clothes, friend stocked the pantry with all sorts of goodies (and LOTS of popcorn, which is great because the dog and I BOTH love popcorn), and stayed there a couple weeks. After that she always got excited when I came over. She missed her momma too, but I seemed to have gained Pretty Awesome status. I loved that dog. I really did. Still miss her… some of my most fun critter stories come out of my time watching her.

    Keeping in mind that this was when I weighed like 90lbs, and we’re dealing with a small horse (who, by the way, thought she was a lap dog – OOF!): one of the times I was sitting, the neighbors were having some roof work done. Well, to access their backyard, the roofers needed to back down “my” driveway, so a couple burly guys come knock on the door to ask permission. Now, every dobe I’ve known has had a very open-mouthed bark, even when it’s a happy bark, which shows quite a lot of teeth. The big marshmallow of a dog always got excited when someone was at the door, and I had to grab her by the collar to stop her from busting up the screen door. The roofers, not knowing this dobe was a big sissy, just kinda stared from the crazy giant barking dog, to the twig that was holding her back, and before they’d even gotten the question out they had started backing up. LOL Of course I’m standing there all calm, holding back this monster who would have quite viciously licked their faces had I not been there. 😉 At least I didn’t have to worry about intruders with her there. LOL She was all sad to see the people go though. She hadn’t even gotten to try and jump on them yet. Just no fair.

    There was also a moody cockatiel living there. As I understand it, he was quite friendly originally, when our friend was home full-time. But then she started teaching (how I met her, actually – she was my science teacher), and as much as cats hate change, birds HATE hate it. If their person is suddenly not there as often, they will apparently hold a freaking grudge for life. O.o ESPECIALLY cockatiels. They’re so very common, but I’ve been told they are one of the least friendly pet birds you can have, largely because of that whole unforgiveness factor. So the bird was just a total pain by the time I first met him, but I was told if I felt okay with it, I could let him out for a bit during the day (just if I had to put him back in the cage before he went on his own, to use a towel because he started biting after he got all ticked off at our friend). Now, there was a particular shriek he ALWAYS made when his owners came down the driveway, and that was the only time he ever made that noise. The dog had learned this. One day while he was climbing around the outside of his cage, he looked rather intently out the window, and started shrieking. I looked at him like he was nuts, because they weren’t due home for another week. The dog FLEW to the window, totally going crazy, and you could see her just totally deflate when she didn’t see any car. I swear to you, that bird looked pleased with himself, and as soon as he saw the dog get all disappointed, this sinister little “heh heh heh” came from the cage. Shame he didn’t have a black cape and a mustache to twirl when he did that. Little brat did that on purpose.

    As for my kitties, thankfully we have family very close by who can watch them. Of course, it’s usually me watching THEIR critters, since I don’t tend to get away much lately.

  2. amyshojai

    Karyl, love this story about the totally VICIOUS (hee-hee) doggy. Probably the bird would’ve beaked ’em worse. 🙂 For a while we had a spectacle Amazon parrot and she was not a people person…er, bird. She had the dog totally cowed. I need to dig up those pictures somewhere of this little green parrot backing the German shepherd across the room. He had beak scars on his nose, before he learned better. And Venus the parrot had a scream that would cut glass.

    Glad you were available for them. Remember that pets DO remember and if you choose the wrong pet sitter it can have side effects. When Seren was a kitten, we had a friend’s daughter care for her–and the daughter wasn’t mean, just didn’t know any better than to chase down/corner her to catch and return to her room. She wasn’t supposed to let her out…but did to play…and when we returned home our previously friendly-to-strangers kitten couldn’t stand strangers in her house. *sigh*

    • Karyl Cunningham

      Man, this is making me miss petsitting even more. I was kinda the go-to person once people started to figure out that animals just kinda glued themselves to me. LOL Just don’t have the time anymore… and I don’t really want to do the whole agency thing, because it’s just so much nicer to me to actually know the people you’re dealing with, because it makes things calmer for everyone involved.

  3. Angela Orlowski-Peart

    Two weeks ago we went to the Oregon coast for the weekend. This was the first time our kitty stayed home alone, without anyone coming to the house to check on him, play with him, change water, add food, clean the litter box etc. But we left him a lot of water and food, plus a fresh litter, and many toys to play with. He did really great on his own, but was happy when we returned from our mini vacation 🙂

    • amyshojai

      Angela, so glad he did well. When she was younger we left Seren overnight, too. At her age, though, now I’m leery to do that.

  4. Brenda

    We look out for our (dear rescue) cat’s relatives when their humans are gone. We had boarded him with his vet in the past but after his hunger strike when he was staying there due to his stone problem we aren’t much for being away from him at all. (Now we need an RV, hee-hee, designed for our furry dear.)

    I was disappointed that our vet’s digs for the furry ones mix dog noise and cats, hadn’t really realized it before. Our furry dear does NOT like to hear barking, will generally notify me of any unusual barking he hears which is a good thing to assure no loose dogs are endangering any neighborhood cats.

    I am tempted to start a cat sitting business in my area but our furry one does not approve of me petting non-relatives and has been known to be miffed at our petting relatives too. If I am gone longer than expected he sniffs me carefully to be sure I haven’t been up to extra-kitty petting.

    • amyshojai

      Brenda, our Magical-Dawg always checks us out, too, and actually seems a bit pleased to smell new furry friends on us. But Seren makes faces, as if to say, “You’ve been unfaithful!”

  5. Pam Darling

    We always have a house sitter as we have pets and plants to deal with Last summer the 21 year old daughter of a friend stayed at our house while we were out of town for about a week to care for our 4 cats and our standard poodle, Toby. She grew up with pets and we thought she would be a good find. One evening, while she was having dinner at a friends, there was a violent storm. She left Toby in the fenced back yard (which is what we told her to do when she was gone) and he must of freaked out because he broke a low window and when she returned he was inside the house very bloody. She called us and said she cleaned things up and we advised her about covering the hole. She said Toby was fine. But we found out she really wasn’t mature enough to handle the situation. Toby had some major lacerations on his leg when we returned the next day. I told her she could take him to our vet (and the vet knew) if there for ANYTHING, but she didn’t. Turns out she was afraid she would get in trouble! Next time I must be more careful to spell out some rules for the next house sitter.

    • amyshojai

      Oh Pam, that’s scary. How lucky that Toby ran INTO the house rather than getting lost out of the yard. Yes, it’s hard sometimes to judge in advance how people (or pets) will react during such situations.

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