As a “Professional” Pet Sitter of over 15 years & considered an expert in my industry, there are a few things I tell pet owners to watch & be sure of when looking for somebody to care for your pets.
Unfortunately with the down turn in the economy over the years many unemployed people have decided to become pet sitters because they think it’s fun, they like animals & have pets of their own. Although their intentions are good these things do not qualify you as a pet sitter. There is a proper way to hold a leash & walk a dog. You have to know how to properly handle emergency situations & recognize medical issues. A number of situations and scenarios can occur while in a sitters care, and a properly trained pet sitter has the knowledge in how to best handle them.
- Make sure the pet sitter is Bonded & Insured!!
- Make sure they have been in business at least 2-3 years & plan on continuing to service your area. This way you know they are established won’t up & quit on you. Most pet sitters quit within the first 2 years!
- Get 3-4 references – call them & ask every question you can think of from pet owner to pet owner.
As for rates – you tend to get what you pay for! If you get a college kid or somebody just starting out for $10/visit you’ll be lucky if they show up, and know how to properly care for your pet. However, like myself I charge $20/30 min visit. Yes I admit it’s on the higher side. But look at my experience & creditials! I’m got 15 years experience, I’m Bonded & Insured, I’m a certified veterinary assistance specialized in cardiology, internal & emergency medicine, certified in pet CPR & First aid. I’m accredited by the Better Business Bureau & the American Pet Association. And the list goes on. From what I have seen the average for a professional pet sitter based on experience & knowledge is $15-$20/20-30 minute visit. Watch out for the pet sitters who nickel & dime you. The one that charge $2 to open the drapes, $3 per additional pet, $1 to administer medication, $ per mile etc. The only things I charge extra for are subcutaneous fluids, hand feeding birds & special meal preparation (cooking). The tasks that take additonal time to administer & set up. The way I see it is, if I am already being paid to be there for 30 minutes & I can get the requested additional small tasks like watering plants, taking out the garbage, giving a pill, or insulin shot done in that time – why am I gonna charge extra for it? I charge additional for each additional dog over 2 of them. It’s not easy taking care of & walking 3 or more dogs. Cats I normally don’t charge extra for because they are so self sufficient & easy to care for.
Attached are some other recommendations for what to look for in a professional pet sitter.
Pet owners should consider the following list of items when searching for a professional pet sitter to care for their pets and home in their absence.
General business issues
- The pet sitter visits the client’s home before the first pet sitting assignment to meet the pets and get detailed information about their care.
- The pet sitter presents himself or herself in a professional manner. He or she should give you his or her undivided attention, be courteous, interested and well informed.
- Pet sitter conducts business with honesty and integrity and observes all federal, state and local laws pertaining to business operations and animal care.
- Your pet sitter should have liability insurance, and if the pet sitting company employs pet sitters, bonding may be necessary as well.
- Does the pet sitter have a business license, if it’s required? Please note there is no occupational license for pet sitters, however, a business license may be required to own and operate a business in your locale.
- The pet sitter provides a service contract, and goes over specific services and their associated fees.
Issues specifically related to your pets and pet sitting visits
- Observe your pets’ reactions to the pet sitter. They need to be comfortable with whoever comes into your home to care for them.
- Does pet sitter seem genuinely interested in learning as much as possible about your pets? This includes health issues, temperament, eating habits, exercise, etc.
- Does the pet sitter have a back-up plan? This is essential in case the pet sitter becomes ill, injured, or in any way incapacitated and unable to care for your pets.
- Does the pet sitter have a contingency plan for pet care in case of inclement weather or natural disaster?
- In case your pet has a health emergency, does the pet sitter have a list of emergency veterinarians in case yours is unavailable?
- Is the pet sitter knowledgeable about general pet issues, pet first aid, and current concerns (i.e. pet food recalls)?
- Does the pet sitter have experience caring for the types of pets you have?
- Will the sitter be taking another pet sitter, friends, or children or their own pets to visits? Regardless of whether you do
Other important issues
- Pet sitter keeps regular office hours and answers clients’ inquiries promptly.
- What is the pet sitter’s general availability? Do they work on holidays? Weekends? All year around?
- How long has the pet sitter been in business?
- Ask the pet sitter some pointed questions to determine their experience: 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?
- Some pet sitters ask clients to confirm their trip prior to leaving and again when they return home. Ask your pet sitter what, if any, confirmation procedure he or she uses.
- The pet sitter keeps interactions with clients confidential.
- Pet sitter should be able to provide at least three local references.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau and the state Attorney General’s office to make sure there haven’t been any complaints filed.
The following are not essential, but may indicate a higher dedication to excellence
- Does the pet sitter volunteer for any pet related groups?
- Is the pet sitter a member of any industry trade groups or networking groups?
- Is the pet sitter involved in any public education, does he or she write a column for a local pet magazine, teach pet related classes?
- The pet sitter provides the client with a service feedback form
The above list was compiled with input from professional pet sitters who are also PetsitUSA.com business members. Many of them have been in business for a number of years and are recognized as experts in their local communities, and beyond. Additionally, for these pet care professionals, pet sitting is not simply a job, but more of a way of life. And as such, a common goal shared by all is upholding and improving the standards of the industry by educating pet owners.