Thursday, December 27, 2018

Hiring a Pet Sitter is Good for Your Cat - and You!

Now that the holidays are over, many people may be planning a winter getaway to warmer climates and white sandy beaches to combat the winter blues. But what about your furry family members that will not be traveling with you? The belief that cats can spend several days (or longer!) safely by themselves is a misconception. Hiring a pet sitter is a safe alternative that is beneficial for both your cat and you.


Benefits of Using a Pet Sitter


There are benefits to both you and your cat when using a sitter. Our pets are our family, and making sure they’re comfortable in our absence makes us more relaxed.


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Benefits for Your Cat


It's definitely better for your cat to be visited by a sitter as opposed to being left alone or boarded. Many benefits include: 
  • Since cats are creatures of habit and routine, they feel more relaxed in their own environment.
  • They will receive personalized care which includes play time with their favorite toys.
  • The distress of going to an unfamiliar environment is eliminated.
  • They are not confined to a cage or a kennel.
  • They will not be exposed to illnesses.
  • Their meals are served in their usual places in their favorite dishes.
  • There is minimal disruption to their daily routines.
  • They have continued access to their favorite napping spots and windows to watch the outside world. 

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Benefits for You


There are also perks for you when you use a sitter: Just some of them are:
  • Peace of mind! 
  • All the necessary items your cat will need are right at home. You don’t have to worry about forgetting something. 
  • Having someone come into your house offers an added level of security. The mail can be brought in, lights can be rotated to give the appearance that someone is at home, and plants can be watered.
  • You can be assured that your cat’s medical needs (special diet, medications, etc.) are carried out appropriately. 
  • You'll be sure to receive regular updates. 
  • Your sitter will have a back up in case of emergencies. 
  • Less guilt! (I feel so much better knowing that Lola and Lexy can remain in our home with all of their favorite things when I’m away.) 


Where Do You Find a Pet Sitter? 


I adopted Lola from Leslie Kaufman, who rescued her from the city shelter. Leslie just happens to be the owner of the best cat sitting business in New York City, On All Fours Cat Sitting. Before I met Leslie I boarded Lexy a few times, but it was not ideal for either of us. I worried about her constantly, and Lexy gets very stressed when she’s not in her familiar environment. After one boarding visit I questioned whether or not she was fed all of her food, which greatly upset me. Needless to say, Leslie was a godsend to all of us. 

I realize not everyone has a responsible pet sitter just fall into their laps. Finding a sitter you can trust to take good care of your cat can be trying and isn’t something anyone should take lightly. So where do you find a responsible and professional sitter? 

  • Ask your vet: A reputable pet sitter will have a support network. (I found my vet through Leslie.) A sitter who has a professional relationship with your vet offers peace of mind should your cat have a medical emergency. 
  • Word of mouth: Ask other pet parents who their sitter is. A good recommendation from someone you trust can give you the confidence to hire the same sitter. 
  • Use national professional pet sitting organizations: Pet Sitters International and National Association of Professional Pet Sitters both have pet sitter locators. PSI has a “Pet Sitter of the Year” award that recognizes excellence in the industry. 


pet sitting|pet sitters international


Why You Should Use a Professional Pet Sitter


It may be very tempting to have the kid next door come over and check on your cats while you’re away. Or maybe the nice, elderly woman down the street could use a few extra dollars and you think you could help each other out. The benefits of using a professional sitter outweigh having a friend or neighbor do the job. Here’s why: 
  • Professional sitters have made an investment in their business and their clients. Their priority is you and your pets.
  • They have experience in administering medications.
  • They have backups in case of car trouble, illness, etc.
  • They can tell if your pet needs medical attention.
  • They are insured and bonded. 


Interviewing Your Pet Sitter


After locating your pet sitter, the next step is the interview. Below is a list of questions you can consider asking, in no particular order: 
  • What do you love about being a pet sitter?
  • How long have you been pet sitting?
  • How do you handle medical emergencies? Are you able to get my cat to the vet?
  • Can you provide references?
  • Are you bonded and insured?
  • Do you belong to professional pet sitting organizations?
  • What services do you provide and what are your fees?
  • Will you play with my cat?
  • If my return trip home is delayed for any reason, can you continue to care for my cat until I get home?
  • Will you send me updates? 

The list could be exhaustive, so choose what’s important to you. (Just be sure to have you questions prepared ahead of time.) Below is a short video from Dr. Marty Becker on his top five questions to ask a pet sitter.






Being bonded and insured is a very important factor that needs to be considered. A conscientious sitter will ensure they maintain liability and bonding insurance to cover damage to your property or pet due to accidents or their negligence.  

Receiving updates is very important to me, and I need my sitter to be willing to send them daly. I am a doting cat mom, and I need to know that my girls are doing well in my absence. I have to admit, the updates I receive from my sitters when I’m away at a conference make some other cat parents jealous. I get daily texts letting me know they are there, and updates on the girls' status. And I get the best photos! 



pet sitting|pet sitters international

pet sitting|pet sitters international


It really helps to put me at ease and I worry just a little less.

During the interview process, Leslie and/or her staff review every aspect of care with the client so the sitter is familiar with all of the important details. Making the client's cat as comfortable as possible while they are away is of utmost importance. Leslie and her team like to learn where your cat prefers to eat their meals (as well as how much food is to be given), what their favorite toys are, where they like to be touched and petted, whether they like to be brushed, and any other important information you think they need. 



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They also ask detailed questions about the disposition of your cat to ensure that they know how to best interact with them. Is your cat shy? Or are they territorial? Gathering as much information as they can before you leave helps make sure your cat is happy. 


Introducing Your Cat to the Sitter


Not only do you have to be comfortable with the person you are leaving in charge of your cats’ well-being, but your favorite feline must be as well. Don’t forget that they are an important part of the interview process, too! Your sitter should provide a “Meet and Greet” with the staff that will actually be providing the care so that they and your cats can become familiar with each other. 

Lexy is always the star of the Meet and Greets and loves greeting people at the door. Her paw stamp of approval of a visitor is rolling over and showing them her belly. Lola, on the other hand, may need some reassurance and coaxing to show her playful side. That’s when I bring out the treats and her favorite toy and have the sitter interact with her. 


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Making the Pet Sitting Experience Successful


Leslie (who has been in business since 1998), shared some tips with me on how to make the sitting experience successful for you and your cat.

  • Make sure you are forthcoming regarding your cats’ personalities, their likes and dislikes, whether they are quick to become overstimulated, and where they like or don’t like to be touched (which is so important!) There is no need to make the cat feel uncomfortable from the onset if not necessary!
  • If you make any changes to care details in between the initial meeting and first visit, let your sitter know! This includes changing the location of the litterboxes, food amounts, etc.
  • Please make sure to let the sitter know how they can be in touch with you if need be. Do you have access to calls or texts? Emails?
  • Inform your sitter when you are leaving and returning so visits can be timed accordingly. (On All Fours Cat Sitting tries not to leave cats alone for more than 24 hours.)
  • If you are expecting anyone else in your home during your absence, let the sitter know so they can be prepared.

pet sitting|pet sitters international

I leave a detailed list for the sitter no matter how many times they've been there. Things such as food preferences, diets, favorite toys, and medications change from time to time. (As well as hiding places!) I also leave enough food out on the counter, as well as paper towels and cleaning supplies in case they are needed. (And I don't forget to leave the treats out! The girls are definitely spoiled when I'm away.) Included in the list are my travel itinerary and updated emergency contacts. I also make sure the carriers are left out with a clear note that Lola must go in the hard carrier in the event they have to leave the house.

Deciding to use a pet sitter was one of the best decisions I've made. Lola and Lexy are well taken care of and happy, which makes my trips more enjoyable. It's a win-win for all for all of us.

I’d like to extend many thanks to Leslie for contributing her thoughts and expertise to this article. I am so blessed to have sitters who treat my cats like their own, and who understand my need to know that they are okay. Lola and Lexy get the best care when I’m away and love their time with their sitter. It really enables me to enjoy my time away from home.


Do you use a pet sitter? Tell us about them.


Dawn

These great photos are courtesy of Dawn G! Thanks for everything, Dawn! 









26 comments:

  1. Good info! We've never had a sitter, but all da humans here have never been gone at once either.

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  2. We are so lucky that we found a good pet sitter after ours moved to Phoenix! Now we have a backup too.

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  3. Great information, and great advice ! Purrs

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  4. Very true advice! I love my pet sitter and so do the cats!

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  5. Since The Hubby won't leave the house, I have a permanent cat sitter...LOL!
    Good post!

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  6. We've had a hard time finding a good pet sitter. Given that we all have health issues, it's hard to find one that can give meds and take proper care of us.

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  7. Great posty. We're glad ya'll are all happy with a sitter. Fankfully where mommy goes, we go, so no need fur sitters here. We're far to spoiled to be left alone fur more than a few hours at a time. Big hugs

    Luv ya'

    Dezi and Raena

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  8. We've never had a sitter but that was darn good info, so much to think about!

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  9. You are very fortunate to have such a trustworthy and kind pet sitter. Having a trusted pet sitter is of great worth! Now, I bring Pierrot to stay at with my parents, which he loves, and unfortunately, Annie has to be boarded. Her bathroom situation makes it impossible to have a sitter or to be able to leave her at my parents'. Also, she gets so scared that I'm afraid she would find too good of a hiding space at my parents'. The boarding where we go is cat only (it's at our vet's), but I know she's unhappy the whole time she's there and I hate that. If I ever go back to hiring a sitter, I'll remember to refer to this post. You definitely covered all bases and then some!

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  10. It is possible that I shall either have to board Austin out or get a pet sitter this coming June. It will be the first time in 11 years!! A great article to ponder over. Happy New Year! :-)

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  11. Great article, Dawn! Wonderful advice - purrs from Deb and the Zee/Zoey gang and we also hope you had a great Christmas!

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  12. Dawn, this is a perfect all encompassing article. I had that great fortune for a long time. Then, my pro sitter retired and I had to scramble to find someone. I wound up with a tech at her Vet's office who handled her better than others. She agreed to sit. I was always happy with all of the things you noted about a pro sitter. Now I have the visits, and presumably some play and certainly food, but no updates any more though I ask, and no licensing and bonding nor insurance of course, on her part. She is a tech doing this part time. the problem of finding one as I used to have is impossible. Yours was the best article yet on how important it is and what to look for.

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  13. Great advice!! I don't understand how people go away for a few days and think their cat(s) will be fine alone. I always had a pet sitter for mine, even if I was gone just one night. Litter boxes need to be cleaned, Water bowls topped up, I don't believe in filling bowls with dried food and leaving them. I am very particular about who I would allow to care for my animals, and of course let into my home so I always had them come over to meet me. It was also important for me to see how they reacted with my cats. When looking for a sitter I would start off asking at my vet because they often have staff members who do pet sitting. Recommendations are definitely helpful but I never hire someone based solely on that. I'm sure this article will encourage cat parents to find someone to care for them when they're away, and help them choose the best sitter they can find.

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  14. Great post! I don't have any cats, but I feel like a lot of this applies to other types of pets too. I sometimes wish I could get away for a few days. One of my dogs in particular wouldn't do well with a pet sitter, so we just find ways to go on adventures that we can involve our dogs in.

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  15. Great post and I so agree! While I have Huskies and not cats, I do use a sitter in my own home. My FiveSibes have a "godmother" who loves to come and spend time with them. I rarely leave home, but on the few occasions, it's just wonderful and such a peace of mind for me to know they are safe and happy and at home. <3

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  16. Great post and it is important to check all aspects before leaving your pet with someone you can trust totally including in your house. I would not do it any other way for Layla as I would not be relaxed being away from her.

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  17. Great post, Dawn! While we've never used a professional pet sitter, we do have a friend stay with the cats (someone who adopted one of our fosters!). The cats have never spent a night alone and I'm glad to have a trustworthy cat sitter. Definitely makes leaving them easier.

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  18. Thankfully my young adult offspring (I said kids but that looks wrong - my kids are in their 20s) fill in for me when I take Plush on the road. If we ever all went somewhere I’d trade favors with another sitter but so far there hasn’t been a need. Your list of questions is good. From a sitters point of view - be honest and don’t change things up - I got to a client’s house once to discover her uncle who I have never met was there. Ummmm no. I was ready to call the cops!

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  19. Having a pet sitter is a fantastic thing. Finding the right one can be sometimes tricky.

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  20. I'm very fortunate to have family members who are close enough to help out with our pets if we take a vacation. We usually take our dogs to one sister's house and another sister came over and took care of the small pets and our cat. However, if the time comes that I have to hire a sitter, I'll take all of things into consideration.

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  21. Great article, Dawn! We use a pet sitter, too. She's wonderful, and Gracie loves when she comes over. Ava, who is more shy, is not sure about her yet, but she's starting to warm up to her. MOL

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  22. We hope you have a wonderful New Year - full with love, peace, and happiness.
    We'd hop at the chance to spend time with you, Lola!

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  23. Great information! We have a pet sitter. There are some areas I feel she could be better, but at least she has the experience and qualifications. I don't think Truffle is going to like anyone but me.

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  24. Legitimate, bonded and insured pet sitters are the way to go, they know signs of an emergency and many know first aid and CPR. Great post!

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