Choosing a Pet Sitter

It is important to have a reliable pet sitter before you find yourself needing one in an emergency

Every year, two million people are affected by natural disasters or other emergencies. Many of these people are pet owners who do not know what to do with their animals when they suddenly need to seek shelter elsewhere. Finding a reliable pet sitter ahead of time can help ease the worry associated with a natural disaster. Additionally, it is important to keep copies of your pet’s medical records in a safe location, and be sure to include pet medications and food as part of a disaster preparedness kit.

Is your pet known to be a biter? Although some pet parents are reluctant to divulge this information, pet sitters need to know if you pet is prone to biting. Be open and honest with your pet sitter, and let him or her know if your pet is prone to biting strangers. You might wish to give the pet sitter time to adjust to your pet before you go out of town by scheduling one or more short visits in advance of your scheduled trip. Give your pet sitter plenty of your dog’s favorite dog treats to help him or her build a relationship with your pet. Try to work out a contingency plan, such as having a close friend of family member watch your dog, in the event that your dog refuses to get along with the chosen sitter.

Unfortunately, not all pet sitters are reliable; in fact, some are even abusive to animals. You can take steps before hiring a pet sitter to help you protect your furry friend from disaster.  For example, you may consider doing a criminal background check, asking for references, and checking with the local Humane Society to see if there have been any prior complaints against your proposed pet sitter. It is also a good idea to inspect the area where your dog will be staying, and to watch the pet sitter interact with other pets. Remember, you may have remedies under law if a pet sitter mistreats your pet, especially if it results in expensive veterinary bills.

People who own an exotic pet, such as an iguana or snake, may not want a pet sitter who primarily takes care of cats and dogs. Look for someone who is familiar with caring for the type of pet you  have, preferably someone who owns the same species themselves. Write down instructions for taking care of your exotic pet to make sure nothing is forgotten. You can request that the pet sitter takes care of your pet under your supervision prior to leaving the pet in his or her sole custody.

Does your pet have special needs? Some pet sitters are unwilling or unable to deal with pets that require special care for conditions such as epilepsy or diabetes. In this case, look for a vet tech or someone who has a degree in veterinary nursing to care for your pet in your absence. Having your pet examined by a veterinarian before your trip will help prevent potential emergencies that could be stressful for your beloved pet and to the pet sitter.

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