Pet Sitter Etiquette


Hiring a pet sitter is a given in our busy world.  As devoted as you are to your pet, leaving them overnight will be necessary at some point.  Are you prepared?

Finding the Right Person

Some occasions may lend themselves to what I call a “built-in pet sitter”.  This is a trusted close friend or family member who knows you, your pet, and your home well enough to easily step in and take care of things while you’re away.

But when an angel such as this isn’t available, who will you turn to?  Finding the right person can be a challenge.  I recommend starting with a list of what you will need from the person you hire.

  • Do you want them to stay in your home, or are daily visits sufficient?
  • Will they be needed for household tasks or only for caring for your pet?
  • What skills will they need in order to care for your pet?  If your pet has special needs or requires medications, this is a big consideration.
  • What is your budget for paying this person?

Listing your answers to the above questions will give you a good starting point when you begin searching for the right person to look after your pet, and possibly your home.

Getting to Know You

Meeting the person who will be visiting your home and caring for your pet (or pets) while you are not present is absolutely necessary. So is getting to know them – at least a little.

On the other side of the coin, it’s also necessary for you, the pet sitter, to get to know your client.  Will this be a person or family and pets that you will enjoy working with?

A preliminary phone conversation will reveal whether or not you have a good feeling about this potential relationship.  Do you find their voice, demeanor, and phone etiquette satisfactory? Are you comfortable speaking with them?  You can tell a lot about a person from a phone conversation.

Once they pass the phone conversation evaluation, it’s time to meet in person.  Both parties should make it clear that the meeting is for consideration purposes only. And make sure that your meeting includes the following:

  • A proper introduction to the animals that will be cared for.  The caregiver should see them up close (cats are terrific at hiding) and should be given the pets’ names.  
  • Observation of interactions.  Does the pet seem comfortable with this new person?  Does the comfort level improve as the visit goes on?  
  • Assessment of skills.  Does the pet sitter indicate in conversation that they have certain care methods and techniques that will be compatible with your pet?  Find an opportunity to see this in action by making your meeting time in line with feeding or medication time and ask your potential care giver to help with the task to see how your pet responds.  You might also take your dog for a walk as you interview the person, letting them take the lead to help assess compatibility with your dog.
  • A tour of the home.  Show the person who will care for your pet where food and water dishes, food, medications, treats, toys, etc. are kept and how they are given.  If they will be staying full-time while you are away, show them the sleeping arrangements, bathroom, and what is off limits.
  • Don’t skip the details.  Even though this is a preliminary meeting, if detailed questions arise, don’t put off answering them.  If your care giver isn’t allowed to park her car in the driveway, go ahead and tell her.  If you are curious about how often the litterbox should be cleaned, go ahead and ask.  Details from either the client or the care giver can only be helpful.

Once you’ve met and consider moving forward with a good working relationship, it’s time to dig a little deeper.  Both parties should find out more about each other.  References and mutual acquaintances should be called.  And a scroll through social media accounts may reveal more as well.

A Great Pet Sitter

So, you’ve found a pet sitter you like and trust.  Or you’ve found a client whose pets you look forward to spending time with. Ensure everything goes smoothly with these tips.

For the Pet Parent:

  • Before the day of arrival, provide a key, code, and any other entry instructions, including alternatives – just in case.
  • Make sure your care giver has the name of your vet and the name of an emergency veterinarian clinic.
  • Write down food quantities, feeding times, and medication times.  Especially if you have multiple pets, it’s important to also label food containers and medications.
  • Leave the names of neighbors, friends, or back-up pet sitters in case they are needed.
  • Provide all available forms of contact for yourself while you are away.

For the Pet Sitter:

  • Communicate!  Let the pet parent know when you leave and arrive, or if you are staying in the home, what your daily schedule looks like.  Have all questions regarding the pets and the home answered before your client leaves.
  • Keep the home tidy.  Even if cleaning isn’t on your task list, ensure that your client comes home to a neat and clean place.  Or at least as neat and clean as it was when they left it.
  • Send pictures.  Sending the pet parent pictures of a happy, well cared-for pet will give them comfort.  However, do not post these pictures on your social media without the pet parent’s permission.
  • Follow safety rules.  Make sure all food and cleaning supplies toxic to pets are put away appropriately, lock doors and windows, set alarms as directed, etc.
  • Leave a daily log of events.  A written log of events, food consumption, medication reactions, behavior issues, and even cute anecdotes, will be helpful for pet parents.

Keeping pets and humans happy is a big job.  But when you show care and attention to both, you can consider it a job well done!

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