Here’s a crazy statistic: Last year 98 million people traveled during the holidays. Given that Americans have 70 million dogs and 74.1 million cats, that’s a lot of pets that are going to be home alone this holiday season.
Sure, you’d love to bring Buddy and Whiskers with you, but travel plans don’t always allow for our furry family members to come with us on trips. If you’re going to have to leave your dog, cat, or critter behind, you want to know that they’re in really good hands, which means hiring a sitter you trust.
So how do you make sure you hire a really great sitter?
At Thumbtack we match thousands of pet owners with pet sitters each month. We talked to two of our top-rated and most successful pet sitters for advice on how to find the perfect sitter for you.
Jacqueline Rivera, owner of Pawfect Day, a dog walking and pet sitting company in New York City, as well as Sarah Longstreth, a certified veterinary assistant who started Critter Sitters in Southern California about the questions they recommend you ask when hiring someone to watch your pet whether it’s for a day, night, or week, and type of answers you should expect.
Are you bonded and insured?
Just because a sitter isn’t bonded and insured doesn’t mean he or she isn’t a good fit for your needs. Still, Jacqueline Rivera points out, “Life happens.” A dog may get hurt or a personal item in the home may be damaged and it’s good to know you’re covered in those situations. She says once you find out which company they are bonded and insured with, you can also go to that website and look them up just to verify everything checks out.
Are you affiliated with any professional pet sitting groups?
This isn’t something that’s absolutely necessary, but Rivera points out these types of groups (like Pet Sitters International and National Association of Professional Pet Sitters) offer continuing education and webinar courses so that pet sitters are constantly educating themselves on the latest care out there. Who knows? Your pet sitter may be able to teach you a thing or two!
Do you have references?
Sarah Longstreth says she’s actually had a few clients who didn’t bother asking for references, but she always has three on hand because she wants people to feel good about hiring her. Rivera points out that it’s really about knowing that other people have had good experiences with that person. Fun fact: Thumbtack has lots of verified customers reviews!)
Is there a service agreement?
“A service agreement shows a good level of professionalism,” Rivera says. She and Longstreth both agree that the form should cover any and all details that are important to the care of your pet, including: name, age, health concerns, history of aggression, vet information, feeding instructions, if your pet is up-to-date with his shots, emergency contact, and a place to write information about any medicine that will need to be administered.
What happens if you have an emergency? Do you have a backup?
It doesn’t happen often, but even sitters get sick or have accidents that keep them from doing their job. Longstreth says she’s sure to always give clients the name of her friend who will take over in case she falls ill because it’s important to have a plan in place should something occur.
What kind of updates can I expect?
Rivera says she knows people can be really nervous and anxious when leaving their pets alone. “Rightfully so,” she adds. “These are their babies.” Find out from your sitter what kind of updates you can expect. Will they send videos? Pictures? How often can you expect to receive those because even if you’re having the time of your life, you’re still going to want to know how your best friends at home are doing.
Are you comfortable giving medication?
Longstreth points out that if your pet needs meds, this is something that should be discussed up front and before you hire someone. Making sure that person is comfortable giving pills or injections and that they’re going to be at your home at the proper times.
Do you use GPS tracking?
More and more dog walkers are using tools that allow them to check in and out when they arrive at clients’ homes and give the customers a map of the walk and peace of mind that everything’s running smoothly.
Are you CPR certified?
“Emergencies occur,” says Rivera. “They’re not very often, but you want your pet sitter to be equipped to handle an emergency should one arise.”
Are you involved with the community?
A portion of Pawfect Day’s proceeds go to local animal rescues and Rivera says she thinks whether or not the sitter/company is involved with the community “says a lot about what they stand for.” Of course it’s not imperative, but it sure is nice to work with someone who loves animals as much as you do.
Bottom line: If you’re going somewhere for the holidays, don’t leave your pet home alone. Here’s how to find a great pet-sitter in your area.