Large black cat stretched out on sofa arm rest , paws hanging on either side like monorail cat

Finding a good cat petsitter (or pet sitter) is not easy whether at home or traveling with cats. Check out this tips and resources!

Finding a good petsitter (or pet sitter) is not always easy, but is often the best choice for the comfort and safety of our cats. Not only do many cats not like traveling, a pet sitter is necessary when you have concerns like heat, cold, or illness. Here are some tips and ideas on finding a cat sitter, whether at home or traveling with cats. Once upon a time I had the World’s Greatest Pet sitter. Her name was Ute. I could depend upon her to show up (no small accomplishment with other pet sitters). I could depend upon her to use her common sense to handle anything that came up while I was away — like a broken city water connection turning my front yard and road into a lake! Ute wasn’t cheap but every cat owner I knew panicked when she retired (to the far more lucrative career as a nurse). We all began testing and sharing our experiences with other pet sitters. And we came to a swift conclusion. The number one thing you want in a pet sitter (or petsitter) is dependability! The next is reliability. There was the pet sitter who didn’t clean up the cat barf on the oriental rug — for a week. The one who noted when she came for the rest of her pay that “a cat had knocked over some plants on Friday.” I knew this because she didn’t bother to pick them up, let alone clean up and the dirt had become an unplanned litter box. (And the plants were thoroughly dead.) There was the pet sitter who took the gig, then called the night before I was to leave saying she thought the gig too far and wanted another $100 to crash at my house. Or the one who never cleaned the litter boxes, informing me when I complained that I hadn’t told her to clean litter boxes. (Actually, I was uncertain whether she’d even visited the house that week since my programmable dry food feeder was nearly empty.) This is why the best pet sitter may be another cat owner who will swap sitting duties with you. (Though a little gift card for coffee or a nice meal left with a Thank You note would not be amiss.) No, we never found another Ute, but we did discover the best ways to find a good petsitter. (If you find a great petsitter, shower her or him with bonuses, gifts, praise. Make certain they are getting enough work to make petsitting worthwhile.)

The Fine Art of Pet Sitter Interviewing

Interview any potential pet sitter, even friends and family. Make certain they are available as often, as well as when, you want them. Because of my “Just in Case” set-up (another post), my cats were pretty self-reliant, however, I often swapped cat sitting with a friend who wanted her cats checked twice a day with canned food, litter box cleaning and a playtime. Another didn’t tell me until she handed me her house key that her cat needed a daily pill. Ask for references. Ideally, these should be from other clients, however, new pet sitters may only have personal references. Also, ask a potential pet sitter:
  • Are they insured and bonded? (You can decide if this is a deal breaker or not)
  • Do they have their own animals? (what kind, how many, age, health)
  • What veterinarians do they use or recommend?
  • How long they have been pet sitting?
  • What do they do for a living? (Pet sitting is probably a side hustle business or extra income gig, and you want to make certain they actually have time for it)
  • Do they have any questions for you? (they should)
Well in advance arrange a meeting to cover your needs and expectations, as well as a walk-through on where everything is located (including emergency items like the flashlights, water shut-off key, emergency veterinary hospital phone number & directions). If you have any concerns during this meeting, don’t hand over the key. Suggest a meeting again for final instructions and the key handoff. If anyone says an advance meeting is unnecessary, be suspicious. Reliable, dependable and professional pet sitters want to check you — and your pets — out as well.

So In Closing

Ask questions, go over everything you expect in detail, prepare an emergency contact and emergency veterinary care release, and contact your vet to let them know you authorize emergency care.  And be sure to download my Cat Travel Checklist. Because you want to have peace of mind when you are on the road.

Friends, Family & Neighbors First

As mentioned before, friends, family or neighbors who are willing to look in on your cat are often usually best. It also gives a greater sense of security since they aren’t strangers. Just don’t take advantage of them. Definitely return the favor and give them a “Thank You” card, possibly with a small gift card or treat attached.

Note for those traveling with cats in an RV:

Get to know you neighbors wherever you are parking. Offer to share a bit of pet sitting with them, especially the dog owners who may want to take off for a day without the dog. This can be particularly useful in hot or wilderness areas where dogs can’t be left outside unsupervised.

Check your Social Network.

Friends online may have a recommendations. Just make certain you do not overshare your details such as travel dates. Remember, whatever you put online is public! Simply ask if any of your network has recommendations or are willing to share your request with their networks. You may be surprised and get an offer from a friend. And don’t take the recommendations as assurances. Or automatically trust the “friend of a friend.” Check out anyone you are considering whom you do not personally know with an interview before committing.

Check with your veterinarian.

Often vets have a bulletin board or file of people in the area offering pet services ranging from petsitting to policing yards for poo. In some cases, a vet technician or asistant does pet sitting as a side hustle. Your vet may not be willing to offer a specific name, but they can certainly share their list of pet services. And you know these folks are at least sharp enough to be business-like and invest a little time and cash in promoting their services. Many vets offer boarding services, even short-term, so they will suggest that first. This can be a good solution if you’re cat has any health issues that should be monitored — and is mellow in strange environment, but can become prohibitively expensive if you are going to be gone for more than a week. And most cats prefer to stay in a known environment to boarding. Other boarding services may be available as well. Some are quite luxurious!  If boarding, however, make absolutely certain your cat has up-to-date vaccinations and flea treatment. When traveling with cats, a local vet is a good source for a local pet sitter as well as a possible boarding facility if needed due to weather conditions or other factors. (One cat traveler had to be evacuated from his trailer camper for a day while it was fumigated, so he — and his cat — spent the day in air conditioned splendor.)

Try the Pet Sitting Websites & Services

The petsitters listed on these sites have had to fill out a profile and are serious enough to pay a fee for jobs found, Some are even insured and bonded, however, do your own reference checks. There are a few other sites you can check, such as the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (http://www.petsitters.org/). The NAPPS is designed for people serious about their pet sitting businesses, however, the listings offer nothing but the basic contact information about members. You need to do your own research. So read the reviews (with a grain of salt), ask questions, and if you feel uncomfortable for any reason, listen to your gut feelings.

Check on Craigslist under Services or Post a Gig

You can do a search on your area Craigslist under Services for “petsitter” and “pet sitter.” Alternatively, you can post a free ad under Gigs. But Watch What You Post! And be careful in providing information to any respondents. Do not give out your location or the time you will be gone until you have actually met with the person and checked out the references (you know to ask for references, yes?). Craigslist can be a valuable portable resource. But there are a lot of scam artists  and crooks on Craigslist, so take basic security precautions. Again, if you are remotely uncomfortable with the responses you get from Craigslist or giving someone your house key, consider boarding or try other options.

Quick Summary on Finding a Pet Sitter Even On the Road

First, check with your vet. Many veterinarians keep a list of pet sitters in the area. Often, vet technicians or assistants do pet sitting for extra income. Second, check with your friends, family, and neighbors. Especially those with pets who like to travel or take cruises. They can give reviews and warnings as well as recommendations. Third, search online for pet sitters in your area. This can be frustrating. Many listings are either no longer in business, only handle dogs, or are booked for the holidays. I prefer the ones who look professional with a good website or Google My Business listing. Finally, check the online pet sitter referral services such as: Rover.com, Fetch! Pet Care, or Care.com.  They all have their strengths and limitations. And they all do varying degrees of vetting their subcontractors. Share your petsitter horror stories and heroes in the comments below.
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