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A version of this article appeared in Metro Atlanta's premiere issue of "Critter" Magazine™ in May of 1999. Critter Magazine™ is a publication which showcases homeless animals available for adoption and provides information geared toward improving the quality of life for animals.

This article is quite wordy, so you might want to print it out!


By Cat Denton

Now that summer vacations are rapidly approaching, many pet lovers are faced with the dilemma of what to do with their precious fur-people while they are out galavanting on the beach. One of the most practical, economical, and considerate solutions for your pet's health and well-being is to hire a professional pet sitter.

Pet sitters perform a variety of services in your home that enable you to enjoy your vacation worry-free. The most important responsibility of the pet sitter is of course, to care for your "babies", but most sitters also offer to bring in your mail and papers, water your plants, feed your fish, rotate your lights (as a crime deterrent measure), and to keep a general watch over your home while you are gone. Most sitters are willing to accommodate any special home or pet care requests you may have, although sometimes additional fees may be required. Some sitters even offer overnight stays!

As far as the care of your pet is concerned, you can expect the sitter to change out food and water daily, clean litterboxes, walk or exercise your pet, play with your pet, administer basic medicines, perform light grooming, and most important, give comfort, love, and reassurance to your pet while you are gone. Most pets are very attached to their own environment and to their routines regarding food, exercise, and potty habits. The professional pet sitter allows the pet to carry on these familiar habits uninterrupted, thus reducing the stress of "Mama" or "Daddy" being away.

The most reliable way to find an outstanding pet sitter is to ask friends or family members who have used one. From these sources you get an unbiased, honest commentary on the sitter's character, dependability, and thoroughness. Word-of-mouth referrals are the greatest form of advertising a pet sitter can have! Asking your veterinarian is also a good way to find a pet sitter with a sterling reputation! Other sources are the "Yellow Pages", bulletin boards at pet stores, and local newspaper and magazine advertising. You might also try surfing the web! Many of us have web pages now. Type in "pet sitter" in any of the major search engines to access a wealth of information on pet sitting and on locating a pet sitter in your area. Especially helpful sites are www.petsitters.com (Pet Sitters Yellow Pages) and www.petsit.com (Pet Sitters International)

All of these are great ways to initially find a pet sitter, but the real signs of excellence will become apparent only when you and your pet actually start to interact with the person. If you have any specific needs, be sure to narrow your search down to pet sitters who can accommodate them. For instance, if you need someone who is good at handling very delicate plants, or large dogs, or birds, be sure to determine which sitters are good at these tasks before having them come out

Now that I have explained what a pet sitter does and where to find one, I would like to go over some of the specific qualities that you will want to look for:

A reputable pet sitting company will have a Business License, Liability Insurance, & Bonding. Membership in either PSI (Pet Sitters International) or NAPPS (National Association of Professional Pet Sitters) is also a good sign. These are the professional organizations for the pet sitting industry. Also, if you request them, the sitter should be able to provide references.

Most pet sitting companies have an answering service or a voice mail system with which you can leave a message, and then a sitter will call you back. You should expect a return phone call within 24 hours. The sitter should sound professional and organized, answering any questions you may have, and also taking down some basic information about you, your pets, and your home. At this time you will usually discuss fees and set up an initial meeting. If the sitter isn't polite or professional on the phone, be sure to call someone else!

The sitter should offer to meet you and your pets in advance of your travel date. This visit is usually complimentary and lasts from 30 minutes to 1 hour. During this visit, the sitter should take thorough notes regarding the care of your home and your pets, usually recording this information on a Service Contract which also outlines the exact dates and fees involved. Be sure to double-check dates!

During the initial meeting, you will get a good feel for the character, dependability, and attention to detail you can expect from this potential pet sitter. Go with your instincts!! If you feel at all suspicious or distrustful of the person, don't sign the contract. Interview someone else!

Also at the initial meeting, you will be able to see how the sitter gets along with your pets. You should see in the sitter a genuine love and respect for your pets, as well as general knowledge of how to care for them. Sometimes, through no fault of the sitter or the pet, the match just doesn't work, and you will need to look for a sitter that has better "chemistry" with your fur-person.

Be sure that you feel comfortable entrusting your housekey and/or alarm code to the sitter. Most sitters will have some procedure for coding keys so that in the unlikely event that the keys were lost, no one could trace them back to your home.

This is very important!! Be sure that the sitter who comes out to meet you is the one who will be caring for your pets! Some companies have numerous sitters in their employ and may send different ones out on different days. This may be a perfectly acceptable arrangement for some, but if this is not your preference, be sure to make it clear!

Pet sitting companies that hire sitters should properly screen their employees, checking into their backgrounds and their references.

When you return from your trip you should expect to see some sort of daily notes on your pet's behavior and/or anything unusual that happened with your pet or your home while you were gone. The sitter should also make attempts to be sure that you have returned safely and that the animals are being cared for once your trip is over.

If a sitter exhibits all of the positive qualities I have outlined, you have found yourself a wonderful pet sitter! You can relax, carefree, when you go on your vacations, knowing that your pets and your home are in good hands. As a general rule, pet sitters are very kind and honest people who have turned their love for animals into a career. We are special because we have a much more meaningful reason than just money to try to achieve success...We love those fur-people!


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