After 30+ years running a pet sitting company in the Richmond, VA area, we’ve had over a thousand clients. I get it that most people who have never been pet sitters assume that a pet sitter’s day is filled with fun games played with dogs, cuddling with cats and enjoying taking care of puppies and kittens.
It stands to reason that anyone who hasn’t chosen “pet sitter” as their profession would contemplate that there is much more to being a pet sitter than all the fun stuff. It is fighting with traffic to get to a client’s homes, cleaning up the diarrhea on the white rug, spending 45 extra minutes trying to get a cat who needs an insulin shot to come inside, coaxing dogs to eat and trying to remain upright when walking a dog without good leash manners or proper training.
Of course, taking care of our clients’ requests and their pets’ needs happens 7 days a week, in every type of weather. During the holidays, clients and pet sitters tend to lose touch with reality and go into a holiday stupor. We are all guilty of it, but when clients are deep in “holi-daze” and prepping to leave town, it’s easy to forget things that could make the pet sitter’s life a nightmare and put their pets at unnecessary risk.
That said, there are many things that pet parent clients can do to make their pet sitter’s life less stressful while ensuring that your pets are safe and taken care of properly.
Be Sure These Things Are Covered Before Leaving on a Holiday Trip
1. Do not wait till the day before the holiday to contact our main office to make your reservation. The holidays are among the busiest times for any pet sitting company. When you delay in scheduling your reservation, you run a good chance that your regular sitter’s dance card will be full and another pet sitter will be called on to help, assuming they have an opening.
For last-minute reservations (less than 24 hours), we have a $25.00 surcharge. Fortunately, most people know well in advance whether or not they will be traveling for the holidays, so make your reservation as early as possible as a consideration to your sitter and to assure your pets will have care.
2. Be sure to call/email/text your sitter at least 24 hours before you are leaving to confirm the visits, dates, number of visits and when you will return. This ensures all the dates and number of visits have been recorded correctly.
3. Always inform your sitter if there are any changes with the pets they’re responsible for. Is there a new veterinarian, any new eating routine, new medications or conditions or is there a new pet? Your pet sitter will update your records to reflect the changes.
4. Be sure to leave all medications out and easy for the sitter to find — but not in a place the pets can get into. And double-check that your back-up person is in town, has a current key and knows you’re counting on them as a back up in case of an emergency.
5. This is not the time to have a relative’s animal(s) stay in your home and expect the pet sitter to take care of pets she has never met. That is an invitation to disaster! Also, PLEASE let your pet sitter know if you have asked a neighbor or someone else to drop in occasionally to visit your pet. The neighbor may decide to also feed the dog or leave a cat outside that only stays inside. If a neighbor is coming in, tell your sitter their name and phone number and coordinate the times so that the neighbor is not coming in at same times as the sitter.
Also, if you have relatives who will be staying in your home while you are gone and you still want the sitter to make visits, please let the sitter know about the relatives, who they are, etc. You may remember the blog post where I told a true story about a time this happened to me. I can laugh about it now, but it wasn’t funny at the time. To arrive at your home for a pet visit and find Uncle Louie lounging around in his undies is NOT a pleasant or comfortable situation for the pet sitter.
6. Be sure to tell your pet sitter if you have changed locks, alarm codes or passwords. Also, do not lock storm doors or other locks that the sitter does not have a key for. If that happens, you will be responsible for paying the locksmith the sitter has to call so she can gain access to your pets.
7. Please leave ample supplies for all animals — food, treats, litter for boxes, etc. I remember a client with 6 cats and 5 litter boxes. She wanted them changed each day, but only left a 5-pound bag of litter which wouldn’t take care of one daily change, much less a week’s worth! Your pet sitter wants to do an excellent job for you and the pets, but without the proper supplies, it’s challenging and stress-producing.
8. Be sure to have your cell phone charged and on when you are away in case the sitter need to reach you in an emergency. It puts your pets at unnecessary risk if the sitter has to spend hours waiting for a call back from you. It may be a medical emergency and if the sitter cannot reach you immediately, she will have to use her best judgment.
9. When pet sitters have lots of visits to make, they cannot be held to a certain time for making visits. There are simply too many variables — i.e. traffic and problems at previous visits that require extra time (like waiting for the locksmith to arrive). Trust that your pets will be taken care of in a timely manner, just not at a precise time. The only exception to this is animals that require insulin injections.
10. As soon as you arrive home, remember to call/email/text your sitter to let her know you’re back! If your sitter hasn’t heard from you that you arrived home as scheduled, she will continue to make pet visits for which you will be charged. We can’t run the risk that your pet(s) are left without care because you were delayed in some way.
I have probably missed many things, but you get the idea! Just keep the lines of communication open between you and your pet sitter. Cover all the bases (above) so everyone – you and your pet sitter – can have a stress-less holiday season. And less stress also means calmer and happier pets!
Carole Tomas is the owner and president of Pet Pleasers, Inc. She is a graduate of Ohio University and a Charter Member of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. When she began Pet Pleasers in 1985, business was conducted Old School via a landline, snail mail and an answering machine the size of a breadbox. No internet, email, text messaging, digital photos, social media or mobile phones! What has remained constant over three decades: Carole’s love of animals and an unwavering passion for professional pet sitting.