Cats love routine, consistency and familiarity, so when we go on vacation our absence can be stressful for them. Hiring an in-home pet sitter can reduce the stress and anxiety your cat can experience while you’re away. Keeping your cat in the safety and comfort of your home with an experienced pet sitter provides the best alternative to the physical and emotional stress caused by kenneling or boarding your cat away from home. If you plan to leave your cat home alone for more than a night, it’s best to hire a pet sitter for the time you’re away. Here’s how to find a great pet sitter for your cat.
Why Hire a Pet Sitter?
Cats can become anxious and worried while we’re away from them for longer periods than normal. They may be independent, but cats don’t like changes in their daily routine or being away from home. Leaving them alone for several days can be a risk to their physical and emotional health and overall well being. Hiring an in-home pet sitter can reduce your cat’s stress and provide the quality of care, attention and reassurance she needs while you’re away, and give you peace of mind too.
Finding the Right Pet Sitter
Finding the right pet sitter that you trust and feel comfortable with is critical. Ideally, you want to look for one that is recommended by someone you know. They should be reputable, responsible, and trustworthy, and have experience with cats and cat sitting. In-home cat sitters will typically visit your cat once or twice a day, and some are willing to spend the night. Your cat sitter will feed your cat, refresh the water bowls daily, spend time playing with your cat, give your cat any required medications, clean the litter box, and many will also bring in newspapers and mail, water plants, turn lights on and off for security, and take your cat to the vet if she’s sick.
To find a good cat sitter, check with your veterinarian or any reputable local veterinarian for a recommendation, often they know qualified pet sitters in your area. Local cat groomers and cat rescue groups are often able to recommend pet sitters. You can also check the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS), which is the only national non-profit organization for professional pet sitters. Pet Sitters International (PSI) is another resource that offers a free online search based on your zip code. Also, your friends that have cats may have a referral. Once you have a recommendation in hand, do a search on Yelp for any reviews and visit the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the California Department of Consumer Affairs online for any complaints.
Neighbors, friends and relatives are always an option for pet sitting, but make sure that they have experience taking care of cats or pets, and are responsible, reliable and trustworthy.
Interviewing Your Pet Sitter
Some states and counties don’t require a license for pet sitting services, so you may find there is no minimum standard for level of care, quality of services, safety, competency, or reliability required for pet sitting in those states. Some states or counties don’t mandate a legal requirement for worker’s comp or liability insurance that may be important to you. So be sure to ask about these.
When you’re ready to hire a new pet sitter and have some referrals, have a list of interview questions ready to ask them. You can interview them over the phone, then when you’ve selected one, set up an in-person meeting at your home to ask any follow up questions; meet your cat; familiarize them with your home and the locations for food, litter boxes, and medicines; and review the details about your cat’s needs and anything important to know. Get any copies of credentials, licenses and insurance and share all your contact information.
Some Interview Questions for Starters
- What level of care do they promise to provide your cat? What services will they provide?
- How long have they been in business in your area?
- Can they provide 2-3 references you can call?
- What is their reputation? Were they recommended by reputable professionals?
- Are they bonded, licensed and insured? Can you see proof of insurance and licenses?
- What credentials do they have? Do they have certificates for Pet CPR, Pet First Aid, are they a veterinary technician, have they been in cat rescue?
- What safety precautions will they take?
- How much time will they spend per visit? Will they give any special attention and provide some playtime for your cat?
- Will they leave a “report card” after the service telling you how it went?
- Are they willing to text/call/email you daily about how your cat is doing? Can you get a daily or bi-weekly update from them?
- Are there any additional services they will provide, if so, what? Like watering plants, taking in newspapers and mail, turning lights on and off for home security?
- Do they have any reviews on Yelp? Are there any complaints on the Better Business Bureau website or the California Department of Consumer Affairs website?
Leave Notes For When You’re Away
Before you leave on your trip, write out detailed notes and reminders for your pet sitter about your cat’s food, special diet, medications, allergies, temperament, hiding places, lock combinations, and any special needs that your cat has. Leave your contact information—cell phone numbers, email addresses, places where you are staying, hotel phone numbers, and your veterinarian’s address and phone number, and nearest pet emergency hospital address and phone number—in case anything should happen.
It’s an investment of time upfront, but you’ll have the peace of mind while you’re away knowing that your cat is in good hands. Happy travels!