Photo (cc) by Waldo Jaquith
If I could, I would take my dog with me everywhere I go, but that isn’t always feasible for me – or anyone else. Sometimes you have to leave your pet behind when you travel, leaving you with two options: a pet boarding facility or a pet sitter.
Boarding facilities can be traumatic for pets, since they’re in unfamiliar surroundings and around other animals. I keep my dog at home with a pet sitter, who comes over three times a day to feed, walk, and spend time with my dog. She even offered to stay the night. And as a bonus, she picks up my mail and checks on things around my house.
Of course, finding a pet sitter isn’t as simple as booking a plane ticket or choosing a hotel. In the video below, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson tells you how to find the best pet sitter at the best price. Check it out and then read on for more details.
Now, let’s hash out Stacy’s instructions…
1. Find pet sitters
Referrals are a good place to start looking for pet sitters. I found mine through my vet. And don’t forget your friends, neighbors, and co-workers.
Next, check out pet-sitting associations. For example:
- Pet Sitters International: Use their Pet Sitter Locator tool to find professional sitters in your area. It lets you filter your results by services offered (overnight sitting, grooming, house sitting) as well as insured, first-aid-certified sitters.
- National Association of Professional Pet Sitters: You can look up pet sitters by ZIP code through their website. Listings with a NAPPS-certified logo have passed a certification test on basic pet handling, professionalism, and first aid.
You can also find pet sitters through specialty service sites like:
2. Get to know the sitter with an interview
Once you find a handful of pet sitters in your area, set up a phone interview to get to know them better. Use these sample questions to help pick the best candidates.
- What type of pets do you usually sit for? Obviously, someone with experience will put you more at ease, but it is a good idea to look for a sitter who has worked with your type of pet before. For example, I have a large pit bull with a habit of breaking out of her leash. I chose my pet sitter because she was familiar with the breed and knew she’d need to watch her at all times on their walks.
- What training have you completed? Basic training courses, behavior modification courses, and pet first aid all indicate a knowledgeable pet sitter.
- What services do you provide? Don’t assume all pet sitters are willing to stay overnight, take your dog to the dog park, or pick up your mail. Ask for a list of possible services.
- Are you associated with an emergency veterinarian? Make sure your pet sitter will know who to call if your pet becomes ill or injured.
- Can you provide references? Ask for a list of references and then contact them.
3. Find professionals
During your interview, find out if your potential pet sitter has insurance to protect your home and credentials to back up their experience. For example:
- Commercial liability insurance: Your pet sitter should have commercial liability insurance to cover accidents with your pets or negligence in your home. For example, if your pet sitter accidentally cracks your kitchen tile playing with your dog, her insurance can cover the damage.
- Professionally certified: Associations like the NAPPS offer certification for pet sitters that covers basic pet handling, routine care, and crisis prevention. If your pet sitter is certified, she knows how to take good care of your pet.
- First aid knowledge: Organizations like the Red Cross offer pet first aid courses, which teach pet sitters how to spot an emergency, give CPR to pets, and treat common emergencies.
4. Compare prices
Pet sitters determine their own prices, so you’ll find great and bad deals. For example, SitterCity.com says basic pet sitting costs anywhere from $10 to $20 per visit, but the average is about $14 per visit. Overnight pet sitting ranges from $40 to $80, with an average of about $60.
However, there are other factors to consider. For example, SitterCity.com says cats are usually $1 cheaper than dogs. And if you book on a holiday, expect to pay $5 more per day.
Of course, those are just averages. Pet sitters in your area might charge more (especially if they don’t have much competition), or less than the average. For example, I only pay $25 per day for an overnight visit, but there are several pet sitters and boarders in my area and the competition drives prices down.
Your best bet is to compare prices for all of your potential pet sitters, but don’t be afraid to haggle. If you find a cheaper price with one sitter but like another better, call her up and ask if she’ll match the price.
5. Introduce your pet
After choosing a pet sitter, bring her over to meet your pets before you take your next vacation. This will help ensure that everyone gets along. For example, my pet sitter came over a week before my first trip away. She stayed for half an hour playing with my pup, and I knew they would be OK alone together when I left.
6. Get a contract
Finally, ask for a written contract between you and the sitter. It should include:
- A full list of services the pet sitter will provide: Dog walking, feeding, overnight stays, and household chores like picking up the mail and watering plants.
- The cost of pet sitting broken down per day and per visit, plus any extra charges. For example, if the pet sitter charges $5 extra for holidays, make sure it is in the contract.
- Number of visits: Include the number of days you’ll need the sitter, plus the number of visits the sitter will make per day.
The bottom line: Hiring a pet sitter can be stressful at first. I was a nervous wreck the first time I left my dog at home alone with someone else. But these steps will make the process go a lot smoother – and may even save you some cash.