For most pet owners, finding someone who is willing to look pet sit is usually preferable to sending him their dog or cat to a kennel or cattery.

He’ll get to stay at home, in surroundings that he’s familiar with. His bedding will be the same, as will the smells, sights and sounds he’s used to. A good dog sitter should also take your dog on walks that he’s familiar with and give him extra attention, care and even – where permitted – treats; the kind of one-on-one attention he wouldn’t be able to get in a kennel.

When it comes to choosing a pet sitter, family and friends are more than suitable for short breaks. For anything longer, and where they’re unavailable due to other commitments, it’s time to call in the services of a pet sitter.

Most pet sitters typically charge a flat rate for their standard services, with extras, such as a fee for an extra pet, as an additional cost. Costs vary from business to business, but if you regularly use the services of one business you may be eligible for a discount. If it’s your first time using a pet sitting service, ask your vet for recommendations.

Alternatively, pet sitting websites such as Trusted Housesitters list a growing number of people who are willing to pet sit for free in return for their accommodation.

Between local pet sitting companies and online pet owner and sitter matchmaking services you should be able to draw up a respectable shortlist of applicants. The next step is working out which one is right for you.

1. Ask for references

Experience is everything when it comes to pet sitting. Situations crop up that can easily throw a novice pet sitter, and you want to feel certain that your pet sitter is able to handle any situation that is thrown at them. This isn’t to say that they should be a maverick of course; it’s recommended that you leave an emergency contact phone number and insist that they call if they feel out of their depth.

References give you a good opportunity to assess their previous experience and to see if they’ve looked after similar kinds of pet, in similar kinds of situations.

2. Arrange an interview

Emails can be innocently deceiving and arranging a proper chat with your pet sitter is a good way to properly get to know them and to decide whether or not they’re up to the job. In the case of a local business this can be a face-to-face interview, although be aware that some pet sitting agencies will send a sales person rather than the sitter themselves. In the case of someone travelling from further afield this can be over the telephone or Skype.

3. Ask them about a typical pet sitting day

It’s good to get a feel of how they typically manage their work as pet sitters. Some sitters simply pop into the house once or twice a day, others stay the entire day and overnight. Listen to see how much personal attention they give to the animals. Aside from making sure that you’re hiring an experienced professional, you also want to make sure that you’re hiring someone you pet will enjoy looking after them.

4. Ask for background checks

You can never be too cautious, especially if you’re letting someone into your home and near your pets. Most pet sitters should have background checks carried out by the police vetting service or a verifiable and reputable alternative.

5. Ask if they have their own transport

Although not necessary in the heart of a city, for rural situations, having a car is essentially, especially if something goes wrong and the pet sitter needs to rush off to the vet. Make sure that the car is big enough, and suitable for carrying your pet.

6. Are they willing to take on a few extra chores?

Will your plants need watering? Your mail collected? When you’re away, there are always a handful of little chores that need doing, that often either get neglected or given to neighbours and friends. If your sitter is already on the premises, ask him or her if she would be willing to check on a few things while they’re there.

When you find a pet sitter that you like, let them know immediately. Pet sitting is very restrictive work in so far as they can only be in one place at one time, so it’s important to secure their time before anyone else does.

Invite him or her to your home a day or two before you plan to leave in order for them to see where everything is, to get introduced to the dog whilst you’re there and to ask any last minute questions they may have.

Jamie writes for pet owner and sitter connections website Trusted Housesitters New Zealand.

How To Hire A Pet Sitter, 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating


  1. Mary says:

    “When it comes to choosing a pet sitter, family and friends are more than suitable for short breaks.”

    I disagree. Even for short trips, it is better to get a professional pet sitter. Also “pet sitters” listed on web sites like “Trusted Housesitters,” or are generally NOT professional pet sitters.

    A professional pet sitter should be trained in pet first aid and have pet sitting insurance. You need someone who is prepared for any potential emergency that could come up.

    You want someone who is trained in pet first aid. This is important. Would your friends, or that person that is pet sitting for you for little or no cost, know what to do if they walked into your home, and your dog was not breathing? Do they know how to give pet CPR or even be willing to? What if the cat was chocking? What if one of your pets hurt the other and was bleeding? Does the person you hire know what to do? Would they know how dangerous it can get if a male kitty is having trouble peeing? You need someone who would know what to do. You need someone that can recognize subtle signs of an illness. The earlier an illness is caught, the better the outcome.

    You also want to make sure that the person is insured with “pet sitting insurance.” This will help protect you if anything should happen to your pet or your home.

    You may save money going with a friend, a family member, or with someone who says they are a “pet sitter” but really are not a professional (not trained in pet first aid, not insured, etc,) but what if they don’t recognize that a pet is ill or the seriousness of their symptoms? What if your pet could have been easily treated, but now needs surgery even dies because the pet did not go to the vet soon enough? You may end up spending a lot more money than if you hired a professional in the first place.

    Mary McCarthy
    At Home Pet Sitting SF

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