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How to Find a Good Pet Sitter for Your Cat

By: Karen Commings

Read By: Pet Lovers
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Are you tired of asking Aunt Molly to care for your cat when you travel? Have your friends and neighbors suddenly become scarce when you've scheduled another trip? Perhaps it's time to hire a professional pet sitter to care for your cat while you are away.

Pet sitters offer various combinations of services and some will not only feed and play with your cat; some may water your plants, bring in the newspaper and mail, and take out the trash. Some may do grooming or behavior training. At any rate, they will give your home a lived-in look by turning lights on and off, and by staying in the familiarity and comfort of her own home, your cat may not experience stress or potential health risks that she might at a boarding facility.

How To Find a Cat Sitter

Finding a cat sitter that you like and trust may take some time, so begin looking well in advance of your trip. Like boarding facilities, pet sitters become booked early, especially over holidays and vacation time. Allow plenty of time to interview several sitters so you find one who is trustworthy and with whom you are comfortable. If your cat has special needs, such as insulin injections, find a sitter who can give shots or attend to your cat's unique requirements.

To find a sitter, ask your veterinarian, favorite pet store or pet-owning friends for a referral. If you cannot get a referral, check the locator lines of the two major professional pet sitting organizations, Pet Sitters International (www.petsit.com) and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (www.petsitters.org), for a list of member pet sitters in your area. As a last resort, check the Yellow Pages of your telephone directory under "pet sitters." Call to set up appointments.

The Interview

Prepare questions ahead of time. Ask the cat sitter if she is bonded and carries liability insurance. Ask how long she has been in business and what experience with animals she has beyond pet sitting. Get a written list of references.

The sitter should ask you questions about your cat's care including feeding, cleaning up, disposing of wastes, recycling food cans and games your cat likes to play. Show her where you keep the cat food and where the litter box is. A sitter should clean the litter box daily, but don't expect her to clean a week's worth of wastes that you neglected to clean prior to your trip.

Have on hand enough food and litter to last while you are away. The sitter may charge you extra for going to the store to get needed supplies.

Inform the sitter of any illnesses or idiosyncracies that your cat has. For example, does your cat hide from strangers? Where are your cat's favorite spots? The sitter will want to see the cat on each visit; simply seeing an empty food bowl is not enough. If you free feed, the sitter may not be able to tell if your cat has eaten or not. A sitter should also visit your cat at least once every day. Visiting less often may save you money but is risky for your pet's well-being.

The Contract

The sitter will ask you to sign a contract that itemizes dates of coverage, the cost and liabilities. Discuss the terms of payment and whether payment is required up front.

You will need to give the sitter the key to your home. Occasionally, travelers are delayed returning, so if no one else has a key, you may want the sitter to hang onto it until you've returned from your trip.

Give the phone number where you will be and the name and phone number of your veterinarian. Occasionally, sitters must deal with house-related emergencies that have nothing to do with pets, so provide the phone number of someone locally to notify if something unusual crops up.

Give your veterinarian a letter to keep on file that says while you are away, the sitter will have the authority to seek treatment for your cat if necessary, and you will be responsible for any fees.

The sitter should give you a business card to take with you so that you can call if you need to. If your return is going to be delayed, contact the sitter to take care of your cat for the additional time you will be away. Call when you return to let her know you are home.

You will have increased peace of mind knowing your cat is in the good hands of a professional pet sitter.

If a pet sitter is not for you, you may want to board your cat. For information on kenneling, please click on Kenneling Your Cat.

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