A good professional pet sitter is a true find. Instead of relying on a friend to feed your bird and spend an hour or so playing with him, you can relax while you’re away, knowing that your bird is in capable hands.
A knowledgeable sitter should be able to spot medical problems and handle emergencies – and make your absence less stressful all around. “The pet gets to stay in his own environment,” says Lori Jenssen, president of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS), which lists more than 1,200 members. “He gets to stay in his own house, his own cage. And he gets fed with his own food. And when you get home, your pet is there to greet you.”
In fact, she says, some animals get spoiled when their owner is away. “We spend a half hour, but that half hour is 100 percent with the pet. So, when you get home, they’re going to expect the same from you.”
Choosing a Sitter
All of this is good news for pet owners. But how do you choose the best sitter and make sure your pet gets the care you expect? Here are some tips from the NAPPS and other professionals:
Make sure you’re making the right choice in deciding to leave your pet at home alone for most of your time away. For example, if your pet has medical or behavioral problems and needs closer supervision, an avian veterinarian hospital might be the best option.
Ask fellow bird owners, your veterinarian, or pet-supply store for referrals or look in the yellow pages. NAPPS’ sitter referral line is (800) 296-PETS.
Know your price range. Sitters charge an average of $12 per half-hour visit.
Ask questions. Is the pet sitter bonded? Does he or she carry commercial liability insurance? Ask for documentation. Is the sitter a member of a professional association? How long has he or she been in business? Does the sitter provide references? A service contract?
Ask more questions. What is the sitter’s training background? How extensive is his or her knowledge of medical problems? Has the sitter taken pet health-care seminars or had any training through a pet sitters’ group, humane society or other organization? Does the sitter have a backup plan if he or she is unable to make it to your house?
Expect questions. The best pet sitters will want to know all about your bird, her eating habits, toilet habits, grooming needs, exercise routines, and medications. The sitter should also ask for important telephone numbers.
Have the sitter meet your bird in advance and watch how they interact.
Always leave a telephone number where you can be reached and the number of your veterinarian. Call the sitter if you plan to return early or late.
Make reservations – the earlier the better – and confirm a day or two before you’re planning to leave.
Have your own contingency plan, especially during the winter in colder climes. Provide the pet sitter with the name of someone, maybe a neighbor, who can take care of your bird should bad weather or other unexpected circumstances prevent the sitter from getting there.
Have plenty of supplies on hand.
Give the pet sitter detailed but simple instructions in writing. Leave a measuring device, for instance, and indicate exactly how much your bird should be fed. A “handful” or “dishful” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone.