How to Find a Good Pet Sitter…For Your Small Mammal

Are you tired of asking Aunt Molly to care for your pet 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 pets while you are away.

A pet sitter will feed and play with your pets, water your plants, bring in the newspaper and mail, take out the trash and give your home a lived-in look by turning lights on and off. And, by staying in the familiarity and comfort of home, your pet won't experience stress or potential health risks that she might at a boarding facility.

How To Find a Sitter

Finding a pet 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.

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 ( and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (, 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 sitter if she is bonded and carries liability insurance. Also ask how long she has been in business and what experience with animals she has beyond pet sitting. Ask for references.

The sitter should ask you questions about your pet's care including
feeding, cleaning the cage and any supplements or treats your pet enjoys. Show her where you keep the food.

Let the sitter know of any illnesses or idiosyncracies that your pet
has. For example, does your pet get very anxious when around strangers? If so, tell your sitter what to do to diminish this anxiety. A sitter should also visit your pet at least two times a 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 upfront.

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 sitter the phone number of 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.

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

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 pet 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 the sitter if you need to for any reason. If your return is going to be delayed, contact the sitter to take care of your pet for the additional time you will be away. Call the sitter when you return to let her know you are home.

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