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Do It Better: Finding a Pet Sitter

By Joyce Venezia Suss

Some pets are lucky enough to join pet owners on vacations, family visits and sometimes even work-related trips (many hotels are now pet-friendly.) But there are times when you must arrange for pet care, finding someone who is able to provide proper care and gets along with your pet.

The level of care depends on the breed, the age of your pet and especially the pet’s temperament. Dogs need to be walked with a pooper scooper; cats must have their litter boxes cleaned. Older or ailing pets may require daily medication; some pets need regular grooming to prevent matting or hairballs.

If you are away for a day or two, a trusted neighbor or friend can be a good solution, especially if you can reciprocate when needed. But if you are away for a week or more, it may be better to find and pay a trusted pet sitter who can come at least once or twice a day.

Adults or self-disciplined teens are better choices to care for dogs and cats; a neighbor’s child can perhaps be trusted to feed a goldfish or small pets such as guinea pigs, hamsters and gerbils.

There are several advantages to hiring a pet sitter who comes to your home. It is cost-effective if you have multiple pets. Your pet remains in a familiar setting, which is the better solution for animals who have anxiety issues. The pet sitter may also be willing to water plants, collect mail and packages, etc.

For all pets, leave instructions and a schedule for feeding, medication, exercise, grooming, cleaning waste, your veterinarian’s contact information, and details about the pet’s personality.

To find the best caretaker for your pet, here are some tips:

  • Get recommendations from friends, your vet or groomer, or use websites such as or that provide background checks on pet sitters. Some of these sitters may also be available to watch your pet in their home.
  • Invite the petter sitter to your home to meet you and your pet(s) in person. Observe how they interact.
  • Ask about their experience, and the time they would spend with your pet at each visit. If you want several visits a day, are they willing to do so?
  • If you have a guinea pig, hamster, snake, bird or other, ask if they have experience with those animals.
  • Ask how they would handle an emergency situation.

The boarding alternative

Alternately, pet boarding kennels will temporarily take care of pets – mostly dogs – with trained staff. Many modern facilities are designed so pets who enjoy socializing with other animals will have a great time. Pets are evaluated before they are accepted into these facilities, and sorted by size and temperament into play yards.

There are individual spaces where your pet can sleep without being disturbed. Owners are often encouraged to bring the pet’s favorite blanket or toys. Many boarding facilities also have webcams so owners can check in on their pets.

Ultimately, finding a great pet sitter – whether in your home or in a facility – means a more relaxing vacation or less distracting work trip for you and a happier experience for your pet.

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