Ready, get set, go!
Now that you have your trip schedule all set, it’s time to find a pet sitter or house sitter. Maybe this is your first time to use a sitter or you’re switching to another sitter. Here’s a handy guide to make things go more easily and smoothly for everyone—and every pet!
Before contacting the pet sitter
Save yourself and your sitter time, energy, and money by perusing the sitter’s website. Check out the sitter’s policies and booking procedure before making the first contact to ensure that you’ll be comfortable working with a potential sitter. Request a policy copy and a contract if they’re not available on the website.
Find out the sitter’s preferred method of contact—e-mail, text, or phone. A number of sitters, myself included, much prefer text and e-mail. Many of them may be in the middle of something, so they may not be able to reach the phone, so, barring emergency situations, the easiest and most convenient way to reach them anytime is obviously via text or e-mail. No need to worry about bugging each other way past business hours! You’ll generally receive more detailed additional information via written communication than oral communication.
Most sitters want you to know the policies and procedures before scheduling a meeting, which is the next important step to get everyone familiar and comfortable with each other—humans and animals alike—as well as the routine and layout of the home.
A number of sitters offer complimentary initial meet-and-greet while others charge a fee equivalent to one drop-in visit to compensate for consultation and travel time and cost. This fee is waived upon booking confirmation or can be credited towards a future reservation within a certain period of time.
Some situations may require more than one meeting, especially when there are multiple pets and/or special needs pets. Many sitters charge for subsequent meetings, typically at the same rate as a drop-in daily visit, after the first meeting.
Policies a.k.a. the fine paw prints
They’re part of my service packet—a collection of forms to be reviewed and completed before or during the meeting.
Materials in my service packet include:
Pet profile: pet name(s), stats, personality, habits, medical condition, etc.
Client profile: name(s) and contact information, as well as itinerary for every travel.
Emergency worksheet: contact information (vet and guardian information in case something happens to you and/or your pet), instructions, and release forms. Also leave sitter’s information for the vet.
Special instructions: details for pet and home routine; locations and instructions for food, supplies, appliances, and other areas in the residence; medication administration (if applicable); and everything else you need the sitter to know.
Personnel list: contact information of authorized persons in the residence (housekeeper, gardener, neighbor, relative, etc.). For everyone’s safety, also give them your sitter’s contact information to let the sitter know during the sit so that there won’t be any surprises and that pets can be contained if needed.
FYI: Due to liability issues, many sitters don’t accept job sharing with others who have access to the home. If anything goes awry, it’ll be difficult to determine who is at fault.
Service agreement: terms and conditions including but not limited to payment method, payment due date, late fee, cancellation policy, last-minute booking policy, statement of financial responsibility for emergencies, and home access and security. Details are provided in my service packet. Simply request the password to access the packet.
During the meet-and-greet with the pet sitter
Make copies of service packet forms and put them into two binders. One is a copy to keep in your home for your and the sitter’s convenience during the actual service period. Another copy is for the sitter to keep on file.
An easier way to keep all information on file is by entering it in an account for Hi & Lo QR pet tag. You can update your information anytime.
Hand over two copies of keys and alarm code(s). Test them out to make sure they work. It’s helpful to have more than one method of home access in case of emergency—getting locked out or malfunctioning alarm or garage door.
Right before the scheduled pet or house sit
Make sure that you have plenty of pet food, supplies, and accessories, as well as cleaning and emergency supplies.
Make sure that appliances, electricity, gas, heating, AC, plumbing, keys, alarm, and garage door are in good working order.
Don’t be afraid to get a tad OCD. 😀 Your sitter will most likely appreciate it as it makes the job much easier! Use Post-It notes to write instructions and locations for supplies, appliances, and routines. This method is particularly useful in households with multiple pets and special needs pets.
Keep important and hazardous items away from the reach of pets. You don’t want your puppies sniffing harsh cleaning products, chewing on electrical cords, or snacking on cash or check for the sitter—yes, this one has happened to a good number of sitters.
For safety and security, lock all windows, screens, doors, and gates.
Consider leaving your worn clothes, turning on relaxing music, and using natural solutions such as adaptil (DAP), Feliway, and Bach flower remedies (Rescue Remedy) to calm your pets while you’re away.
Put collars and tags on your pets.
You don’t have to complete a flawless barrack inspection checklist, but keep your residence in a reasonable condition for the comfort and safety of both your pet and your pet sitter, especially if you want your sitter to stick around! Set your thermostat at a comfortable temperature for both your pet and your sitter. (By the way, clean bathroom and bedroom are always appreciated!)
BONUS brownie points: Particularly for house sitting/overnight pet sitting, make your sitter’s stay as pleasant as possible if you want to keep him/her for the long haul! Provide access to TV/cable/satellite and Wi-Fi. Internet connection is needed to keep in touch with you and to conduct other business- or work-related tasks. Also keep your fridge and cupboard stocked. For the convenience, your sitter might just reward you by lowering the amount on the invoice. 😉 No need to drive out back and forth to eat out, which can get pretty expensive. And of course, offering other perks is not expected, but it would be much appreciated!
Here are useful resources by other sitters on preparing your home for a pet or house sit (more discussion on supplies, emergency protocol, home security, etc.):
Other pet sitting/house sitting arrangements:
In barter arrangements typical of global pet and house sitting as explained on this post, the convention is quite different from the usual hyperlocal, for-profit American-style sits. Visit the house sitting platforms/websites and online communities listed on the post for more details.
Due to distance, meeting is normally conducted via Skype. There is no charge for initial meeting. Some sitters may choose to charge a small or moderate amount for the sitting assignment to ensure commitment. Come to think of it, sitters are paying hundreds or thousands of dollars (or whatever currency) to get to your place to take care of your critter family!
Since there is little or no money changing hands in this particular type of sitting, housekeeping and/or yard work are usually expected, in addition to leaving some gifts for homeowners and restocking the kitchen before their arrival in exchange for free room and board. This is especially the case when pets are involved since they require a lot more work. Some homeowners even ask for rent payment for long-term sits lasting for weeks or months, but this situation applies mostly to house sitting assignments without pets.
All things considered, discuss and spell out arrangements that are comfortably fair to both you and the sitter on the contract.
The Tail End
Now that you know how things work, let’s get the ball rolling and book a service!