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Your pet loves to be around you, that's a given. But sometimes you can't be home with your furry pal (hello: work and vacation). Pet sitters can be the perfect solution. They provide everything from dog walking services to in-home doggy daycare to overnight care, at your home or theirs.
"I find pet sitting to be the most stress-free situation because your pet gets to be in a home and hang out with an animal lover all day and potentially other dogs, if that's the situation you choose," says Nicole Ellis, CBDT, and pet lifestyle expert with Rover. "Your cat or dog is getting love and attention and the pet sitter can follow your rules about things like sleeping on the bed or going on the couch."
Read on to learn how to find a pet sitter who's a perfect match for you and your pet!
Where to Look to Find a Pet Sitter Near You
The best way to find an awesome pet sitter for your dog or cat is by asking for recommendations from people you trust: friends, family, neighbors, or your pet's groomer or vet. You can also connect with neighbors through sites like Nextdoor, which offer online communities where people share recommendations for local businesses.
An easier, faster way to locate professional pet sitters near you is to visit pet-sitter websites like Rover. There you can see profiles of pet sitters in your area along with how much they charge, services they offer, and client reviews.
6 Things to Consider When Looking for a Pet Sitter
Taking time to figure out what's important to you in a pet sitter will help you find the right one for you and your pet. Here are some things to consider as you review your pet-sitting options:
Sitters may specialize in certain types of pets. Some may prefer small or large dogs or only watch cats or little critters. Others may have a knack for bonding with senior dogs or be excited about handling puppies. If it doesn't say it on their online profiles, ask what types of animals the sitter has experience with.
A key factor in choosing someone is whether you want the sitter to come to your home or if you're willing to take your pet to theirs. If you have multiple pets that need care, it's often easiest to have a pet sitter stay in your home. But otherwise, it's a matter of personal preference.
"Having someone come and stay in your home keeps your dog on his routine and can be less stressful," Ellis notes. "Then again, some pups love playing with other dogs and might really enjoy spending time in another home where there's a pack to hang out with."
If you're dropping your dog off at the pet sitter's home, select one that has a similar setup to yours. For example, if your dog is used to having a backyard to run in, then choose a pet sitter who has a fenced yard. But if your dog lives in an apartment, dropping your pup off at another apartment is no big deal.
4. Medical Needs
Does your pet have medical needs? If so, look for pet sitters who are veterinarians, veterinary technicians, or who have pet first aid training. You want the person who watches your cat or dog to have experience providing the level of care your pet needs, such as giving pills or administering injections.
If it takes a while for your pooch to warm up to new people, choose a pet sitter who offers dog-walking services as well as overnight supervision. You can have the pet sitter come over a few times for a walk and playtime. That way, your pup will be familiar with the sitter by the time you leave for vacation.
Some pet sitters are happy to provide photos and video updates of your pet while you're away. If that's important to you, ask pet sitters if they regularly do this. "That communication gives you peace of mind so you can enjoy your vacation more, knowing your pet is also having fun," Ellis says.
Questions to Ask Potential Pet Sitters
After you gather recommendations, schedule meetings with a few pet sitters. Have your pet nearby so you can see how they interact and consider asking these questions:
1. Where will my pet be sleeping? If you're taking your dog or cat to the pet sitter's home, this is important to know. You want the rules to be the same as they are in your home.
2. Will there be other pets? Find out how many furry friends your pup will have to play with as well as how big they are. You don't want your dog to be overwhelmed or accidentally injured by a much bigger pooch.
3. Where and when will my dog be fed? Talk about your pup's routine and how you can keep that similar to what your dog is used to.
4. Will kids be around my dog at any time? This is especially important to know if your pet gets stressed around children.
5. What is your schedule like? Choose a pet sitter who has a similar schedule to yours. If you're home most of the day, you want a pet sitter who also stays home. But if your pet is used to you being away for part of the day, then a pet sitter who goes to work or school for a portion of the day won't be a problem.
6. What happens if there's an emergency with my pet? It's best to find out in advance what would happen in the worst-case scenario. Say your pet gets injured or becomes ill—what will the pet sitter do? What happens if they can't reach you? Discuss these things just in case so you're certain you're on the same page.
7. Do you have references? An experienced pet sitter should provide references upon request, says the American Kennel Club. Be sure to contact those people to make sure the pet sitter is credible.
How Much to Pay a Pet Sitter for Your Dog or Cat
Like many services, the fee varies depending on where you live, says Ellis. "Big cities are typically more expensive than smaller suburbs. With that said, the average rate for overnight sitting is around $35 a night and dog walking averages around $20 per walk."
You may pay more for pet sitting over holidays, when there's more demand for the service. Puppies can also make pet sitting fees higher, since those adorable furballs need more potty breaks throughout the day and night.
Just remember, the best way to find a pet sitter is to be fully transparent about your needs and expectations, Ellis says. "Communicate what you're looking for and by the end, you'll feel good knowing you've left your pet in capable, caring hands."