If you’re anything like me, the very thought of traveling is both relaxing (white sandy beach, sleeping in and indulging in piña coladas) AND stressful (is Jovi our dog being walked enough? Is someone sleeping with him in the bed like we do? Do the cats have clean litter? Is it thundering?) EEEEEEEEK! Unless you have a built-in network of people who you can trust implicitly such as family or best friends, the task of seeking out and entrusting someone with your precious pets is so unnerving, you may not even want to leave!
Now, let’s not let our fears and imagination win. Here are my best tips to anyone who may encounter these stressors:
1) PLAN!!! Get in front of this issue by using time to your advantage. When I moved to a new state and had literally no friends/family nearby, I went out of my way to start asking neighbors who had pets who they used when they went away and what that looked like. Do they stay in your home? Are your pets staying in their home? How do they charge (flat rate/per stop/per night?) Are they happy with them? Do they swear by them? It’s also important to book dates with a pet sitter as far in advance as possible because they book up. Some people will book their sitters a year in advance because they simply wouldn’t trust ANYONE else. That’s the kind of relationship you really want.
2) Interview at least 3 in person and make sure they actually meet your pets. I find this step to be invaluable. Let them ask you questions and you will get a feel for who really cares. A great pet sitter will have a lot of questions for you. They will ask you about their routine, how many times they go out and for how long, feeding times, treats (how many?), they will ask you about allergies, thunder, medications, do you leave the tv on while you’re out, do they sleep in your bed with you, how many hours will they actually spend with your pet(s) etc…
3) Credentials. While I recognize that everyone has to start somewhere, when it comes to my babies – experience and references are very important to me. I look for someone who has not only been a pet owner but who has long term clients. I also require that they’re certified in pet 1st aid and K-9 CPR.
4) Transparency. With technology today, there’s no reason why check in videos and even zoom or FaceTime calls can’t be done. While I skip the latter, I do enjoy getting little videos of our dog being walked or even taking a nap.
5) What’s the back-up? No one likes entertaining worst case scenarios but we simply must. What happens if the person you hired gets sick or into a car accident? Now what? I have found that most pet sitters will have a network of other people who offer comparable services. They will cover for one another if they are unavailable or get sick. For me, I request a meet & greet with the potential “pinch hitter” too. The pet professionals with the best standards will welcome your high standards.
6) Rules: It’s up to you to lay the ground rules and expectations. If they’re staying in your home, be sure to be very clear what your ground rules are. Can they jump in your pool? Can they have a friend come over for lunch or dinner? How long can they leave for during the day? What bedroom/bathroom should they utilize? Go out of your way to state what may be obvious to you because trust me – it may not be obvious to them. The more communication the better and put it in writing and ask them to agree in writing as well.
7) Bring your pets with you! Ok, so this could be a whole other blog but for me, a pet mom of one dog, two cats and a bearded dragon, we have found that our best solution is a hybrid vacation where we bring our poochie with us. Everyone else is much lower maintenance and it’s so much easier to score a great pet sitter who can stop by a couple of times a day to feed everybody and scoop some litter versus to do that and walk our “munchkin head, snugglepus, cuddle monsta”) 4-5 times a day, give him his eye drops and sleep in the bed with him. Plus…WE LOVE HAVING HIM WITH US EVERYWHERE WE GO!!! We even found a sitter who will read to our cats like I like do (sorry, not sorry!)
Whatever you decide to do, we hope you can enjoy some much-needed R&R! Afterall, you deserve it.