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Angie's List: Hiring a Pet Sitter

The next time you get out of town, make sure you have someone trustworthy to stay with your best friend.

For many of us, we take time off and travel for the holidays to visit family and friends.

But what happens if you can't take Fido along on your journey?

Is a pet sitter, the answer?

For Peter and Erin Rusthoven, hiring a pet sitter to come into their home and check on their three dogs daily gives them peace of mind that their pets are being well-cared for while they are away.

"In addition to her obviously caring for the dogs, she's also checking the house, bringing in our mail, watering plants, those types of things." Peter Rusthoven said.

"We do a quick walk around outside the house. We make sure gates are closed if we have yard play scheduled with the dogs. We check and make sure windows and doors look secure. Part of our training program is teaching our staff what to look for that something might be out of place," Pet Sitter Becki Bradford said.

"In a recent Angie's List poll 80 percent of the respondents have pets in their family and it can be a big decision who is going to care for your pet when you are traveling. Are you going to board your pet or have a pet sitter? The nice thing about a pet sitter is that your pet gets to stay in their own environment. Also, you get someone who is checking in on your house for security reasons and in case something goes wrong like a busted pipe," Angie Hicks said.

"The client had just had a kitchen remodel done and had a built-in ice maker put into the island. The ice maker developed a leak inside the cabinetry of the island so it wasn't noticeable in the kitchen itself, but a drip began through the ceiling of the floor beneath them, and we caught that fairly quickly so the damage was limited. But had we not been there, it would have caused a lot of damage as it was an expensive repair already, but it took out a lot of the ceiling below and the structure was starting to get wet and mold in just the 24 hours between our visits," Bradford said.

Most professional sitters charge between $15 and $50 per visit, depending on the distance traveled, length of the visit, and duties required.

Visits can range from as little as 20 or 30 minutes to staying in the house overnight.

"When hiring a pet sitter, first and foremost you want to know how they get along with your pet. Have them over to your home. Watch them interact with your pet and see how they do. Also, because they are going to be in your home and you're trusting your pet with them, you want to make sure they are reputable so be sure you are interviewing the person that is going to be taking care of your pet and also be sure they are insured and bonded," Hicks said.

"I think cats especially do much better at home in their environment where they are definitely going to be most comfortable. Cats tend to bond very closely to their territories and can be stressed quite a bit when they have to leave home, even for routine visits, so taking them out of their environment can be difficult for cats," Bradford said.

Angie's List says before hiring understand the services the provider will provide, including frequency of visits and clearly communicate your pet's needs.

A professional sitter should have an emergency protocol in case of an emergency with your home or pet.

What you should know:

  • Check referrals and references: Ask for references and then follow up with them. Ask what kind of pet they have, what services were provided, how long they've been clients and any other pertinent questions that relate to the service your pet will be getting.

  • Is the sitter bonded and insured? Ask to see a certificate of insurance.

  • Ask about employees: If the company employs more than one person, ask if the same person will be caring for your pet every day. Many larger companies use several different employees for the same client, so your pet may see a different person every day. Make sure you understand what happens if that pet sitter is suddenly unavailable. You need to know that they've got a quality backup plan in place.

  • Ask about training: Find out how employees are trained. A good pet care company will have a formal training program to ensure quality control and consistency. Do they have first aid training so they'll know what to do in an emergency?

  • In-home visit: Have the pet sitter visit you and your pet at home before making a hiring decision. Make sure you and your pet are comfortable with the sitter you hire. Ask whether the sitter you're meeting is the only sitter who will be entering your home while you are away.

  • How are costs determined? Most professional sitters charge between $15 and $50 per visit, depending on the distance traveled, length of the visit, and duties required. Visits can range from as little as 20 or 30 minutes to staying in the house overnight.

  • Inform the sitter: Clearly communicate your pets' needs, including daily routines, medical issues and emergency plans. Be specific as possible.

  • In case of emergency: A professional sitter should have an emergency protocol in case of an emergency with your home or pet.

  • Read the fine print: Understand the services the sitter will provide, including frequency of visits. Make sure you're comfortable with the sitter's plans for taking care of your pet.

  • Stay updated: Pet owners and sitters should discuss communication plans in advance. How will the pet sitter keep in contact with your while you're away? Provide the sitter with a list of emergency contacts and service providers of anyone who has access to the home.


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