How to Choose a Petsitter

How to Choose a Petsitter

By Morgen Marshall

I’ve written extensively on how to become a petsitter. It occurred to me that not everyone wants to be one. So, for those who don’t want to “be” a petsitter, but could use the services of one, I am now addressing this question.

Obviously, a petsitter is a trusted person. If I am hiring a petsitter, I want to know that my computer, TV and jewelry will be there when I get back. I want to know that my pet is safe and lovingly cared for. How can I tell if the person I’m interviewing for the job will do what I want and be trustworthy?

First, I interview the person over the phone or in person. I ask for references. If the person has no references for petsitting, I ask for the names and numbers of a couple of character references. I don’t expect the person I’m talking to to be an expert, or even be experienced. So many people are not experienced petsitters, that it doesn’t make sense to hold out for the one or two master petsitters in town to have time to talk to me. I need someone NOW!

So, I call the references. I ask about honesty,reliablilty and dependability. I want to know if the person works and where they live. I want to know if they have any pets of their own. How do they talk about their pets to their friends? If I know the person enough to carry on a conversation, I listen to how they talk about their pets. Are they having troubles with their pets? How are they addressing those problems?

Trustworthiness is important. I need to know that the person I pick to come into my home to care for my pets will feed them, love them, spend time with them and not do things I don’t want done in my home. I don’t generally want someone staying at my home while I’m away. I want to know that the petsitter has a home to go to and won’t stay over. I want to know that they live close enough so that I’m not buying a tank of gas that I don’t need to buy. If I need the plants watered, I need to know if they can handle it, or if they have a brown thumb. I’d hate to lose a prize cactus because it was watered too much, or a beautiful fern die and wither from lack of water. I don’t want the fertilizing done while I’m away. I prefer to do that myself. If I have an outdoor garden, does it need watering every day? How long should all this take? How much am I willing to pay? Is food included (read – fill the fridge before I go and again when I get back)? Am I willing to trust this person not to bring strangers to my home? That’s a real setup, if ever there was one!

Only now am I willing to discuss payment arrangements. I pay by the day. I negotiate to get the best rate, but want to be sure that my petsitter is happy with the price, too. Underpayment will only lead to sloppy care and scheduling, resentments and a petsitter who won’t come the next time I need someone. Pay fair to play fair!

If I’m going to be unavailable for more than a week, I prefer to board my cats at a trusted kennel. It just makes more sense, and works out well for me. I pick a kennel by three criteria: personal reference, cleanliness and meeting the attendants.

I always get a personal reference for a kennel. I go visit during a slow time of the week and look it over. I’m sure that during a busy holiday weekend, it will be much more chaotic; and I also know that the attendants won’t have time to give me a tour and answer all my questions during a busy time. So, I visit while it’s relatively slow. Since I have cats, I ask to see the cat area in the kennel.

I look for cleanliness. The holding areas (not always cages, but sometimes) are used by the animals, so I look for places and things that can cause hazards to my pets. Sharp things, stored items that don’t have any obvious reason for being there, etc. I also look for things my cats can climb on and check to see if there are any windows my cats can see out of to watch the comings and goings of the world. I look for cubby holes so my cats feel secure. I look for soft things. I check the ambient temperature because if it’s cold for me, it will be for my cats. I smell the area to see if I can smell urine or chemicals. I don’t want either scent to assail me when I come get my cats. I check to see how the other cats (if any) are being cared for. Are the litter boxes clean? Is the food old or spoiled? Do the walls and floor around the food dishes look like they could use a good cleaning?

Lastly, I talk to the attendants. I listen to how they talk about the animals they care for. I listen to their attitudes toward their work and the kennel in general. You can learn a lot by what IS NOT said, as much as what IS. I ask them if they have any pets of their own. I look them over for cleanliness. Yes, it matters. If a person handles a sick animal and does not wash their hands, the disease can be spread to other animals.

I hope this helps. The kennel I use is Ravenwood Kennels in Halls, TN. The owner, Cheri Roop is knowedgeable, has goats running around outside to visit with and the kennel is clean. She is very nice and tries to make the cat area as homelike as possible, while keeping the cats apart. I trust her with Beasley and Princess. She knows my vet personally, and is known to some of my church members. You can contact her at 865-922-9641.

Get references. Call and visit. Talk and get to know your people. The more comfortable you are with them, the more comfortable your pets will be.

Copyright 2005 Morgen Marshall

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