So, you’re off on a grand vacation or need to take a trip. Alas, that means saying goodbye temporarily to your pets. You’ll miss them, but with the right pet sitter, they can have a lot of fun. To ensure the chances of that happening, prepare your home and pet as thoroughly as possible.
Getting Your House Ready
If you’re leaving your pet at the sitter’s house, you can skip ahead to further sections (although you may still find a thing or two here interesting). Arguably, the most important thing is to pet proof your home even if you don’t think that is necessary. The thing is that your pet (or pets) will be in the apartment or house for hours or days at a time. You want to keep your pet and possessions safe, so that means storing medications, small objects and household cleansers. Close cabinet doors and drawers, and keep the toilet lids down. Ensure that the doors to off-limits rooms are closed, and lock windows, doors and outdoor gates as needed. If you use dog gates on a daily basis, it might be best to just take them down and close doors instead.
Next is temperature control. Set the temperature at a comfortable level for both you and the sitter, especially if the sitter is staying at your house and not merely visiting every day.
To make the sitter’s job easy, keep your pet’s supplies handy and in one place. Remember the little things such as can openers, measuring spoons, collars, plastic bags and even paper towels. If you keep your vacuum, broom and the like elsewhere, leave a note explaining where they are.
It can be a good idea to leave new toys behind to keep your pet entertained. A cat scratcher or fake mouse, for example, could keep your cat occupied for quite a while.
Following General Suggestions
To be on the safe side, ensure that your pets have ID tags if they do not already. The tags can be a great help in case your pets get loose, whether they are staying at home or going elsewhere. If they’re not used to wearing tags, start as early as possible before your trip to get them acclimated. Other bases to cover include vaccinations and backup keys for neighbors (for pets staying at home). Also, stock up on pet food in case you end up gone for longer than you plan to be.
If possible, have your pets and the sitter meet before your trip. If the sitter will visit your home or stay there, a pre-meet gives you the opportunity to show him or her around and explain anything that needs special detail. You can also show the sitter where you take your dog on a walk. And, in case you have yet to book a sitter, do so well in advance of your trip. It can be hard to find one otherwise.
Choosing a Pet Sitter
So, how exactly does one choose a pet sitter? Start with recommendations from people you trust: your vet, your pet trainer or a volunteer at the humane society. Family and friends may also be able to help. Two other valuable sources for recommendations can be the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters and Pet Sitters International.
Things to keep in mind as you search for a sitter (or even before you begin your search) are compensation and whether you prefer the pet to stay at home. One advantage to having a pet sitter visit your home or stay there is that you have someone who can, say, water the plants, bring in the mail and do other odds and ends. For your pet, the biggest benefit is that he or she stays in familiar surroundings. In some cases, the decision may come down to your pet’s temperament and/or health needs. For example, if your dog needs constant attention or care, you might prioritize having a full-time sitter even if that means the dog has to stay at the sitter’s home.
If you want to keep in touch with your pet while you are on vacation, you may be able to. Arrange with the sitter ahead of time how that will work. One possibility is to set up a brief video “chat” every night or to have the sitter email you pictures or videos every day.
Not surprisingly, compensation may go up the more involved you need the pet sitter to be. However, if you are flexible, sitters can be too. For example, if you live in a prime vacation destination and are going out of town for a week on your own vacation, you could see if a friend or relative wants to stay at your house in this hot city for free—as long as he or she cares for your pets.
Writing Instructions for the Sitter
The sitter may be someone who knows you and your pets well, or the sitter could be a stranger. Either way, leave clear instructions as to pet care. Never assume that just because a friend is at your house a lot, he or she knows how much to feed your dog or how often to take Fido on a walk. You can convey much of this information orally, but having it in writing as well serves to remind the sitter. For the sake of clarity, consider typing and printing out the instructions instead of handwriting them.
Then there are house rules. For instance, if you don’t let your dog on the couch or on your bed, write that down for the sitter. Otherwise, the sitter might let your dog up, which can lead to bad habits forming. In addition to instructions, leave your contact information and emergency contact information (the closest pet emergency room, for example, and your vet’s information).
It can be stressful to leave your pets behind while you travel, but preparing thoroughly may bring you peace of mind. If the pet is staying at your house, err on the side of “better safe than sorry” when pet-proofing it.
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