How to be the Perfect Pet-Sitting Client

What information does your pet sitter need to efficiently care for your home and pets? After 25 years as a pet sitter, I find it falls into two categories: pet care and “all that other stuff.” Here’s how to ensure that your pet sitter knows the most important details about your animal’s care.

Meals, Meds, and More

  • Food: Include notes about feeding times, amounts of food, and where pets usually eat. Do they eat in crates? Are they separated? Different brands of food? Can they have treats? Any diet restrictions? What brand of food do they eat in case I run out?
  • Medication: Provide a list of medications, including dose and frequency. Where should I refill it in case they run out?
  • Dog Behavior: Does he chew, bark, or bite intruders? If I am walking the dog, how will he react when he meets strangers, children, or other dogs? People in uniform or wearing hats? Does he react to some breeds or types of dogs but not others?
  • Logistics: Where does the pet sleep? Where is he when no one is home? Where are the leashes, collars, and poop bags? Is he crate-trained? Where is the cat carrier in case I have to transport?
  • Cat behavior: Does the cat hide? Where? Does he bite or scratch? Does he go outside? Does he try to escape? What are his favorite toys or types of play?
  • Vet info: Provide a phone number and signed release allowing your pet sitter to seek treatment for your pet. If I will be walking your dog or taking him to a dog park, leave a copy of his current shot records.
  • Clean-up instructions: Where is the pooper scooper? The litter scoop? Where is fresh cat litter? Where do you dispose of waste?

The Other Stuff

  • Logistics: Let me know where you will be, especially if you are out of the country, and the day and approximate time you will return.
  • Codes and passwords: Every security gate and house alarm system works just a bit differently. Leave instructions and the phone number of the alarm company.
  • Phone numbers: Provide your cell number and that of a local contact person. If I have to evacuate animals, I’ll need help and maybe a place to take them. During the 2003 California fires, I ended up with eleven birds, six dogs, a cat, and two horses at my house. They don’t all fit into one car.
  • House info: Where are water and gas shutoffs? I once arrived at a house and water was pouring down the stairs into the living room. The shutoff valve was in the garage behind a metal shelving unit. The neighbor had to help me find it.

What a Veterinarian Will Want to Know

If I have to take your pet to the veterinarian, ideally I would take him to your vet. But that’s not always possible. In either situation, the vet will still ask certain questions:

  • Have I talked to the owner about the situation? The owner might think the current symptoms are perfectly normal.
  • How long has the owner been gone? What are the symptoms of the problem? Has the animal been eating, drinking, and eliminating normally? Did it start as soon as the owner left or later?
  • What kind of follow-up care can the pet sitter provide? Will the animal need extra visits?
  • On the practical side, how will the vet be paid? Will you call in a credit card number, pay when you return home, or does the pet sitter have to front the money? Is there a dollar limit on the amount you will approve? Cell phones have made it much easier to get in touch with you while you travel, but even then, it may take time to get in touch. In an emergency, I may need to make on-the-spot decisions.
  • If the vet visit is the result of an accident, what happened? Will the pet sitter cover the cost? For instance, I have liability insurance that covers most situations if I am at fault.

There’s a lot to think about when you are getting ready to travel. Plan ahead for your pet sitter so you can be confident your pets are safe and happy while you are gone.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.