Wednesday, November 27, 2019

What Pet Sitters Want You To Know

It's getting that time of the year when families begin to travel for the holidays. If they have a furry companion living with them, they have three basic options: take their pet with them on the trip, leave their pet in a boarding facility, or hire a pet sitter.

Many people who live with dogs tend to take them along on trips. There are a small number of people who are traveling with their cats now, but most tend to keep them at home. What do you do if your cat doesn't travel with you?

Some people will ask family or friends to take care of their cats if they need to be out of town. When my two Persian Cats first came to live with me, my mother would come over and check on them and feed them. However, she wasn't used to cats and didn't know how to groom them, play with them, or meet their other needs. On top of that - she said NO to the litter box duties! My option was to find a qualified pet sitter who knew about taking care of cats, especially Persian Cats.

Having appropriate toys, furniture, and carriers available for a pet sitter is important

We shared a post last year on Choosing a Pet Sitter and gave 5 tips on finding a pet sitter. We encouraged people to select a certified pet sitter from an organization such as Pet Sitters International (PSI) or The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS). If there are no pet sitters near you who are members of such an organization (like us), you must do your research to find someone appropriate. We recommend asking your veterinarian, friends, and doing online research. We found our pet sitter through our veterinarian and were very pleased with the care and love Truffle and Brulee receive from them. If you want to read more about finding a pet sitter, we encourage you to visit our post from last year. 

Interview with Our Pet Sitters, DJ and Denise

This year, we had a conversation with two of our pet sitters, DJ Intermill and Denise Patterson, from DJ's Critter Care, asking them questions about pet sitting from their perspective.

Why did you become a pet sitter?

DJ tells us that she wanted her own business and she'd heard about pet sitting and knew it was something she could do. Denise said she became a pet sitter as an extension of being a vet tech in college. She said people began asking her to watch their animals and it evolved from there. Denise enjoys pet sitting because it allows her to spend time with them without being in a clinical setting where the animals are often sick and hurting.

Photo credit - Deposit Photos

What are five (5) things a pet sitter wishes people would do prior to a pet sitter coming into the home?

1. Have typed instructions and review the instructions every time you leave to be sure the instructions are up-to-date. DJ says she keeps a notebook on each pet and she has one client who tends to write a novel, which DJ appreciates. She says she makes a checklist for some jobs and it's nice to know the whys to some things - especially pet behavior. Denise says she prefers to have as much information as possible about the pets she takes care of. Denise says some people leave notes or check lists. She always appreciates little reminders. Denise also recommends that you have IDs on your pet(s) and that the microchip information is up-to-date. (I tend to also send friendly reminders through text messages when I'm gone in case I've forgotten something. I also have a wall calendar of my cats in my kitchen with the names of the girls below their pictures, which helped both Denise and DJ learn which cat was which.).

2. Have enough supplies on hand. Denise reminds people to have plenty of extra in case you may be delayed in your travels. She says this is especially important if you have a pet who needs special food or litter and it's not readily available. (Luckily, I've never run out of food, litter, treats, or trash bags!

3. Tell the truth about your pet's behavior. DJ mentions that if your cat or dog has bitten someone, it doesn't mean she won't take care of it. She also promises to tell the client the truth if their pet attacks or bites her. DJ says a solution can usually be found between the pet owner and the pet sitter when there is open communication about a pet's behavior to avoid anyone being hurt. Denise says having a well-trained pet with manners is nice, but she's done so much obedience work and behavior training including Therapy Work, that she enjoys helping exuberant dogs or cats learn how to achieve calm and respectful behaviors, which can become more of a pleasure for their families and her to care for. (Denise discovers different ways to interact with Truffle and Brulee, which has helped them to be less stressed when I'm gone.) 

4. Notification if anyone else will be at your home while you're gone or if there are any vehicle changes.  DJ says it's unsettling to walk into a home and know something is different than how she left it on her last visit. She said if clients want to check up on the pet sitting, to use video cameras. (Many times, my next door neighbors will use my driveway when I'm away so people think someone is home. My parents also check on my home. I have a video camera that I use to check on my cats and have told both Denise and DJ that it's not to check on them.)

5. Preparation of the home. DJ recommends having the area cleaned up and landscaped in the area she must walk from her car into the home. Denise asks her clients to please leave some lights on if her first visit will occur after dark. (I tend to turn on my lights anytime I leave my home - sometimes even when I am home. I'm extremely lucky my next door neighbor takes care of my yard for me. I am embarrassed how my home has looked the last year because I'm in the middle of purging and some rooms are a wreck.)


Truffle discovered catnip bubbles during a pet sitting experience

What are your biggest challenges and successes in pet sitting?

Challenges

DJ - Getting enough sleep during the summer, winter holidays, and weekends. I love what I do and it's how I earn a living, so I work - and sometimes too much.

Denise - Managing paperwork and finances.

Successes

DJ - The pets I win over and it's the same for my staff. The other day I learned that my sitter who is fantastic with cats and has been sitting for one shy cat for over a year, finally got to pet the cat. I love those moments.


Denise - My most successful moments as a pet sitter are definitely being able to care for animals that other people have not been successful with or don't have the patience or skills to handle. Because of my experience as a vet tech, I enjoy medical cases such as diabetic animals or animals that have recently had an illness or surgery and need extra care, as well as, elderly pets. I also enjoy being able to care for animals who are seen as aggressive, hyper, or somehow too much for most pet sitters to handle. Most of these creatures require a calm demeanor and tons of patience, as well as intuition and discernment...which makes them a lot of work, but also incredibly rewarding.

How is pet sitting different for cats vs dogs?

Indoor. Denise says the biggest difference is that most people don't allow their cats to go outside, so cats need to be exercised and entertained inside the home, instead of going for a walk or playing in the yard. Denise recommends having a variety of wand-type interactive toys available for cats.

Litter Boxes. Most cats tend to be indoor-only, so they have litter boxes. As stated before, it's important to have plenty of litter box supplies available for a pet sitter (cat litter, litter boxes, trash bags, etc.). You should also discuss the appropriate disposal of litter while you are gone - use of small bags and disposed of outside vs. using something like the Litter Genie.

Adjustment. Dogs tend to greet people when they come in the door and are ready to play and walk. Cats may take a little longer to adjust to a pet sitter coming into the home. Cats tend to be masters of hiding and it helps to let the pet sitter know popular hiding places. (I close the door to my home office now when I leave because it is a little cluttered and there are many places to hide and Truffle hid so well once that DJ contacted me and told me she couldn't find Truffle! I remembered one more spot in the office and Truffle was there). 

Noise. Consider putting a time on the television or radio when you will be out of town. Having the TV or the radio on during the day provides some background noise during the day and having the timer to turn things off at night allows quiet time for your cats to rest.

A loving moment between Mom Paula and Truffle

Personal Recommendations for Preparing for a Pet Sitter

My cats are members of my family, so I want their experiences with the pet sitter to be as normal and positive as possible when I'm away. I've been very fortunate with DJ and Denise because they spend the time with my girls I believe is necessary for their well-being. Denise has been a God-send this last year because Truffle has "connected" with her and doesn't hide anymore or not eat. Truffle was getting so stressed when I traveled that she was getting ill and the doctor believes her stress may have contributed to her bladder stones. Both Truffle and Brulee are "out and about" when Denise comes to visit, they play with her (wand toy and catnip bubbles) and let her touch them a little bit with the comb. Denise keeps leaving me a note each time that she hopes one day the girls will let her pick them up and love on them.
Here is a list of things I provide for my pet sitter to help make the experience as pleasant as possible for everyone involved (pet sitter, cats, and me).

  • Contact the pet sitter in advance. Don't assume a pet sitter will always be available when you need her. I always send an email as soon as I know of a possible travel date, even if I've talked to her on the phone. This serves as a written notification. 
  • Photos of the girls with their names. A pet sitter visits many animals and sometimes, especially when you have more than one cat, it helps to have a photo with the names of your cats available. I have a wall calendar that has photos of the girls with their names below the photos.
  • Special dietary needs. Let the pet sitter know where food is located. Leave specific instructions on which food (brand and flavor) is feed to which cat along with how much and when. Be sure to inform the pet sitter if you have cats that need to be fed separately and provide the appropriate location. Let your pet sitter know if your cat's food is stored in a particular location. If you use a special feeder, such a an automatic feeder or one the uses your pet's collar or microchip, be sure to leave a copy of the instructions out in case there is a problem. I also let the pet sitter know when one of my cats (especially Brulee) changes her preference for where she likes to eat.
  • Name and phone number of emergency contacts. Even if you've already provided this information during the interview, leave it out again. The name of your vet, the phone number, and the address should be provided in case of emergency. Provide a phone number of family members or friends who know you well and can get in contact with you or provide additional information.
  • Medical needs. If you have a cat who is on daily medication or needs special care, provide detailed information for the pet sitter. Your pet sitter shouldn't be surprised about medical needs when arriving at your home. Make sure your pet sitter knows in advance about any special needs and that she is experienced and prepared to meet these needs.
  • Pet Carrier. This may surprise some of you, but it's important that your cat's carrier is readily available. The pet sitter shouldn't have to search for a carrier if there is a need to remove your cat from your home. I leave out my carriers all the time so the cats are familiar with them and I can reach them quickly.
  • Ask for daily updates. This is something for my peace of mind. My pet sitter leaves a written journal of each day for me to read when I return. I've asked her to take photos each day and text them to me. This way, I can observe how the girls are acting while I'm gone. 
  • Pet video camera. Let the pet sitter know if you are using a pet video camera. I use my camera to check on the girls when the pet sitter is not there. I do not use the camera while the pet sitter is with the girls unless we've talked about it in advance. Once, I knew the pet sitter was at my home because of a text and I had something important to tell her, so I turned on the video camera to talk to her (she doesn't get on the phone while with my cats.)
  • Pet's personalities. There are many things a pet sitter may not realize after the first visit with your cats. I let the pet sitter know of special hiding places each cat likes because they do like to hide. I let her know which treats which cat likes and remind her to break them into smaller pieces for Truffle. I leave a description of the type of play each enjoys.
  • Emergency Kit. Have your emergency kit and list readily available. I use the Sleepypod® Go Bag! to store important supplies that may be needed. I keep the Go Bag! near their Sleepypod® Mobile Pet Beds.


I am so thankful I have found qualified and loving pet sitters for my two silver shaded Persian Cats. Both DJ and Denise work well with my cats and it's obvious they care. I'm very appreciative of the fact that Denise was a vet tech and also had Persian cats before, so she understands the special needs of the breed.


Resources

Cespedes, YahairaPetMD. Top Ten Tips on Finding a Qualified and Professional Pet Sitterhttps://www.petmd.com/dog/slideshows/care/top-ten-tips-on-finding-a-qualified-and-professional-pet-sitter

Georgia Network of Professional Pet Sitters.  Preparing Your Home and Your Pet for the Pet Sitter. https://gapetsitters.com/preparing-for-the-pet-sitter/.

National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. Benefits of Using a Pet Sitterhttps://petsitters.org/benefits_of_using_a_pet_sitter.php

Pet Sitters International. What is a Pet Sitter? https://www.petsit.com/what-is-a-pet-sitter.

Pet Sitters International. Why Use a Professional Pet Sitter? https://www.petsit.com/owners

Personal interviews with DJ Intermill and Denise Patterson from DJ's Critter Care, Inc. November 2019.

12 comments:

  1. Great points and so important that you can feel relaxed that they are safe

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  2. Great Tips! I actually do pet sitting for friends pets. I like these tips, I will keep these in mind to share with any future clients. From Ava Jaine, Dachshund Station.

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  3. You have definitely found some gems for your girls and they deserve nothing less. One thing I ask is how much contact they want - I have clients that want pictures every visit and others that just want to hear if I have questions or concerns.

    One of the issues with certification is that the certification requires classes and testing on dogs and parrots, chickens etc. For someone cats only like me - meh. So I’m not going to pay the additional to get certified.

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  4. First, I love that sweet photo of you and Truffle! Such great info. I had to chuckle when your mom said "no" to litter box duties! I have a trusted friend who stays with my Huskies on the few times (I can count them on one hand) that I've had to leave them. The first time I still don't live down...I left five pages of written directions on the back of my front door! LOL! Now it is much easier as she knows the routine. Of course, with relocating, there will be some upset and new things to get used to especially since they will be 12 and used to a routine, so in our new place if we do need to go somewhere, I have to find myself a pet sitter. Great tips!

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  5. Our cat sitters get pages and PAGES os notes and instructions! They can't move without knowing there is a page of notes for it. You are right - people need to give the cat sitter all the information they need from quirks to dietary needs. All vital info for the person taking over!

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  6. From what has been my focus--which is health--it is so crucial to have proper instructions what to do in case the pet gets ill.

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  7. These are awesome tips to help leaving your pet behind less stressful for everyone! We are lucky enough to have family members who can take of our pets when we are away, but do many of these things even though my dogs know the pet sitters quite well.

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  8. Fantastic tips! I laughed when DJ mentioned one of her clients "tends to write a novel" - that's me! I once left a six page journal (completely filled 8.5 x 11 lined paper) taped to the back of my front door for my friend who came to care for my five Huskies overnight! It was good to hear the perspective of pet sitting right from one (and that pet sitters do appreciate those "novel" instructions! I don't feel so bad now for leaving my book of care instructions! Great post of tips for pets, Paula!

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  9. Great tips! It's so interesting to read the list of things pet sitters wish pet parents would do to help prepare before going away. I have to admit I've never used a pet sitter before, and I doubt I ever will perhaps baring some kind of unforeseen emergency. I know I wouldn't be able to have fun on a vacation without my pets, I'd just worry the whole time. We take them with us on the rare occasion that we do any traveling. It takes a lot more planning, and sometimes makes the trip more expensive, but it's so worth it for me.

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  10. This was an excellent read! You touched base on so much that people probably lose track of while they’re in the hustle and bustle of going on vacation.
    We usually have a good friend that watches our dogs while we’re away. However, our French Bulldog just got over a back injury, so I’m feeling more apt to find a professional sitter to at least take care of her in case something medically comes up while we’re away. Thanks for taking the time to write this - you touched on a lot of great points!

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  11. A good pet sitter can be Godsent. Making their job easier means having a pet better taken care of and safer.

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  12. This is great advice. We always make a point of leaving clear, printed instructions on the fridge including the important contact numbers that they may need - our veterinarian, the closest emergency veterinarian (including an address), etc. That way, if something were to happen, they are prepared without having to scramble to find information.

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