Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Finding Professional Care for Your Cat While You Are Away

Even though many people aren't traveling during the COVID 19 Pandemic this year, there are still people who travel for a job, take vacations on the road, visit family and friends during the holidays, or who may be ill and in the hospital. In the past, people tended to traveled with dogs, but more people are beginning to take their cats with them when they travel. However, traveling with cats may not be convenient or possible, so you need to leave your cats at home while you are away. Who will take care of your cats? 

A few options are to board your at the veterinary hospital, board them at a pet boarding facility, have a friend check in on them, or hire a professional pet sitter. 

If you have a cat with an illness that needs to be monitored closely, boarding her at the vet is probably the best option. Some pet boarding facilities have special rooms for cats, but many cats don't like being in a strange environment with the different smells and sounds. Some people ask a friend or neighbor to check in on their cats, but does this person understand or live with cats? Will your friend or neighbor take the time each day to feed and play with your cats, clean the litter box, give medication if needed, groom your cat, and leave detailed notes of each visit? Hiring a professional pet sitter may be the best option for your feline companions. 

Why Hire a Professional Pet Sitter

The major advantage of hiring a professional pet sitter is that your cat is her first priority! Hiring a professional pet sitter allows your cat to be in her own home with sights and smells she is comfortable with. A professional pet sitter forms a strong bond with your cat that helps reduce stress and provides your cat a sense of security while you are away. Professional pet sitters are insured and bonded and are reliable and can recognize potentially urgent behaviors as well as have the tools to provide the best care. Professional pet sitters are often trained in pet first aid and know how to give medications. A professional pet sitter can also provide security for your home through daily visits by bringing in mail and papers daily, rotating the lights throughout your home each day, check the doors/windows/garage doors, and rotate the blinds and shades. Professional pet sitters will also send you daily updates through email or texts with photos of your cats so  you'll have peace of mind while you are away.  

Image  used with permission from Pet Sitters International (PSI)

Searching For a Professional Pet Sitter

You've decided to hire a professional pet sitter, but how to you go about finding someone who best meets the needs for your cats and you? There are national organizations who are recognized for providing quality professional pet sitters. Pet Sitters International (PSI) or The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) help you locate pet sitters who've met rigorous standards and completed training in caring for your pet. Pet Sitters International (PSI) advises pet owners to only use the services of professional pet sitters (Evans, November 2018). Meghann Evans (PSI) states that anyone can post a profile on a pet-sitting or dog-walking website or app, so it is important for pet owners to make sure they are choosing a qualified pet-care provider. Pet owners can search PSI’s Pet Sitter Locator free of charge at www.petsit.com/locate. NAPPS has a search engine to locate a NAPPS pet sitter in your area. There are other professional pet sitting organizations available where you can find someone to care for your cat while away - Pet Sitters International (PSI)Care.com, and Rover.com (dogs only).  If you search and get results for certified pet sitters near you, this is where you should start. What happens if there is no one near you who is certified through these organizations?

  • Ask Your Vet
  • Search the Internet
  • Find a Pet Sitter Affiliated with a Reputable Boarding Facility
  • Ask a Friend or Neighbor

Paula and silver shaded Persian Cat, Truffle, face to face
Find a pet sitter who loves your pet like you do

Choosing a Professional Pet Sitter

You've searched all of the resources above and narrowed down potential pet sitters. The next step is to find the right person to take care of your cat while you are away. Below are 5 tips to help you find the best person.

  1. Telephone Interview. Talk to the person on the phone. The first thing to ask would be about their experience with cats. You may ask the following questions while on the telephone:
    • Do you have the proper business license for your city or state, if required?
    • Are you insured and bonded?
    • Do you have written proof of commercial liability insurance coverage to cover accidents and negligence. 
    • Can you provide proof of clear criminal history? Remember, you are allowing this person into your home while you are away.
    • Can you provide references from current clients with cats?
    • Will you use a pet-sitting services agreement and contract? Can you provide me a sample prior to your visit?
    • Are you a Certified Professional Pet Sitter (CCPS)® and have you participated in other pet-care training, such as pet first aid?
    • Are you a member of a professional and educational association, such as Pet Sitters International (PSI)?
  2. Conduct an In Home Interview. Ask the pet sitter for an in-home interview with you and your cat(s). This gives you the opportunity to see how your cats react to the person while you are in the room with them. While the pet sitter is interacting with your cat, you can ask important questions that weren't asked on the telephone. Pet Sitter has a comprehensive list of questions to consider asking during the in-home interview. Some key questions you may want to ask are:
    • Do you have any special medical training?
    • Why do you like cats?
    • What happens if you can't make a scheduled appointment?
    • What other services do you provide?
  3. Ask For References. A qualified and responsible pet sitter will have a list of both regular clients and pet care services that are willing to vouch for their professionalism. One the list is received, contact the references. Make sure to ask questions that directly relate to your expectations and your cat's needs. Don't depend on answers such as "she was great! or "I loved her!" from references. Ask for specific details on how well the pet sitter kept in contact while they were away and if there were any emergences and how were they handled.
  4. Review the Contract. Remember, a prospective pet sitter will have complete access to your home and personal belongings, as well as being entrusted to care for your pet. Take special care when studying the contract to ensure that all the discussed and agreed-upon services have been included. Make sure you keep a copy of the contract on file. If the pet sitter doesn't provide a contract, one should be drawn up prior to using this person.
  5. Provided Services. Pet sitting is as varied as your needs may be. Some services may include grooming along with live-in care, while others may offer play time, outdoor exercise, and training. Some pet sitters may also combine their services with nutritional regimens such as weight loss. You need to know exactly what is needed for someone to care for your feline and share these expectations with a potential pet sitter. Accidents and mishaps happen, and you’ll want to select a person who is experienced and resourceful enough to protect your pet as well as you would. For older and special needs pets, the potential sitter should document medication, feeding, and other health-related cycles. A comprehensive veterinary and/or partner pet sitter network should provide help if needed.

2 silver shaded Persian Cats, Brulee and Truffle, looking forward from sleepypod and scratcher
Brulee and Truffle watching Mom Paula prepare for a pet sitter.

Preparing for a Pet Sitter

You've interviewed potential pet sitters, narrowed down candidates for an in-home interview, checked references, and decided on the person(s) who will take care of your feline companions. When you have a scheduled or unexpected trip planned where you need the services of a pet sitter, it's important to prepare your home for the pet sitter. 

  • Contact the pet sitter in advance. Plan in advance how how you will communicate with the pet sitter: telephone, email, or text. Don't assume a pet sitter will always be available when you need her. Consider an email and/or text, even if you've talked to the pet sitter on the phone. This provides a written notification and confirmation (when replied to). 

  • Photos of the girls with their names. A pet sitter visits many animals and sometimes, especially when there is more than one cat, it helps to have a photo with the names of your cats available.
  • Special dietary needs. Let the pet sitter know where food is located. Leave specific instructions on which food (brand and flavor) is fed 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 locations. 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.
  • Name and phone number of emergency contacts. Even if you've already provided this information during the interview, leave it out again. Provide the name of your vet, the phone number, and the address case of emergency and the contact information for your closest neighbor or family member.
  • 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. 
  • Pet Carrier. 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. Consider leaving out the carriers all the time so the cats are familiar with them and you can reach them quickly.
  • Ask for daily updates. This is something for your peace of mind while away. Most pet sitters leave a written journal of each day for you to read when you return. Ask your pet sitter to take photos each day and text them to you. This way, you can observe how they are acting while you're gone (are they out in the open, hiding, etc.). 
  • Pet video camera. Let the pet sitter know if you are using a pet video camera. Use your camera camera to check on your cats when the pet sitter is not there. Do not use the camera while the pet sitter is with the girls unless you've talked about it in advance. 
  • Pet's personalities. There are many things a pet sitter may not realize after the first visit with your cats. Let the pet sitter know of special hiding places each cat likes; which treats which cat likes (some cats may need larger treats broken into smaller pieces); and 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.

Taking the time to research for a professional pet sitter and then preparing for the pet sitting experience for your cats is imperative when you must travel and leave your cats home alone


Cespedes, YahairaPetMDTop 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

Evans, Meghann. Pet Sitters International (PSI). Email Communication. November 26, 2018.

Green, Kathy. March 25, 2013. 43 Questions for a Pet Sitter Interview. PetSitter.com. 43 Questions for a Pet Sitter Interview - The PetSitter.com Blog.

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

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

Would you like to comment?

  1. Great Post! When my husband was in the hospital and I was working in a city 6 hours away, this post would have been extremely helpful. It took me a while to figure everything out. My primary sitter for the 4 cats was my sister, but she could not come over everyweekend. I interviewed 5 professionals over the phone, each had different requirments. I invited 2 over to meet the cats. I put together a sheet for each cat which included ther most recent vet visit and theri current shot information, what they likes and their hiding spots (2 of the cats hide when there are visitors) She particularly liked that as she could catch a glimpse and knew they were still in the house. Having your post would have saved me a whole lot of time, both in finding a sitter and getting all the cat "stuff" together. I am bookmarking this so I can forward the link when people ask me about cat sitters. You ROCK!

  2. A nice post that shares good info - and truly important info! As our most precious possessions,our animals rely on us to make the best, safest, decisions for them. Always go with a professional pet sitter that's been thoroughly vetted, certified, and knows a great deal about the species of your pet. Thanks and will share!

  3. Excellent post. I have been blessed that my mom could stay with my cats. We haven't gone anywhere in 6 years though and have only gone overnight.

  4. I live in a building with lots of cats and dogs and most of my neighbors know that I am a pet lover so when they travel, if its a dog it stays with me and if its a cat I go to the house to check up on them twice a day. With COVID it gives me something to do which is a win win situation for everyone.

  5. This is a great helpful post for vetting pet sitters and being prepared. I've pinned this post. You're girls are so beautiful.

  6. The one time we had to board our dog because we were visiting my parents in Europe, I researched high and low for a good place. At the end, the only place I ended up trusting was indeed, her vet. Not everything is good that looks good on the paper.

    Finding the right dog-sitter is probably just as involved as finding a good vet. My solution is not to go anywhere LOL

  7. We are fortunate that we have family nearby to watch our pets when we go away. If we did not, we would look for a professional. I'm sure your pet sitter appreciates all that you do to make it easier on her.

  8. Finding a safe and good cat sitter is on our to do list. We need someone we can trust and who knows enough about cats to deal with the small things that come up on a daily basis. This is such a helpful post, than you.

  9. Finding a safe and good cat sitter is on our to do list. We need someone we can trust and who knows enough about cats to deal with the small things that come up on a daily basis. This is such a helpful post, than you.

  10. This is great advice. While we enjoy taking our pets with us whenever we can, there are some situations where it's just not feasible. At those times, we seek out a pet sitter that we know we can trust with the care of our kitties. I have been incredibly spoiled as of late - one of the students that I've worked with in the world of music lives across from us and he's a cat lover.


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