Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide

Pet Sitter, House Tender, Friend

Have you ever wanted to go on vacation, but dreaded the thought of how your cat would be cared for while you are away? Ever wanted to stay late at a special dinner, but you had to get home to take care of your dog? Do you feel bad taking your dog to a kennel? There is another option available that you may not be aware of: Pet sitters!

I am a pet sitter who started my business three years ago. After spending 22 years in corporate America, I lost my job. Instead of looking for the same type of job I'd just lost, I chose to follow my heart and become a pet sitter. I have no degree and no certificate in this field, just a pure love of animals that goes all the way back to childhood.

Pets are truly like children to many of their owners, so pet sitters are entrusted with a huge responsibility. If dogs are involved, a pet sitter can easily be asked to visit 3-4 times per day while their owners are gone. That means coming bright and early, when the dog is used to getting up, lunchtime, dinnertime, and then bedtime. Each visit lasts half an hour or an hour, depending on the owner's preferences. Some pet sitters also provide overnight visits, keeping animals company—and keeping the house occupied. Other owners simply want a lunchtime visit each day, so their dogs can get fresh air, a potty break, and some company. Daily visits can consist of taking animals for a walk, ferrying them to veterinary appointments, feeding them, picking up the yard, cleaning out the litter box, play, or just spending time communing, curled up in the family room.

Often, people hire pet sitters because they don't want a break in their pets' routine. Extras that pet sitters deal with every day include preparing special food, cooked just so, fluffing blankets for the animals' sleeping areas, and filling outside bird feeders, not only to keep birds well fed, but to give the indoor cats something to watch all day, too.

Besides caring for the animal, pet sitters take care of the home in various ways. Some owners want lights turned on and off, the trash put out at the curb, plants watered, and mail and newspapers brought in promptly. The security of the house and property is a big part of the pet sitter's job.

How do you find a good pet sitter? An endorsement from your veterinarian carries great weight, and word of mouth from friends and neighbors is a powerful recommendation. Groomers, too, often have information they're happy to share.

Once you have contacted a pet sitter, ask her how long she's been in the business, what types of animals she has cared for, what fees are, what you can expect for those fees, if different people will be visiting your home or if the same pet sitter takes every visit, and references from other clients. After settling on a prospective candidate, have her come to your home days or weeks before you are planning to go away. Get to know her, and above all else, note how she interacts with your pets.

There are other pet sitting options, if you are not comfortable with someone coming into your home while you are away. A popular choice is a kennel, where your pets would have the company of other animals, an area to exercise, and attendants to feed and care for them. Another option is pet sitters who don't come to your house, but are willing to take your pet into their homes while you are away. Pet sitters who will come to you may cost a little more, but you must take into account their travel time, the benefit of your pet being cared for in familiar surroundings, and the fact that you're receiving a very personalized service.

Our pets provide us with unconditional love, and for that reason alone, we want the best for them. Consider a pet sitter the next time you travel, or simply want someone to stop in and visit your best friend!

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