FREE PET SITTING: Caution! What’s A Value Worth for Your Pet’s Care?

During holiday seasons pet owners are in a scramble to find somebody to care for their pets. The first concern that often comes to mind is cost.  People want a good VALUE for their dollar but do they take into consideration the VALUE they hold of their pets?

Example:

I received a call from an older pet owner in November who lived in a very wealthy neighborhood. She was referred by my veterinarian, and normally used one of the technicians at our veterinary clinic to care for her dog overnight but they were unavailable for the holiday season. She asked me how much I charge & I replied $65/night. She literally gasped on the phone & said she’d get back to me. Obviously she is spoiled having the technician care for her dogs for a lower cost. When her daughter convinced her to call back to book it because she had no other choice I was already booked.  She was referred to my affiliate who normally charges $75/night! However, since I referred her, she’d get the care for my rate of $65/night.

So why the price difference?

The technician who normally cares for the owner’s dog does it as a hobby for some extra money on the side. Their main source of income is working at the veterinary clinic. They are NOT bonded & insured or have a business license. They don’t have a legitimate business they operate on a professional level & pay taxes on etc.

Example:

I received a call from a lady on a Monday evening that she needed care for her dogs starting Wednesday through Sunday night. Apparently she had asked a friend to do it & they cancelled on her 2 days prior to her departure.  Now she is in a panicked search to find a sitter for her dogs before she leaves.  I was already booked & could not do it on 2 days notice so again she got referred to my affiliate.

The pet owner in an attempt to save money asked a friend or relative to care for her dogs. That person has no obligation or contract with her so it is easy for them to cancel on her or not even show up! A professional pet sitter will have a contract or service agreement that you sign. This bonds both of you into the care for your pets. You get the guarantee they will care for your pet & you promise to pay them for that care.

Example:

A couple is planning a trip to Russia to go adopt a baby. The wife works at home and is with their 3 cats most of the time. They are very concerned about their cats being left alone while they travel. They have to go away for 4 days to a seminar as a preliminary to their adoption. A co-worker of the husband volunteers to come care for the cats.  At the walk through she doesn’t want to walk down to the basement on a winding staircase to see the litter box area.  The couple had to coax her down & show her an alternative way to go downstairs.

While they are away several days go by without hearing from the cat sitter.  No text emails or calls. They finally decide to call her & she answers the phone. Tells them she is at the house right now & everything is fine. When they return home & walk in the front door the odor overwhelms them. The litter boxes obviously had not been cleaned in a few days.  When confronted about the litter boxes the person states that she had cleaned them every day & even asks/offers to care for the cats on their next trip.

The pet owners had a friend/co-worker do it to save some money & not knowing of any other option. Obviously the person did not know how to properly care for cats.  They had no idea if the person was actually there & showed up to care for them while they were away.  The person left evidence that the cats were not properly cared for, denied it & then offered to care for the cats again. The pet owners saw a pet sitting sign near their home & realized this would be a better option to look into.

Even if it is a friend, family member or kid next door looking to make some extra money, do you value your pet’s life & care to save a dollar? Do you want to hope they show up? Or hope they care for your pets correctly? People forget, accidents happen & things come up.  Most likely your pet is not going to be their first priority.

To a Professional Pet Sitter – Your Pet IS the priority!

A REAL PROFESSIONAL Pet sitter is:

  • Bonded
  • Insured
  • Licensed
  • Has PET CPR, First Aid or some ANIMAL medical care training
  • Uses a service contract, and pet information forms
  • Has a website
  • Has references
  • Has a Secure Key or Lock Box system
  • Has experience & knowledge in working with animals
  • Does a consultation to meet with you & run though your pets care routine
  • Text, calls or emails regular updates with pictures of your pet while you are away
  • Books up in advance – a good pet sitter is in high demand!

Now look at that list, and consider how much more VALUE those items have and hold when it comes to the VALUE of your pet’s life & care while you are away.

The less items on the list mean less you will pay & the less your chances are of your pet receiving good care while you are away.  The horror stories I have heard & seen over the years speak for themselves. The stories above are just a small handful of recent examples within a one-month period I have heard!

When you look at websites such as Care.com and Sittercity.com there are literally HUNDREDS of people posted on there who want to care for pets. They are college kids, retired, unemployed, men, women, teenagers & they ALL LOVE PETS, HAVE HAD PETS & WOULD LOVE TO CARE FOR YOUR PET! What I have seen as result of theses sites – people are looking for the cheapest pet care possible. I could send them the best resume possible in terms of being a professional pet care provider! Then the minute they hear my rates the emails & contact stop.

Pet sitters seem to be a dime a dozen. It’s a quick, easy way for a person who likes animals to make some extra money in today’s economy.  The quick easy cheap way could put your pet’s life in danger. Is it worth their life to save a few bucks?

As a client of mine repeatedly tells me: “Peace of mind is priceless!”

Shannon’s Pet Sitting

This has been a contribution from Shannon Cole, owner of Shannon’s Pet Sitting, a Better Business Bureau accredited and award winning pet care service in Chicago’s NW Suburbs that specializes in pets w/ behavioral problems, medical needs & senior pets.

With over 15 years experience and being a certified veterinary assistant specialized in internal medicine, Shannon has built a strong reputation as an expert in the pet care industry. Shannon has been a featured guest several times on internet radio shows, and been interviewed about operating a successful pet care business by Angies’s List magazine and author Georganne Fiumara, in the book “How to Start a Home-based Business to Become a Work-At-Home Mom.”

She enjoys working with “Special Needs” pets and mentoring pet sitters that are new to the pet care industry.

How To Be Your Pet Sitter’s Favorite Client

You’ve finally done it! You’ve found the pet sitter of your dreams. Now that you have someone to put the sparkle back into your pet’s eyes when you’re away, how do you hang on to them?

There are things you can do to help make your pet sitter’s life much easier. Follow these easy tips and you’ll create a fantastic working relationship with your pet sitter for many years.

Book In Advance

Show respect for your pet sitter’s time. Don’t always be calling them trying to book at the last minute. If it’s an emergency and you have to leave immediately, they may be able to accommodate you, but don’t make a habit out of it.

Instead, book your pet sitter at least 2 weeks in advance. The more time the better, especially during the holidays.

Understand You’re Not Their Only Client

Professional pet sitters, especially the good ones, have dozens of clients. They will do what they can to fulfill your needs, but you must be reasonable with requests.

Asking them to turn on a porch light when they come by is a totally normal request that they will gladly do. But asking your pet sitter to wash your dishes is a bit excessive. Doing so may cause them to run behind schedule with other pets and takes away time from your own pet.

Respect Their Policies

Whether you’re going into an ongoing service agreement or a one-time visit, make sure you understand the terms you’re agreeing to. If you’re confused about something, ask during your consultation or anytime prior to signing a contract.

Some clients may not like the 24-hour cancelation policy many pet sitters have, but like other service providers, it’s there to protect their business. When you book with a pet sitter, they are committing their time to you. When you cancel on very short notice, they probably won’t be able to fill that time slot.

Trust Your Sitter

A professional pet sitter knows what they are doing. And they know how much trust is necessary to allow someone into their home to care for a member of their family. Needless to say, trust is important.

If you don’t trust your pet sitter, you need a new one. Whether this distrust is real or perceived, if there’s a problem in the trust department, it’s not going to work out.

Be Honest

If you’re still searching for your dream pet sitter, this step is especially important. When meeting your potential pet sitter, they will ask you about your pet’s temperament and behavior. If your dog tends to be aggressive towards strangers, or has other behavior issues, a potential pet sitter needs to know.

They may not take on your pet, but you don’t want them to enter your home thinking they’re taking care of Lassie and be met by Cujo. They could get seriously hurt if they aren’t prepared for the encounter.

But on the bright side, they might know of an even BETTER pet sitter who specializes in pets with special needs.

Long Story Short

Working as a pet sitter is a personal profession. They are the surrogate family when you are unable to be there for your pet. Many pets become very attached to the sitters who care for them, and vice versa. When you find YOUR pet sitter, follow these guidelines to create a long, meaningful, professional relationship.

Hiring The Right Pet Sitter

I see a lot of ads on craigslist for pet sitters and I think about what is written and how they are conveying their message. If I was looking to hire a caregiver for my pets, I would not choose the teenager who will watch them at her family home nor would I select someone based on the cheapest rates in the area. There are important items that need to be taken in to consideration when hiring a pet sitter.

1. Raising a family pet does NOT constitute experience.

Yes, exposure to animals is good, but how much have they been around other people’s pets? Are they able to control a large dog or handle two medium-sized dogs on a walk? I look for paid experience with animals or volunteer work at an animal shelter to show familiarity. References from other pet owners are another great way to verify experience.

2. Cheap rates aren’t always the best choice.

Establishing a pricing scale requires research. Do they list what they would charge for different services or multiple pets? Their time is worth something – do the rates seem too low? Will everything be paid up front and what types of payment do they accept (check, cash, PayPal, credit card)?

3. There is no substitute for training.

The American Red Cross offers classes in pet CPR and first aid for cats/dogs. Also, pet first aid kits can be purchased or put together and carried at all times. Additionally, there are several pet sitter organizations that offer pet sitter memberships. Members have access to numerous resources and education to become a certified pet sitter.

4. Agreements should be in writing.

A sitter doesn’t have to use a contract but putting the terms in writing, even in an email, is a smart thing to do for both parties. I like to use a form to capture all of the client’s information such as cell numbers, emergency contacts, dates of service, where Fido’s food is stored or how many times of day I have agreed to check on Felix the cat. I have started sending a follow up email to pet owners after our initial meeting to confirm the dates and pricing.

5. Professionalism can be shown in many ways.

I don’t feel a pet sitter must do this full time in order to be considered a professional. However, there does need to be indicators that a person is taking the role seriously. Do they have a website, business card or flyers posted? Are they seeking out additional training? It is important to get a sense of the caregiver’s level of responsibility, either through phone or email conversations, or when you have them meet your pets.

If you take your time during the search and interview process, hiring a pet sitter will make your life less stressful and should leave you feeling confident in your decision.

All Paws Pet-Sitting

This has been a contribution from Renee Dobrzelewski of All Paws Pet-Sitting proudly serving the Northeast Ohio area of Lorain and Western Cuyahoga Counties.

Why Hire A Professional Pet Sitter?

Going away and Fido or Felix can’t come along?

Just leave your pet in a kennel or veterinarian boarding facility to be surrounded by barking dogs and cold metal cages. If that brings tears to your eyes just thinking about it, you may want to consider hiring a professional pet sitter instead.

A pet sitter will be able to provide care, meals, medication and playtime in the comfort of your own home. Many pet owners have found this a much better alternative for a number of reasons.

Less Stressful

An owner being gone is stressful enough for pets. Add on the stress of being in a strange place with a different routine, and that may be too overwhelming for pets. Hiring a pet sitter allows your pet to be in their own home with sights and smells they’re comfortable with.

Your pet will be the focus of attention with visits, instead of fighting for the attention of a kennel attendant. Your pet sitter will be able to stick to your pet’s regular routine, which will make your absence much more bearable.

Convenience

Which is better? Coming straight home from a long day of traveling to an affectionate pet or rushing home from the airport only to get to the kennel after they close and having to spend another night away from your pet?

Most pet owners would agree that seeing those adorable puppy eyes light up is much better than getting a speeding ticket in vain.

The convenience of having a pet sitter visit your home is one of the top reasons pet owners pick pet sitters over kennels. Say bye bye to running around town and digging around your home for vaccination documents at the last minute.

Peace Of Mind

If you’re leaving home for more than a couple of days, thinking about if that shady neighbor with all the gold watches saw you leave with a suitcase, can drive you crazy.

By hiring a pet sitter you’re not only hiring a pet caretaker. You’re hiring someone to keep an eye on your home. Just having someone park their car in the driveway will scare away any shady folks. Pet sitters can also rotate blinds, turn on and off lights and make other minor changes so it appears as if someone is home.

But Wait, There’s More!

These are merely a couple reasons pets and their owners love professional pet sitters. Once you and your pet forge a relationship with the perfect pet sitter, you’ll never even consider a kennel ever again.

How To Prepare Your Home For A Pet Sitter Visit

You’re going out of town for a luxurious Hawaiian vacation. You were lucky enough to land the purrfect pet sitter that you and your pets adore. Sounds like you’re ready to jet off.

But before you pack your bags and bust out the Hawaiian shirt, there are a few things you need to do to allow your pet sitter to best do their job.

Make It Pet Safe

Your pet may get bored while you’re away. Make sure they can’t get into trouble by moving anything potentially toxic or dangerous out of paw’s reach. Anything from cleaners, antifreeze, candy, paint, nut, etc. should be properly stored.

Make It Clean

Leaving waste in your home can cause an odor that your pet and pet sitter will have to deal with. Your dog may attend to it in their own way, which may be tearing it apart and decorating your house with it. Instead, dispose of any food that may spoil in your fridge, make sure dishes are clean and put away, and all garbage cans are dumped and out of reach.

Make It Easy To See

Try to hook up motion sensor exterior lights and timed interior lights to go on at dusk and off around bedtime. This will not only scare away potential thieves, but it will also help protect your pet sitter from toe stubs and falls.

Make It Easy To Find

Take everything your pet sitter will need to care for your pet—food bowl, leash, toys—and put them in one special area. That way your pet sitter doesn’t have to search the entire house looking for necessities, and can spend more time entertaining your pet.

Let Security Know

If you live in a gated community, make sure security knows that a pet sitter will be in your home, or give your pet sitter a functioning gate code. That way your pet sitter won’t get stuck at the gate, or have to tail someone in.

Let Neighbors Know

Tell a trusted neighbor that a pet sitter will be visiting your home while you’re away. That way they don’t call the police when they see someone going inside your house. Be sure to give your pet sitter your neighbor’s name and phone number, just in case.

Let Pet Sitters Know

As you don’t want to surprise neighbors with the presence of your pet sitter, make sure your pet sitter knows if anyone is coming to the house while you’re gone. Someone stopping in to stay the night, gardener or pool maintenance person may startle your pet sitter if not given a warning.

If you’ve done all these things your pet sitter will have no problem providing you and your pet world class service. You can go on vacation with total peace of mind knowing your pet’s in good hands. All you have to worry about is how to get an even tan.