I consider my cat sitter one of the most important people in my life. After all, she’s in charge of Allegra and Ruby when I can’t be there to care for them – what job could be more important? I’m fortunate that my cat sitter is also a close friend. My girls love Rita – Allegra probably a little more than Ruby, who sometimes gives Rita a bit of that “you’re not my mom” attitude… The peace of mind I feel, knowing that the girls are in the best possible hands while I’m away, is priceless.
I’ve also been fortunate that I’ve never had to hire a cold sitter “cold.” My cat sitters have always been friends, or were referred to me by a trusted friend. I realize that not everyone is that lucky, and hiring a cat sitter can be a daunting task. After all, you will trust this person not just with your precious cats, but also with your home.
Beware of pet sitter directories and apps
I’ve become very concerned lately with the emergence of more and more “pet sitter referral” services and apps. These services like to bill themselves as kind of an Uber for dogs and cats. They’re usually started by tech companies and investors with no pet care background. They may seem convenient – hire a cat sitter with the click of a few buttons, pay for the services online, schedule at a moment’s notice – but it’s not very clear how they screen the sitters in their network. When I recently spent some time poking around one of these directories, some of the qualifications listed for sitters were “I have always loved cats and dogs.” Would you trust your cats to a stranger with those qualifications?
While some of these services and apps offer insurance, many don’t. Professional cat sitters are bonded and insured. Additionally, these types of directories undercut the fees of professional pet sitters. They can afford to charge less – often half of what a professional sitter would charge – due to sheer volume, and due to the advertising that often supports their websites. “Many of the horror stories about pet sitters that you hear about on the news stem from people using these apps,” says Jill Rose, owner of Ally McPets Pet Sitting and Dog Walking in Redondo Beach, CA. While she acknowledges that not every experience with these services is negative, she’s concerned that many pets will be put in bad situations due to the lack of experience of the sitters listed. “It could just be a neighbor kid who wants to make a few bucks,” says Jill.
Hire a professional cat sitter
Unless you have a trusted friend or family member who can care for your cats while you’re away from home, hiring a professional cat sitter is your best option. When hiring a sitter, consider the following:
- What kind of training and/or experience does the sitter have?
- Will the sitter be able to recognize and deal with medical emergencies?
- Will the sitter be able to deal with shy or aggressive cats?
- Does she present herself in a professional manner?
- Does she have a business license and insurance?
- Does she present a service contract that addresses fees?
- How long has she been in business?
- Does she have a back up sitter if something happens to her?
- For larger cat sitting services: will your cat always see the same sitter?
- Does the cat sitter have contingency plans for inclement weather or natural disasters?
- Is the cat sitter knowledgeable about basic first aid and general cat health issues?
- Is your cat sitter a cat person? You’d be surprised how many pet sitters aren’t that good with cats.
- How does your cat respond to the cat sitter at the first meeting?
- How does the cat sitter interact with your cat? One of my cat sitters showed up for the initial consultation with a peacock feather in one hand, and a laser pointer in her pocket. I knew right away that she “got” cats.
- Does the cat sitter seem to want to learn as much as she possibly can about your cats? This includes eating habits, play and sleeping habits, health issues, personality, hiding places, and more.
- Ask some “what if” questions. What would the cat sitter do if she couldn’t find your cat? What would she do if there was a medical emergency?
Ask for references
Ask to speak to other clients of any sitter you consider hiring. Don’t just rely on testimonials on a website. Ask if the sitter belongs to any professional organizations. Membership in a professional organization may indicate a higher level of professional excellence, but keep in mind that most membership organizations don’t screen for quality and accept members simply for paying an annual membership fee.
Finding a local cat sitter
Pet Sitters International, the world’s leading educational organization for professional pet sitters, offers the largest online directory for professional pet sitters.
Initial meeting with a potential cat sitter
I believe that the two most important aspects of choosing a cat sitter are how your cat reacts to the sitter at the initial meeting, and your gut feeling about the interaction between the sitter and your cat, and between you and the sitter. If there is even a smidgen of a doubt in your mind about a potential sitter, keep looking. The right person for you and your cat is out there.
Do you have a cat sitter you love? How did you find him or her?