Have you done a background check on their credentials, references, and liability insurance?

Pet sitters have access to two important things—your pet and your home—making it vital to find someone you trust, says Beth Stultz-Hairston, president of Pet Sitters International and author of The Professional Pet Sitter's Startup Guide. "Simply choosing someone who loves pets and has availability isn't enough," she warns. Here's what you must look for in hiring a pet sitter.

Woman hugging dog
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They have business credentials.

Pet sitting is a business, and it's best to find a pet sitter who treats it as such, according to Stultz-Hairston. Look for pet sitters with a business license (if required in the state where you live) and pet sitter-specific liability insurance and bonding. And if the pet sitter offers services inside his or her own home, make sure they have a license to offer that service, Stultz-Hairston instructs. Here's why: Pet sitter liability insurance protects your home in the event of damage, and your pet in the event of injury, she says. And bonding can give you additional peace of mind; it provides protection in the case of theft—and also means your pet sitter has passed a background check.

They have excellent references.

The best pet sitters can provide professional references from clients. "If your neighbors had good luck with a pet sitter, you are more likely to have a good experience," explains Jim D. Carlson, D.V.M. He also recommends hitting Google to search for online reviews of the pet sitter.

They're certified or trained.

"Pet sitters serious about offering the best care take advantage of various trainings such as pet first aid or other pet care classes," says Stultz-Hairston. And they should be able to offer proof they were trained, via a completion certificate or designation through an official organization, such as Pet Sitters International or the Certified Professional Pet Sitter, Stultz-Hairston says.

You'll also want to find a sitter with experience caring for your specific pet. "While you might think your pet sitter will only need to be able to feed and walk your dog, or feed your cat and scoop litter boxes, emergencies and dangerous situations can occur—from arriving to a home to find a cat with a possible urinary tract infection to encountering stray dogs while on a dog walk," she explains. "It's important that your pet sitter be trained in handling unexpected situations."

They visit your home—and value your time.

A pet sitter should meet with you in your home for an initial consultation, as well as provide you with a written agreement to confirm your pet sitting needs. "This initial meeting is vital because it also provides an opportunity for your pet and the pet sitter to meet and ensure it's a good fit, and an opportunity for the pet sitter to collect important information about your pet's care," says Stultz-Hairston. The contract presented at this time should include all the fees associated with the service, as well as a detailed account of the services the pet sitter will provide, she explains.

If the pet sitter is late or breaks the appointment, that's not a good sign you can expect excellent service from him or her, Carlson warns. He also suggests watching how your pet interacts with the pet sitter. "If the pet doesn't like them and hides, growls or runs away, you might not want to choose that person," he says. "They have to get along with the pet alone while you are gone."


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