Pet sitting nightmares – some of the worst and best pet sitters

I am a pet sitter, and I believe the majority of professional pet sitters are a caring, hardworking bunch who can absolutely be trusted with people’s pets.

That being said, there are some bad pet sitters out there. Usually these “pet sitters” are just looking for some extra money. They don’t take pet sitting seriously as a career.

The following are a couple examples of really bad pet sitters as well as examples of caring, responsible pet sitters. These examples are shared from the client’s point of view.

I hope you’ll share your best pet sitting stories (good or bad) in the comments.

You may also appreciate these awkward, embarrassing pet sitting moments. Just know that not all pet sitters are bad!

The bad: The pet sitter who blocked off the litter boxes

Rocky the gray and white cat

Parrot sitting on cat's backTobi Kosanke shared a story of a pet sitter who closed the bathroom door, blocking her cats from accessing their litter boxes.

The sitter never noticed the cats were blocked and kept cleaning up the urine and feces in front of the door, Kosanke said. The sitter also fed treats meant for small mammals to Kosanke’s parrots without asking.

And it gets worse.

“We came home a day early, after the morning visit, and she never showed up in the evening to take the dogs out or feed the animals,” Kosanke said. “I still have nightmares about this woman.”

This was a professional pet sitter who had a great web site, according to Kosanke.

The good: The pet sitter who helped a shy dog feel comfortable

Lenore Hirsch said her dog Foxy is very timid around strangers, especially men.

Foxy with his pet sitter

“So finding a pet sitter was a challenge,” she said. “How would the sitter get close enough to the dog to put the leash on and take him for a walk?”

She said this problem was solved by a pet sitter named “Mark” (pictured) who came to the house several times before the actual pet sitting assignment. He would get down on the floor with treats all over his body to get Foxy to come to him.

“After a few times, Foxy let him put the leash on and now they are good buddies.”

This story is part of Foxy’s memoir, My Leash on Life (aff link).

The bad: The pet sitter who never showed up

Jennifer Dombrowski and Tim Davis shared this story about hiring a pet sitter to watch their dog (pictured) and cat over Thanksgiving. This was not a professional company but an individual recommended by friends.

“Thankfully, we always let our neighbors know when we will be gone so they can keep an eye out,” Dombrowski said. “We were pretty upset to receive a phone call from them that our sliding door on our patio was wide open and they had gone over to check what was going on.”

The neighbors told Dombrowski they hadn’t seen the pet sitter in the two days she’d been gone.

“We called our pet sitter and at first she lied, saying she was at our house before finally confessing she had not been staying there. We fired her over the phone and our neighbors took care of our pets until we returned at the end of the weekend.”

Emma the white and tan dog sitting in purple flowers

The good: The pet sitters who go above and beyond

Woman holding two black catsNaomi Hattaway said with two rescue dogs and two rescue kittens, it’s a must to have a reliable pet sitter.

“One of our dogs is shy, from what we imagine is a bad previous owner,” she said. “And our pet sitters have transformed her!”

While Hattaway expected great service from Paws on the Run, she said she wasn’t expecting “fabulous overnight care,” two daily stop-ins and the pet sitter loving the animals as if they were their own.

“They send text messages several times a day with photos, and we love them!”

Pet sitting nightmares - two shepherd mixes lying on rug

The bad: The pet sitter who lost a dog

Blue the WestieGretchen Crawford shared the story of what happened while she was gone on a trip to Alaska. She said she left her Westie with a neighbor who offered pet sitting on the side out of her home.

“The one rule was to never let the dog out without the leash,” Crawford said. “He’s a terrier and prone to chase squirrels and birds.”

Two weeks later, she returned from her trip and picked her dog up from the “smiling” pet sitter.

Then, when she got home, her answering machine was “full of messages from people that found a lost dog and were calling the number on his collar, our home phone.”

Needless to say, Crawford did not go back to that sitter.

How about the rest of you? Do you have any good or bad pet sitting stories to share?

If you are hiring a pet sitter, it’s usually best to use a professional pet sitting company unless it’s someone you personally know and trust. Here is my post on how to choose a pet sitter.

24 thoughts on “Pet sitting nightmares – some of the worst and best pet sitters”

  1. Mom hired a pet sitter one time and told all the neighbors. They texted her the entire week to tell her she was at the house, we were getting our walks, etc. It made Mom feel good. One blogger had a pet sitter not show up and the cats were alone for several days with no new food or water. Scary!

  2. Umm…can you move to Oakland & be my pet sitter? I have had BAD luck with pet sitters so far. My first was a woman hired off Craigslist. Her references checkout out but she as not a professional. She ended up leaving the gate open & the dogs got out. A neighbor 2 houses down brought them in, waited hours & when no one came looking, he brought them to the shelter to be scanned for chips & made sure some one was coming to get them before leaving. The “pet sitter” claimed she had only gone inside for a minute when some one purposefully opened the gate from the outside(not even possible) & stole them for some unknown reason. She even took me to small claims court to sue me for the money she spent to get them out of the shelter, told a ton of lies…and won.

    My next pet sitters were professionals with great yelp reviews. They started out great, texting a bunch with updates & really friendly. Though I did get a lot of bark complaints from neighbors which seemed odd because my dogs are not barkers but chalked it up to them missing me. With each consecutive time I hired them, they seemed to get more and more lazy. The last time they locked Gina out all night & refused to go back to the house to let her in. And my contractor said they only stopped by for a few minutes a day to feed the dogs when they were supposed to spend the night and take them hiking.

    Ugh! I am never leaving my pets again:(

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I would love to take care of your crew! That would be so much fun! So sorry to hear you’ve had a hard time finding a decent pet sitter. Yikes, that sounds just awful.

  3. dennis kowaleuski

    that sounds very stressful, Ottis is a service dog so he just goes with me everywhere, and my cats get cared for by my parents or me fiancés parents. I think if I had to leave any of them with a stranger I would panic the whole time. I think I would try to leave them with one of my friends if I really had to get a baby sitter.

  4. Oh geez… We are looking for one since we are now a family of three and I’m worried to death about getting a good one! LOL!

    I have some bad stories about being a pet sitter but not the other way around.

  5. Luckily we haven’t had to hire a pet sitter, I think I’d be a nervous wreck trying to choose one (especially after reading these horror stories). My dad is our default dog sitter 🙂 He’s awesome with Laika, and it’s pretty obvious that even though he doesn’t own a dog he really misses having one when I see them together. I think of it as a win/win. Very glad and lucky to have my dad nearby.

  6. Like Jen, I’ve never had to hire a pet sitter since Haley normally travels with us on trips or my parents watch her on the rare occasions we can’t take her along. It would be really tough to trust a pet sitter that I didn’t know. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories too about bad pet sitters, but luckily there are some great ones out there that really care about the pets they watch.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I try to bring Ace along as often as I can as well. I’ve left him at a boarding kennel a couple of times and that seemed OK. Nothing special, but OK.

  7. Grrrr I am so mad! I left my cats at home for a week with arrangements with who I thought was a responsible young woman. I come home to find one cat outside. He obviously hadn’t been fed for a while, because he ate TWO whole cans of cat food. The bowls were empty and the water hadn’t been changed in a week. There were globs of cat hair all over the house. The cat box was nasty.
    I spent three hours getting things back into shape.

    My babies were acting traumatized and very nervous. Now it’s three days later and they are ok, but never again will I leave them like that. If I have to go, it’s boarding for them.

    If they were dogs, they probably would be dead, but cats are more resilient, I guess.

    I didn’t say anything, because this is a member of my church, but you surely can be fooled by someone’s outer demeanor.

  8. My family has a lot of girls of different ages and a dad that doesn’t like animals. So finding a dog that fits our family has always been hard. Especially since we travel a lot. We have a new Kings Charles puppy named Lionel that has done so well. He has even traveled with us, but we recently had a trip he couldn’t join us on. In the past we have used boarding places, but we had a dog eaten by another because the horrible people left the gates between the small and big dogs open. We never want to go through that again, so we looked for a pet sitter. Living in a small town makes that hard though. But we finally found someone who checked out. We left for a week and came back to pick up Lionel… He was fat! The sitter did not agree with our special order diet plan and went to get generic dry kibble! He’s never eaten that before. To make matters worse, she just feed him as much as he would eat until he couldn’t anymore. Resulting in being over fed with different food. She keep him in her bathroom with puppy pads to go potty on instead of taking him out. We had told her that we were training him and he was so close to getting it. Now Lionel is so confused cause this lady praised him for pooping and peeing inside and on his bed. She than proceeded to lecture mom about how to properly take care of our dog! Lionel in home and super sick. His eyes are goopy, he’s WAY overweight, and has a weird looking scab on his nose. I’m having to retrain him and be super careful about his diet. So that’s my story. Be careful pet owners! There are good sitters out there! But bad ones too:(

  9. I hired a close friend of 10 years to stay at my house and take care of my dog and cat while I attended my grandmother’s memorial. Totally trusted this person. Unbeknownst to me, he was drinking again after being sober for something like 8 years.

    The first night of two I was away, I got a strange text from him drunkenly talking about how he got a new sex toy and was going to call up his phone sex buddy. Stunned, I collected my thoughts and texted him back not to have anyone over. I tried to put it out of my mind as I was dealing with other things that weekend.

    The next morning (thank God it was the day I was coming home) at 7 am I noticed a text from him around midnight the previous night. “Getting arrested. Pets are fed.” I can’t even explain the sick feeling I got. I wasn’t going to be home for another 10 hours or so to care for my pets.

    Not to mention, I lived right next door to my landlord and was right in the middle of looking at new apartments and needing references – did his getting arrested have something to do with a disturbance at my place?

    A few hours later, as I was on the road with my brother trying not to throw up with worry, he explained via text that he had gotten drunk, texted a friend who became concerned about the way he was talking and called the police. The police had texted him and he’d met them outside, so fortunately there was no late night scene at my place.

    It ended the friendship. Things like him leaving a crap load of empty cans and bottles under my sink like I was his maid didn’t help. Neither did him taking the cash I’d left as payment, despite the fact he’d missed a whole day of pet sitting. The worst was that while he apologized, he had a lot of “yeah but”s and defensive answers. Definite victim mentality. So if anyone is looking for a pet sitter, I know one not to hire.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Oh my gosh. That is about the worst I’ve heard. I hope he gets some help for his drinking problem, and thankfully it sounds like your pets must have been OK.

  10. My sister came and checked in on my two cats for a weekend. She never actually made sure she knew where my cats were because when we got home, one of the cats was stuck in our bedroom! He had bloody paws from scratching the rug down to the floor to try and “dig” his way out.

  11. Wow, as you know I’m a professional pet sitter myself with my own dog walking/pet sitting business and reading these horror stories made me cringe big time. Whenever someone asks me how to find a good pet sitter I always recommend looking for one on Pet Sitter’s International and/or on Pet Sitters Associates (I’m insured through them). I personally have also had great luck with a 150% professional sitter on Rover. I don’t think I’d ever hire anyone from Craigslist and/or without positive references.

  12. I was going to an International Conference and my husband was going to stay home with our animals but circumstances changed and he came with me. Our old Pet Sitters have moved away so we asked some friends to help. They said yes but then 5 days out decided they couldn’t do it.
    Our dogs were going to Kennels but we have 20 cats (we breed), 2 rabbits, 2 chickens and an aged horse.
    We found the service on a local Facebook Page which had recommendations and an acquaintance said they had seen the person at a Fair advertising their services.
    She came over to meet us when we were in the midst of cleaning so things were a bit messy but we assured her that it would all be clean once she arrived. Said that she was happy to do the job and got us to fill in some paperwork and that she’d let us know a price. She did that and then we met her again the day before we left when she picked up the keys. She wanted the whole amount up front but said I would give her just over half and the remaining money the next week. I asked her to read through the notes/photos I had run off for her and asked if there was anything she needed to clarify. This had our vets details as well as the number of a friend if she couldn’t get us. It also had the details of the medication for our cat who has an auto immune disease. I explained the cat would only take her pills in cheese or mince and that I had thawed some for her and the rest was in the freezer and could be thawed in the microwave. I also asked her to feed some of the mince to our 19yr old cat and give him occasional wet food as he has few teeth. The rest of the cats were to have dry. Further I showed her where one of the cats will sometimes poo on the floor next to a tray and she was like ‘oh that’s easy to sort’ and ‘do you have a poop scoop’ which I showed her.
    The house and trays and outside area was completely clean when we left at 4.15am Sat. She was to visit mid mornings. We tried calling her on the Sunday night (our time) and when my husband said who it was (my call comes through as private number) the phone disconnected. We then tried calling back and sent several texts – no answer and I was panicking. Checked our email to find there was an email saying sorry her phone had been damaged but everything was fine. By this time she had visited the animals 3 times. 12 hours later I had a call from the RSPCA (we are in Australia) to say that they had had a complaint and had seized 3 cats and the rabbits and had orders out on the house! (One cat was sick, they said, the run two of the others were in was unclean (there were a number of other places they could have put them) and the rabbits were of concern.
    Being 16,500 kms away and different time zones made it difficult. The calls and emails went on for a couple of days but basically it was that our house was a complete mess with urine and faeces and that if it wasn’t cleaned the rest of the animals would be taken, also other things like the animals in the house needed access at all times to clean fresh water?!
    We eventually were forced to get in forensic cleaners at the cost of $900. I asked them to take before and after photos but only got after. I also asked them to call me directly if there were any issues. The next day we found that they ‘had difficulty’ because there was no water at our house and they had had to go to neighbours. Couldn’t tell me why they hadn’t called me.
    The sitter (who we know was the one that called the RSPCA because she also rang our Vet) was telling them that she now had to take bottled water in (despite our property having a number of tanks which are accessible for water) for the animals. She had also run out of food and litter (all of which we had left in abundance).
    The sick cat was eventually taken to our Vet and we have him back but the rabbits and other two cats (who they have confirmed are healthy) are still with the RSPCA and although we have been home for almost 2 days we cannot contact the officer and the office is saying it is him we have to speak with!
    The sitter left our keys in the meter box and we’ve had no further contact from her. She has told people we have mental issues and that she doesn’t know who reported us.
    We arrived home to find our house tanks had no water so we had to get water delivered. At the moment we are up for thousands of dollars and still waiting to hear about our other animals. Thank goodness we have a great relationship with our Vet who knows our animals are looked after and who actually comes to our house for all the vaccinations etc so knows the property.
    So it appears her idea of looking after the animals was to feed them only, throw out entire trays of litter and not clean up any spills. Given that there were 5 days between the cleaners and us getting home and there were only a few stray poos (no urine) it is mystifying that in less that two days the house which was clean (I used to be a cleaner) when we left was suddenly a huge mess?!
    Of course it didn’t occur to us to take photos before we left so we do not have a ‘leg to stand on’. A huge and costly lesson learnt by us 🙁

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