There are very few negatives to owning a pet in my experience, but one challenge is having to leave them behind when you go on vacation.
Unlike kids, you can’t tell them you’re coming back or advise them of when you will return; and you can’t Skype them daily, letting them know that you love and miss them.
But vacation is crucial to a healthy lifestyle. Multiple studies have shown that vacation contributes to reducing stress, preventing heart disease, improving sleep, bonding with family, and a host of other benefits.
Going on vacation will do you and your family good, and make you an even better pet owner upon your return.
Tips for leaving your dog with a pet sitter
So you’ve decided to have a pet sitter this time around. Maybe in the past you dropped your dog off at a kennel, but this time you’ve decided to keep them at home where they’re most comfortable, and you’re stressed about it.
What if they think you’re not going to return? What if the sitter doesn’t give them the same attention they’re used to, and they end up feeling neglected and lonely? You love your pet and want them to be happy and safe, so below are some helpful tips for leaving your furry friend with a sitter.
1. Choose someone you trust
Either you want to enlist the help of a trusted friend (someone who’s responsible and resourceful), or you want to hire a sitter with very solid reviews and references.
Although this seems like an obvious tip, many people procrastinate in finding a sitter, then end up settling for that cousin who’s not all that detail-oriented and nurturing!
It would be much better to hire a professional that you find online, who has over 200 positive reviews and thorough references, than to accept the assistance of a free, but unreliable family member.
You don’t want to find yourself worrying throughout your trip about your pets, rather than enjoying this time that you’ve worked so hard to earn – then you’ll have caused unneeded stress and wasted money spent on the vacation (which is much more expensive than adding the nominal daily expense for a trained, reputable pet sitter).
So take the time to research a solid pet sitting business if you don’t have an entirely fantastic friend to rely on for the safety and security of your pets. Both can be good options.
See That Mutt’s posts:
Day in the life of a professional pet sitter
When you’re lucky enough your mom watches your pets
2. Get a home camera system
There are multiple cloud-based, inexpensive home camera systems on the market now such as Nest. They’re excellent for use throughout the year, but a great way to check in on your pets and your home.
Seeing that Fluffy is up to their usual routine and not wasting away, staring at family photos while you’re off having a blast can rest a troubled mind.
Now there’s a caveat to this: you are going to have to exercise some self-control. If you anticipate that this could lead to constant and obsessive check-ins, you might skip the cameras or set strict limits to check-in only once or twice per day.
The last thing you want to do is create a distraction that pulls you away from your vacation and causes undue stress.
In addition, be sure to let your sitter know that cameras are there and where they are located. You of course should never be distrusting of anyone that’s watching your home or your animals, and should be respectful of them and their privacy as well.
For example, in case they decide to change clothes somewhere near a camera of which they are unaware!
3. Set up a pre-visit
Another tip is to invite the sitter over to your home at least a few days in advance of your departure. Walk through a typical day with your pet and share with them the specifics of how you interact with your dog or cat. For example, how many times a day you exercise your pooch or the special way you use the laser toy with your cat.
Try not to feel weird or guilty about sharing these specifics with the sitter. They are there to be your pet’s guardian and companion, and should be respectful of the things you care about them knowing or doing.
This is why hiring a professional sitter can be a better route, as it is easier to make special requests that family or friends may scoff at.
Being paid for a service lends to better attention paid to specific needs for your cat or dog, and you’ll find it easier to expect more of Jennifer from Trusted Sitter Agency rather than Uncle Gary, who thinks it’s silly to spend 10 minutes each day playing with your cats or choosing the favorite toy from the bin for your dog.
You’ll want to review the list that you will leave behind that notes the times and details regarding feeding, exercise, attention and possible obstacles (such as not to leave certain toys out because your retriever will chew them down to a nub in mere hours or how to quickly stop a quarrel between your two Boston Terriers).
Explain to them that you’re nervous about leaving your pets and that you really appreciate the time and attention they’ll be providing them. You can also take this time to coordinate check-ins and set reasonable expectations.
4. For safety while away
You’re going to want to connect your sitter with all the local vet emergency info (a 24-hour veterinary emergency room as well as their usual vet office).
You want to make sure they have any necessary items in case of emergency, including: crates, leashes, muzzles or other materials to take your dog or cat to the vet.
If your dog is large, be sure to provide ample options for your sitter to transport the dog in case of emergency. And if your home requires stairs to transport a large animal, think ahead of any assistance your sitter may need to get your pet to a doctor quickly and safely.
Many professional sitters have immediate access to veterinary care and equipment in case of emergencies, but it is always a good idea to discuss with your sitter prior to leaving to ensure they have what they need.
Going on vacation can be nerve-wracking for pet parents who are fully invested in the health and well-being of their four-legged friends. However, with the right time and preparation, you can feel confident to take some valuable time for yourself and your family.
What tips do you have for leaving your dog or cat with a pet sitter?
Let us know your experiences or ideas in the comments! It is helpful for others! Thank you!
A native Texan, Amanda Johnson writes for several online publications and lives in Southern California with her boyfriend and two fuzzy bears, Shelly and Sylvester.
More posts from Amanda:
What to do when one of your cats is a bully
Thursday 1st of December 2022
Make sure sitter is bonded and insured
Friday 11th of January 2019
I'm not so sure that I would rather someone that I know nothing about pet sitting for my dogs. I think I'd feel more comfortable having a family mmember, especially if I'm going to be on vacation for some time.
Tuesday 14th of August 2018
I have always struggled with finding the right sitter. I hate taking them to the kennel(even though I found a very nice one). The professional option has never worked out due to living in a more rural area with few options, and I have repeatedly be let down by the friends method. I would love to find a professional sitter so I could leave my animals at home where they are comfortable!
Monday 13th of August 2018
I was lucky to know a professional pet sitter who was also a good friend when I went to Panama for a month. It wasn't easy leaving Honey behind. But I knew she was perfectly cared for and over while I was gone.
For me, because we were often inaccessible by phone or internet, it was really important to leave Honey with someone whose judgment I trusted. If something truly horrible happened, I relied on my sitter to make the same kind of decision I would make.
Tuesday 14th of August 2018
You're lucky you found the right person you can trust for a whole month! That's great.
Monday 13th of August 2018
I worked as a professional pet sitter and dog walker for about 8 years, and I would also recommend hiring a professional sitter unless you have that family member who is perfect for the job and truly loves spending time with your animals.
Like Amanda said, friends and family may not take your requests seriously where a professional is going to pay attention to detail and really spend the time caring for your pets because that is their job and they're being paid to do so. Of course, not all pet sitters are great but I know there are some really great ones out there!
And if you're lucky to have the right family member or friend for the job, that's probably even better! I'm lucky my parents have been willing and able to watch my pets many, many times.