Every cat owner knows how fussy cats can get when you need to leave them, even for a few days. Finding a cat sitter you and they feel comfortable with is crucial, and it can be the start of a long-term business relationship. Be aware that good pet sitters can be booked for months in advance, so try to think ahead when you know you have a major trip planned.
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- Ask for recommendations. Skip the phone book and go straight to word of mouth, or turn to a trade organization like the National Association of Pet Sitters. Ask your veterinarian and friends if they know of a good cat sitter, and be sure to ask about rates as well. If you have additional pets, ask for a sitter who can handle all of your animals, in addition to your cat or cats. Humane organizations may also offer recommendations.
- Conduct a brief phone interview with each of your potential candidates. During the phone interview, be certain to ask for references, and find out if the cat sitter is licensed, bonded, and insured. Several trade associations offer licensing to pet sitters, and a cat sitter should also have a business license. Insuring/bonding ensure that if something goes wrong at your house or with your cat, the costs are covered. Also ask about how much time the cat sitter will dedicate to your animals. If you want the cat sitter to spend the night at your house, ask about this in the interview, and if you have a special-needs cat, ask if the cat sitter is familiar with handling special needs animals. This is especially important if your cat needs to be medicated while you are gone. Be certain to ask about rates!
- Call the cat sitter's references. Ask them about how well the cat sitter did his or her job, and what their general impressions were. If an emergency came up while the cat sitter was in charge, how was it dealt with? Did their cats seem relaxed and happy when their owners came home? Did the cat sitter have guests over? Did the neighbors have any comments about the cat sitter's behavior?
- Schedule a personal interview. Even if you have a fraidy-cat who won't come out during the interview, it's very important to meet your potential cat sitter in person after vetting them over the phone. You may need several interviews to pick the right candidate. Keep an eye on the cat sitter's body language, and how he or she speaks to you during the interview; does the cat sitter ask thoughtful questions about your cat's personality, habits, and needs? If your cat does come out during the interview, pay attention to the way the cat sitter interacts with your cat. Give the cat sitter an honest idea of the kind of care that is required, and stress anything which is extremely important to you; if the cat sitter seems unsure or reluctant, he or she will probably not be a good choice.
- Get a contract. Most reputable pet sitters will write out contracts specifying their rates, in addition to providing proof of bonding and insurance. The contract should specify the minimum amount of time that the cat sitter will be spending with your cat or cats, and it should also provide information about replacements in case your cat sitter gets sick or has an accident. Specific services like medicating, grooming, and play time should be spelled out in the contract.
- Consider doing a dry run. If you're planning on taking a long trip, have the cat sitter watch your cat overnight first, to see how things work out.
- Go over care instructions in person, and leave a detailed list. Once you choose a cat sitter, go over the care instructions for your cat, and if the cat sitter will be staying at the house, make sure to go over the ground rules. It is also a good idea to make sure that the cat sitter knows how to handle recalcitrant appliances and household emergencies. Leave a detailed list of directions, along with contact information for you at every step of your planned trip. Make sure that the cat sitter has the veterinarian's number, along with the phone number of a local contact in case there is an emergency.