Pet Sitter Options

By Ryan Llera, BSc, DVM; Lynn Buzhardt, DVM

Are you going on vacation? Do you often work late? Does your dog need more exercise than you can muster? If so, consider hiring a pet sitter. They do much more than “sit” with your pet. What is a pet sitter and what do they do? A pet sitter is like a babysitter for pets. And, like good babysitters, good pet sitters do not just sit in a chair watching your fur babies. They interact, exercise, feed and water them. Pet sitters take care of your pet in your home, but can do much, much more.

What are some services a pet sitter might provide?

Pet sitters may visit multiple times a day to walk and play with your pet, providing mental stimulation as well as physical exercise. They feed them on schedule, monitor eating and elimination habits, scoop poop, and clean litter boxes. They can administer medications when needed and may have first aid training. Pet sitters take good care of your pet, but can also take good care of your home.

Pet sitters can make your home look lived in while you are away on vacation or work trips. They can pick up the newspaper, gather the mail, take out the garbage, water plants, and turn lights on and off. Some may even live in your house the entire time you are away.

"A pet sitter is like a babysitter for pets."

Pet sitters can also care for your pet even when you are not on vacation. If you are busy, they can walk your dog, play with your kitty, or take your pet to the veterinarian or groomer. In some rare circumstances, they may even help with training and house breaking.

Pet sitters do not have to care for your pet in your home. Many offer in-home boarding at their homes. These pet sitters welcome dogs and cats to live with them and their personal pets. In-home boarding allows your pet to socialize and interact with other pets under supervision. Having your pet stay at the pet sitter’s home may cost less than having the pet sitter stay at your home. Of course, this option eliminates the advantage of keeping your pet in familiar territory, so they must be comfortable in the new surroundings.

When should I hire a pet sitter?

Consider a pet sitter if your dog or cat prefers to stay at home or does not do well in a kennel situation. If being around other cats and dogs is stressful, your pet may rest better in his own bed in his own house. Or maybe she will eat better from her own bowl in her own kitchen. Staying home also reduces the risk of exposure to contagious diseases that may be carried by other pets in a boarding kennel.

"Consider a pet sitter if your dog or cat prefers to stay at home or does not do well in a kennel situation"

Pet sitters can provide one-on-one attention to pets that crave individual attention. Feeding and exercise routines can remain on schedule. Pet sitters can exercise dogs that need to burn off tons of energy or snuggle cats on the sofa (if the cat wants that interaction).

If you have multiple pets, hiring a pet sitter will also save you the effort of transporting them all to a boarding facility and may save you money.

When should I not hire a pet sitter?

If your dog or cat does not like staying home alone and your pet sitter cannot stay at your house 24/7, you may consider traditional boarding. Pets that need vigilant monitoring of medical conditions or require complicated daily therapy (breathing treatments, wound care, physical therapy, frequent medications, etc.) should be under the supervision of a veterinarian and may do better boarding at a veterinary hospital.

Where can I find a pet sitter?

Tap into local resources by asking your veterinarian or groomer for pet sitter references. Some veterinary staff members do pet sitting “on the side.” The benefits of such individuals are that they are usually animal-oriented, love pets, and may be medically trained.

Broaden your search by using one of the national registries that provide access to pet sitters in your area. Some registries screen sitters and provide them with educational opportunities to improve the quality of care they provide.

There are many national registries including PSI (Pet Sitters International),,,, and These sites allow you to find pet care options that fit your needs.

Should I interview a potential pet sitter?

It is best not to hire a pet sitter sight-unseen. Schedule an interview and meet the pet sitter in advance. If possible, introduce him/her to your pet in your home environment.

"Schedule an interview and meet the pet sitter in advance."

Observe how the sitter interacts with your pet. A good sitter will be gentle and approach your pet with ease. They should be enthusiastic and animated, showing real affection for your pet. Watch your pet, too. You know your dog or cat well so you can determine quickly how they feel about the sitter.

Here are a few questions to ask a potential pet sitter:

1. How long have you been a pet sitter?
2. What sort of training have you had?
3. Are you insured, licensed, and bonded?
4. Will you provide a personal consultation to meet my pet(s) before I hire you?
5. Are you associated with a local veterinary hospital or emergency clinic?
6. Are you a member of a professional association such as Pet Sitters International, National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, or Professional United Pet Sitters?
7. Can I easily reach you while I am away?
8. Can you provide references?
9. Will you have adequate time for my pet?
10. How many other pets are you watching at this time?

A good pet sitter will also have questions for you. They should ask about your pet’s medical history, eating habits, exercise routines, and play preferences. Showing an interest in your pet is a good sign that they are a good pet sitter!

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