Sometimes getting ready to travel takes longer than the trip itself — figuring out what to pack so you don’t forget any of the necessities but not bringing so much that you get the dreaded “heavy load” sticker on your bag. Other challenges to consider when it comes to travel aren’t about what you take on your trip, but what you’re leaving behind: the mailbox, your plants and most importantly, your beloved pet who needs daily TLC.
As our lives get busier and our time away from home increases, many people hire pet sitters for daily walks and companionship, overnight stays, or even long-term care-taking. The good news is that there are many options out there to help you find reliable, responsible pet sitters, whether you go high-tech with one of the various apps or hyper-local with the neighborhood dog walker or cat whisperer.
Regardless of who you hire, it’s important to provide them with a game plan in case an emergency should arise. Why? A change in routine plus a new caretaker can trigger stress that can cause unusual behavior in even the most angelic pets, like sneaking out of the house or eating something they would normally ignore or acting aggressively around other animals. Unfortunately, this added stress makes the unexpected more likely to occur when you are least able to deal with it and could result in your pet sitter making an unplanned trip to an emergency vet clinic.
At Emerald City Emergency Clinic, we’ve seen our fair share of pet sitters arrive in a panic only to realize they don’t have access to basic info about the pets in their care. To make things easier on pet owners and their proxies, we’ve compiled a cheat sheet so your furry friend is in safe hands even if they’re not yours:
1) Who to Hire
Most of us know the adage: “You get what you pay for,” especially when it comes to products, but consider it for services as well. There’s a reason why insured, registered, and bonded pet sitters cost more than the teenager down the block: they have experience, education and are covered if something happens to your pet or your property while on their watch. So when you’re paying an hourly or daily rate, you’re not just paying for their time, but their expertise as well which can include behavior and first-aid training. Think about it this way: when you hire a babysitter, it’s common practice to require CPR certification because you want peace of mind should an emergency arise. Treat the process of finding a pet-sitter in the same fashion as you would a babysitter. Start by asking around for referrals and make sure you fully vet them before hiring. Conduct a background check and ask for valid references. Another place to source a sitter is through your local veterinarian office. They often have a list of qualified sitters and may even have staff members who offer pet sitting services on the side.
An alternative to a pet sitter who comes to your home is using a boarding facility or daycare (they should also be licensed and insured). Since there will be other pets there, you’ll need to consider your animal’s temperament: are they socialized and comfortable around other animals? Have they shown any signs of aggression in the past, especially around food or toys? Keep in mind most boarding services require proof of pet registration and that all vaccinations are current. If you do decide to take your pet to a sitter’s home where there will be other animals, it’s a good idea to schedule a visit (or two) prior to leaving your pets so you can make sure it’s a good fit.
2) Show and Tell
You know all of your pet’s quirks: the spot behind their ear they love to have scratched or the brand of treats they refuse to eat, but your pet sitter doesn’t have that info on recall. Since pets can’t tell us what they need, it’s up to each pet owner to share the right info with their pet sitter, which should include the following:
Basic stats: Age, weight and whether they are spayed or neutered are part of the basic info vets will ask during intake and can help speed up the triage process in an emergency.
Medical history: This is especially important if your pet is currently taking any prescription medications or they’ve had a history of illnesses. Include a list of the medications they are taking with frequency and dosage. It’s also helpful to have their vaccination record on hand should it need to be referenced.
Daily routine: Some pets will lie in the same sun patch for hours while others need constant stimulation. Let your sitter know the daily rhythm of walks, food, play and sleep so the routine can be maintained while you’re away.
Personality traits: Your pet sitter returns and your pet is nowhere to be found. Panicked, they search the neighborhood only to discover they’re hiding under the bed. Prevent a crisis by giving your sitter a heads up about your pet’s quirks (the hider, the runner, the shoe chewer) so they don’t discover not-so-nice surprises.
Contact list: It goes without saying, but every pet owner needs to leave a list of where they can be reached in case of an emergency as well as the info for their veterinarian and preferred animal hospital if they have one. If you’ll be traveling internationally or in an area where connectivity is inconsistent, it’s a good idea to leave the name and number of someone close to you, such as a friend or family member, who can make decisions on your behalf.
3) In case of emergency
Even the most seasoned pet sitters can’t prevent all accidents, so it’s important to have an emergency plan in place should something happen on their watch. The most common scenario we see at Emerald City Emergency Clinic is a pet owner who hasn’t authorized medical treatment for their pet sitter nor left any direction for payment. This not only creates an obstacle to life-saving care (without an owner’s consent, we can only provide basic treatment) but can potentially create a financial burden for the caretaker. Fortunately, you can alleviate all of this with a simple affidavit of care that you can fill out, share with the pet sitter, and leave on file with us. The form includes payment options (most pet owners opt to keep a credit card number on file) and an opportunity to outline budget parameters, if necessary. It also allows owners to assign a proxy to authorize treatment on the owner’s behalf. Simply download the form and either send it via email or bring it in to the clinic before your departure.
If you and your pet enjoy traveling together, there are endless options for pet-friendly hotels and vacation destinations when you do your research ahead of time. But for those pets who believe there’s no place like home, a pet sitter can help ease your worries and keep your pet safe while you’re away. Just take the time to find the right provider, make sure they have all of the critical info, and you’ll be home-free while you’re away from home.
Use our pet sitter form so your furry friend is in safe hands even if they’re not yours.