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In Search Of A Pet Sitter

Sometimes pet owners have to leave town, but they can't always take their animal friends with them. But Saturday Early Show Contributor Debbye Turner has some advice for picking the best sitter for your pet.

All pets are different and need different care. And, Turner says, some animals might be too nervous and withdrawn away from their home. Therefore, a pet sitter might be a good answer to keep your pet from suffering needless stress.

You may think a neighbor can just as easily take care of your pet, but Turner explains that there are some advantages of hiring a professional pet sitter. Sitters are more experienced with animals than a neighbor would be, and they can better recognize suspicious behavior.

Also, sometimes neighbors might be too busy to properly care for your pet. The right pet sitter will make the time to care and give attention to your pet because that is their job.

Tips On Choosing a Pet Sitter

  1. Ask friends, your veterinarian, or the local animal shelter for recommended pet sitters. This is a good way to avoid people with bad track records.
  2. You can also contact the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters or Pet Sitters International for a pet sitter recommendation.
  3. Invite the prospective pet sitter over for a trial visit with your pet. You want to know if your pet doesn't like this person before you leave him in their care while you are away.
  4. Get a list of references for a pet sitter and check them out.
Questions to Ask a Potential Pet Sitter
  1. Are you bonded and insured?

    This way the pet sitter will be responsible if something happens to your pet.

  2. Why do you pet sit?

    This will help you determine if the person has a true love and compassion for animals.

  3. Will you perform specialized care?

    It's important to know if the pet sitter will walk the dog, brush the cat, cook a special meal, give medications, etc.

  4. What are your rates?

    You should receive an agreement or contract that outlines all the services the pet sitter will provide, and exactly how much these services will cost.

  5. Who exactly will come into my home?

    It is important for you to know that the person you meet will be the pet sitter or some other employee will be making the visits.

  6. Is the pet sitter associated with a veterinarian who can provide emergency services? Will you transport my pet if necessary?

    You'll need to know, if your pet gets sick or needs to visit the groomers, that the pet sitter is willing to travel.

Turner says if your pet needs frequent feedings, medication, or other special attention, it may be more economical to board the pet at a kennel. A boarding kennel usually has staff available all day and night. Pet sitters usually charge per visit. So many visits a day could really run up a big bill.

How to Find a Good Kennel

Finding a good kennel also requires research. Turner provides some elements and resources for information for the right kennel for you and your pet.

  1. Ask friends, your veterinarian or the local animal shelter for good kennels.
  2. Choose a kennel that has been certified by the state and is the member of the American Boarding Kennels Association. This means that someone with expertise has visited that business and made sure the environment is clean, healthy and follows a set of standards and regulations.
  3. Check with your local Better Business Bureau. This will help you find out about any reported incidences of poor business practices or negligence. Of course, only those incidences that have been reported will be revealed here.
  4. Go visit the kennel before you need to board your pet. Ask yourself:
    • Does the facility look and smell clean?
    • Is there sufficient ventilation and light?
    • Is a comfortable temperature maintained?
    • Does the staff seem knowledgeable and caring?
    • Are pets required to be current on their vaccinations, including the vaccine for Bordetella, a canine kennel cough?
    • Does each dog have his own adequately sized indoor-outdoor run or an indoor run and a schedule for exercise?
    • Are there resting boards and bedding provided to allow dogs to rest off the concrete floor?
    • Are cats housed away from dogs? Is there enough space for cats to move around comfortably?
    • How often are pets fed?
    • Can the owner bring a pet's special food? What veterinary services are available? How are rates calculated?
    • Is there staff on hand 24 hours a day?
Prepare Your Pet for a Kennel Stay

A kennel stay might be a culture shock for your animal friend. Turner provides some tips to make the experience for your pet less traumatizing and more pleasant.

  1. Be sure your pet knows basic commands and is well socialized around other people and pets; if your pet has an aggression problem or is otherwise unruly, she may not be a good candidate for boarding. Before taking your animal to the kennel, make sure she is current on vaccinations.
  2. It's also a good idea to accustom your pet to longer kennel stays by first boarding her during a short trip, such as a weekend excursion. This allows you to work out any problems before boarding your pet for an extended period.
  3. Before you head for the kennel, double-check that you have your pet's medications and special food (if any), your veterinarian's phone number, and contact information for you and a local backup.
  4. When you arrive with your pet at the boarding facility, remind the staff about any medical or behavior problems your pet has, such as a history of epilepsy or fear of thunder. After the check-in process, hand your pet to a staff member, say goodbye, and leave. Avoid long, emotional partings, which may upset your pet.
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