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How to Find a Perfect Pet Sitter According to the Experts

A dog looks out the window of a car.
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With the holiday season here, there’s a good chance you might be heading out of town. Sometimes, your darling pet can’t come with you, and that’s when you need to find a pet sitter. But where do you find one, and how can you make sure they’ll take good care of your furbaby?

For those who don’t feel comfortable boarding their pets (like me), a pet sitter who comes to your home is the way to go. Unless you already have an established sitter, though, finding someone you trust to care for your pet can be daunting.

To make things a bit easier, we spoke with Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM and veterinary expert at Pumpkin Pet Insurance, and Dr. Katy Nelson, senior veterinarian at Chewy, about what to look for in a pet sitter. We also asked them what questions you should ask, and how to prepare your pet.

If you’re on the hunt for a sitter, here’s what to do.

What Qualifications Should a Pet Sitter Have?

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Both Wooten and Nelson agree that there are a few key things every pet sitter must have, and they revolve around both you and your pet’s safety.

First, whomever you choose should be licensed and bonded, whether that’s through their own individual business or the company they work for. No matter what, though, always make sure you see proof of this. It ensures your pet and home will be protected if anything goes wrong.

Your sitter should also be able to respond in an emergency. Wooten added that they need to be trained in animal CPR and first aid, and should also be able to provide documentation of their certifications.

Pet First Aid Kit with LED Safety Collar

Just like humans, pets need a first aid kit.

Next, you should get a background check. Wooten explained that if a sitter works for a company or organization, these checks are typically done before they’re allowed to take a job. However, it’s always a good idea to ask the company if this was done. If someone is working for themselves, Wooten recommends asking their permission to run the check yourself.

Finally, a good pet sitter should have some references. Three is a good number to ask for, and Nelson recommends asking them to tell you about their previous experience.

What Questions Should You Ask?

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Once your potential sitter has cleared the basics, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty and define what your expectations are for the job. When it comes to what questions you should ask, Nelson and Wooten recommend all of the following:

  • Do they have pets of their own?
  • How long have they been pet sitting, and why do they love it?
  • Are they acquainted with similar breeds as your pet, and what is their work experience?
  • What would they do in the case of an emergency, such as an injury, illness, or pet escape?
  • Are they comfortable providing medication or medical care if your pet requires it?
  • What would they do if your pets get into a fight?

During this preliminary interview, you should also let the sitter know how you want your pet to be cared for while you’re away. Explain their routine and make sure the pet sitter is comfortable with it.

“Discuss expectations,” Nelson said. “Will the pet sitter sleep over? If not, how many times will they visit during the day? Are the visits included in the daily fee, or are those extra? Will they be walking or just letting your dog out into the yard, and, if the latter, do they plan play times for exercise? How many walks does your dog typically get?”

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Think all of this through before you meet with your sitter, and also ensure that you have open communication. For example, ask your sitter if they’d be willing to send you photos and/or videos of your pet while you’re away, so you can stay up to date on how they’re doing. Also, be sure to share your contact information, as well as that of your vet and the nearest emergency clinic.

31 Piece Cat Toy Set

Snag some new toys, and let your sitter go to town with your cat.

Nelson and Wilson also recommend asking if your pet sitter would be willing to do a trial run.

“Have the pet sitter come over while you’re home to introduce your pet to the new sitter,” Nelson said. “Let the pet sitter take your dog for a walk or play with the cat. See how they interact and how your pet reacts to them.”

How Do You Prepare Your Pet?

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A trial run is the best way for you to see your pet sitter in action. If possible, though, more than one visit would be best. Of course, you’ll have to pay for these visits, but Wooten said they’re invaluable for your pet. It will allow them to get to know their sitter and make the transition smoother while you’re away.

NaturVet Quiet Moments Calming Aid Dog Supplement

If approved by your vet, testing out some calming supplements before you leave might be a good idea.

In addition to the trial run, Wooten recommends you decrease the amount of time you spend with your pet. She cautioned not to do this too quickly, as it could create more anxiety, but you’ll want to start now if you’ll be leaving soon.

You should make sure your sitter knows about any health issues your pet has so they can be addressed if necessary.

“Be honest about your pet and any behavioral anomalies they exhibit,” Nelson said. “In this case, the more information you can provide, the better. Also discuss any health issues that your pet may have, especially allergies, and that they’re aware of signs that their issues may be worsening.”

How to Find a Pet Sitter

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Now that you know how to vet (no pun intended) a pet sitter, how do you find one? Well, actually, there are more resources than you might think.

Both veterinarians recommend well-known companies like Rover, Care.com, and Fetch Pet Care. You can also check out Pet Sitters International, the leading organization for professional sitters, as well as the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters.  However, you don’t have to stick with major companies and organizations if you don’t want to do.

“For local referrals, I recommend talking with friends and neighbors,” Nelson said, “and asking your veterinarian if they have people that they recommend, or recommend staying away from. You can also talk with your local shelter or vet clinic, as sometimes, shelter or vet hospital workers moonlight as pet sitters or dog walkers for people they know.”

If this all sounds like a lot, it is, but your furbaby is worth it. Plus, after you find a good pet sitter, it’ll be a relief to know you can contact them whenever you need to go out of town.

“A reliable pet sitter that your pet feels comfortable with is worth their weight in gold,” Wooten said. “Thank them, pay them well, including Christmas bonuses, and you will keep them for life!”


If you’ll be heading out of town soon and need to make arrangements for your pets, finding the right person to look after them can be daunting. However, once you know where to look, what questions to ask, and how to prepare your pets, you’ll be able to enjoy your time away, knowing they’re being well taken care of.

Shea Simmons Shea Simmons
Shea Simmons is an Atlanta-based writer who has written about everything from whether Crisco is a good moisturizer to how to KonMari your space. Her work has appeared in Bustle, My First Apartment, and Make It Grateful. Read Full Bio »

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