We all love our small pets. That’s a no-brainer. But even though we love them and would do absolutely anything in the universe for them, sometimes, we simply can’t be there. Vacations, emergencies, work trips. You get it… it’s just life. So, what do we do with our small animals when we’re not around? Well, we find someone to look after them. But, like with our own children (they literally are like human children), we need to be super careful and cautious as to whose care we’re leaving them in. And we also all probably know that it’s not an easy task to find a pet sitter that you trust with your pet’s life. So what are some things we should look for and questions that we should ask when we’re interviewing a potential sitter?
WHAT’S THE REASON THEY WANT THE JOB?
I always go into a pet sitter interview with the same exact mindset that I go into a babysitting interview for my daughter. First and foremost, I absolutely do NOT want someone caring for my small pet (or child) that only cares about what they’re getting paid. I don’t want someone coming over to allow free-roam time who’s just going to sit on the couch and text their pals, or catch up on their favorite Netflix show. Always make sure that the potential pet sitter you’re hiring cares about and loves your species of animal. Bonus points if they own that species, or know about them.
Your sitter shouldn’t be there for “just the basics.” Depending on the animals species and disposition, a major part of a pet sitting job is interaction. Cuddles, belly rubs, and playing with toys are part of the job. Not only should they be a requirement of the job, but they should be enjoyable for the caregiver. Your small animals miss you when you’re gone, and it’s important to do your very, very best to make your buddy feel safe without you. (Heartbreaking, I know.) If you feel like (or they say) they’re just in it for the moolah… move on.
WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK?
Gosh. There are so many that sometimes I go a little overboard. But here are my top five that I usually use to get a good gauge on whether or not this person will be a fit for my pet.
Why do you like being a pet sitter?
Open-ended questions are great to start with. They allow you to see the sitter’s enthusiasm and personality without having to pry. Well, hopefully you don’t have to pry. If you have to pry in question number one, that’s a bad sign.
What kind of experience do you have with this specific species of animal?
Not having experience doesn’t necessarily mean you should automatically check the sitter off of the list, especially if they meet all other requirements of the job… and you really like them. However, I’d probably feel more comfortable with someone sitting my mouse than I would my chinchilla, as they’re much more complicated animals.
Can you provide references?
Ideally they’ll be from previous customers. If they can’t provide ANY type of reference… yeah, no.
How many other pets are you currently sitting for?
This question is really to make sure that the sitter will have enough time to care for your pet. You want lots of special attention devoted to your small animal. Your pet deserves that. And you deserve knowing they're getting it.
Are you bonded and insured?
I know, it seems a little morbid, but it’s so important to cover yourself and your pet. Accidents, negligence, theft… all of these should be covered if your sitter has insurance.
HOW’S THE INTERACTION?
While asking questions is one of the most important pieces of the pet sitting interview, so is watching the interaction between your small pet and the potential caregiver. How does the caregiver act? What about your pet? Make sure the caregiver is super engaged. Engagement is key. Leave the room and let them have some alone time without you there. The caregiver will be able to gauge if this is the right fit, as will you. When you return, have a discussion on how their time alone went without you there. Make sure it’s an honest discussion… always ask if they have any concerns. This way, you’re bringing up the topic so they don’t have to feel awkward or uncomfortable if they feel it may not be the right fit. Also, if your small pet has any habits that you’re working on (biting, etc.), make sure you’re up front about them and ask if they’ll be a problem.
Remember, too, that you’re allowing your pet sitter into your home. I highly recommend checking backgrounds if they’re a stranger, and securing references to make sure they’re trustworthy enough to be in your home alone. Having a friend or family member stop by to check things out (for longer jobs) is a good idea, too. Tell the pet sitter that you plan to do this. If there’s nothing to worry about, they shouldn’t be offended.
The interview process isn’t only for you and your small animal. It’s just as much for the pet sitter. They should be interviewing you as you’re interviewing them. If they’re not asking questions or don't seem engaged and curious about your pet, red flag alert.
Pets need stability. Make sure, if you decide that you love the pet sitter you’re interviewing, that they would be available on a long-term basis. You’re going to have to be away from your animal more than once in your life. So, it’s best to prepare ahead of time and hire someone who can commit for jobs down the road. You’ll have more peace of mind having the same person in your home and your pet will form a new bond and make a new friend. And hopefully you will, too.
Happy hunting for those super sitters!