You just booked tickets to go out of town for a week. You shut your laptop and look up right into the accusatory eyes of your cat, tail swishing in anticipation. Suddenly, the pang of guilt hits you. You ask yourself “Who’s going to take care of her while I’m gone?”

It’s time to hire a pet sitter, and whether it’s your first time or you’re a pro at hiring pet sitters, we’ve compiled some tips to keep in mind that will help you have the best experience possible:

  1. Invest time into searching for the right pet sitter or pet sitting company.Technology today makes it extremely easy to research and identify pet sitters online. Check reviews. Are these pet sitters insured and bonded? How long have they been in business?
  2. Arrange a time for a meet-and-greet, before the first service date. First impressions are everything right? Make sure you can schedule an in-person consultation before your first pet sitting date so that both you and your pet are comfortable with their new sitter before it’s time to leave.
  3. Watch the pet sitter when they enter and see how they act with your pets. When you have an in-person consultation for the first time, think of it as a tryout! Be sure to watch how your pets react to them, and make sure the sitter seems attentive to animal body language. They should know, for example, that a cat rolling over and showing its belly does not mean “give me a belly rub.”
  4. Interview and use open ended questions to gain a good understanding of the individual and company. Open ended questions have a way of forcing the person who’s answering to reveal more about themselves. It’s up to you to take the right perspective on their answer, but it will open the door for you.  This is also for your peace of mind, and to ensure you are entering into a relationship that can be long standing and consistent for you and your pets. This is one of the drawbacks of pet sitting “apps”–often the sitters are not a long term solution and can’t provide consistent care.
  5. Leave detailed, typed instructions for your sitter: To avoid any confusion, talk through these instructions with your sitter. Always give your pet sitter some time to read over the instructions and ask any questions. Be sure to include specifics about food, medicine, and other pet preferences. Leaving typed instructions allows for more clarity and reduces the possibility of the sitter guessing on what you have written.
  6. Go over any instructions for arming and disarming security systems.  If you’ve got a security system, the last thing you want to have to do is come home and turn it off or deal with a call from the police when it’s set off by a visiting pet sitter. Give your sitter a quick demo of the system when they come for a consultation.
  7. Ask for picture updates while you are gone. There’s no better way to make sure your pets are having a good time during their first appointment (and verify that walks are happening) than getting a photo or video update. In this day and age, almost all sitters have a smartphone, so this as shouldn’t be a big deal.
  8. Ask about payment options: It’s good to get this out of the way early, so that there’s no confusion when it comes time for payment. This way you know if you need to leave cash or a check behind for your sitter. On the other hand, they may be fine with using a payment app such as Venmo, Paypal, their pet sitting software, etc…
  9. Have your spare key ready on the date of the consultation: Giving a sitter a spare key on the day of your consultation will save you from having to leave a key outside or wait for your sitter to show up for the first appointment to let them inside. This small convenience goes a long way. If you have a lockbox, make sure you instruct the pet sitter on how to open it.
  10. TRUST YOUR GUT: Finally, you have to trust your own instincts when meeting and choosing a sitter. You know your pets better than anyone. Whether you are looking for experience with a particular type of pet, or just someone who clearly loves animals, trust your instincts when you select a sitter.