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The Right Pet-Sit-Fit

cat in bed

If you have pets you'll know the BREATHTAKING worry of leaving your Masters of Your Universe (should that be the other way round? hmmm...) behind when you plan a trip away. What you want is peace of mind, of course, for them and for you, which means that you have confidence you've made the right decision about with whom you leave your darlings for care.

The options are fairly straightforward: a pet-sitter (visit or live-in) or boarding your pet. Yet the variables can make it a little complicated. What kind of pets you have, how old they are, where you live, how long you're going away for, etc., all need to be factored in. Well, we've compiled a little check-list of things to think about (always here to assist!) to help the decision-making easier. This week "The Pet-Sit-Fit"; next week "To Board or Not to Board".


The Pet-Sitter

If you're looking for a pet-sitter, the options are live-in or pop-in. Unless you have a solitary cat who is out all day and just needs feeding (not too many of those though ~ we all want a bit of a cuddle now and again), it's probably best to look for someone who will move in to your home for the duration of your stay-away. Word of mouth when looking for a pet-sitter can be a reliable route to go, so check with family and friends, colleagues and your vet to see who they'd recommend.


Things to Consider

  • Costs: A professional pet-sitter may not come cheap, but your pet gets to remain home-sweet-home, which can be a major bonus if your flighty Fifi is a little highly strung. Also, if you have more than one dog or cat or goldfish (and we love you for it :-)), you can negotiate an all-in-one price with a pet-sitter as opposed to paying per animal at a kennel/cattery, though of course you can expect a higher price for a higher number of animals, at least to some extent.
  • Less Stress: Having someone live-in could be a win-win (one of our favourite things). They can keep an eye on your castle (er, home) in terms of safety and take care of everyday chores like collecting the paper, sorting the mail and watering your mother in law's tongue (that's a sansevieria trifasciata plant to the uninformed). Pets (generally), like humans (generally) often simply feel more at home at home and there's not much to beat sleeping in your own bed and playing with your own toys.
  • Age: While younger pets may love the communal environment to be had when boarding and making new buddies, older animals might find it trickier to adjust to new spaces and it might be better for them to stay at home where they are comforted by their surroundings.
  • Exotics: Does a goldfish qualify as an exotic pet? Probably not, but it and other pets such as birds, bunnies, spider monkeys, real monkeys, turtles, hamsters, etc. might be better staying in their own environment too. Moving an entire menagerie to a boarding space could be a little tricky.
  • Bonding: If your dog or cat doesn't fall in love with strangers easily (we like that they're not fickle :-)), then it's best to have the potential pet-sitter visit while you're at home and make sure that the animals (especially fearsome Fido) are comfortable with them around. The more bonding you can all do before you go away, the smoother the transition when the pet-sitter moves in.
  • One-On-One: If any of your animals are on medication or need special dietary requirements, a pet-sitter can provide intensive, round-the-clock supervision, following the regulated schedule you leave for them.
  • Exercise, Playing and Grooming: A reliable pet-sitter will take your frisky Fido for long walks (the ones he's used to, right?) during the ideal time of day, making sure he's happy and hydrated. They can also schedule play-time and grooming around the same times that you would be bonding with your beloved pet. This'll keep them happy, looking good and in tune with their normal routine.
  • Organisation: Like make a list of things to do? Being organised about exactly which pet needs what and when, and having contact numbers at the ready for your nearest and dearest (that includes your vet), are all essentials that need to be discussed beforehand. And make sure to leave The List with your pet-sitter before winging your way on holiday. And check there's enough food (and supplements etc.) in-house for your hungry hounds and sublime felines.
  • Potential Problems: Part of organisation really, but have your pet-sitter know where the pet emergency stuff is located around your home and they of course must have your vet's number stuck to the fridge and on speeddial on their phone. Also, leave your pet-sitter with some sort of authorisation to act on your behalf with your vet, should your vet be needed ~ don't want unnecessary obstacles if medical care is required. Plus, sounds obvious, but don't forget the contact number for where you're staying and your mobile number. (Duh!)
  • Checks in Place: We hate to say it, but we will. No matter how many great references your pet-sitter has and, yes, you have an agreement in writing, things don't always go according to plan and can and do go wrong. If possible, have a friend, family member or neighbour pop-by your home on about day two, just to see how things are going and to confirm that Fido and Felix are in a tail wagging/purring frame of mind. (And that your pet-sitter hasn't gone AWOL. :-))
  • Back-Up Plan: If you have a back-up plan for your plan, your trip away will be even more blissful (trust us on this). A reliable Plan B would be to have a pet boarding facility in mind and someone (that friend, family member or neighbour) on-hand to help with pet transfers and booking-in if necessary. If you give your friend, family member or neighbour a duplicate of The List before you go away, this will help in the unlikely event Plan B needs to be activated.

Is there a downside to the Pet-Sitter Plan? Well, potentially yes ~ a big one. You see, you very possibly will not be able to find a pet-sitter who will live in. It's possible, and depending on where you live, perhaps more than possible, that you would need to rely on a pet-visiting service instead. In such cases, even assuming the very best and most dedicated pet-sit-visits in the world, the reality will be that your pet is alone very much most of the time. Consider that a pet-sit-visit routine will probably result in your pet-sit professional coming to your home twice a day, maybe thrice. Each visit will give your fellas all the love and attention they could need... BUT they will still be alone for as much as 22-23 hours a days. That's a lot of time to be entirely alone, which is fine for a day or two, or three, but may be a real issue if longer. So give some thought to whether or not your particular pet will be ok, happy or even thrive with such an arrangement, and if not, then you really might need to consider a good boarding facility instead, even if the issues inherent in that arrangement concern you too ~ lesser of evils, right? Cats are more likely to be ok alone for extended periods of time than dogs, it's probably safe to say, but in all cases (dogs, cats, birds, etc.), for your lovelies to be alone almost all the time for an extended period of time really might not be the best solution.

All this said, and assuming you've found that right pet-sitter, don't let them go! (There's a song in that, for sure!) There may be teething problems but as long as everyone is in contact with each other (the joys of the digital age) then sorting out stuff should be smooth sailing. Speaking of sailing, now that's a holiday we'd like to plan...

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