Congratulations, you have completed the grueling task of finding the perfect pet sitter to care for your fur babies while you travel. How your pets fare while you are gone greatly depends on the instructions you leave with the sitter.
When my husband and I travel, it is important to me to have someone stay in our home to take care of our cats. Usually, that means a friend or family member.
Whether you have this option or hire a professional, these tips can help set your sitter up for success:
HAVE YOUR SITTER OVER FOR A GETTING TO KNOW YOU SESSION
This gives them a chance to see how your pets normally behave, what their rituals are and how you interact with them. When I had my friend who will be sitting for my fur babies in a few weeks over for dinner, she was able to watch the cats playing together. She saw the chase and the wrestling and was able to see that this is truly play, not a fight.
VERBALLY EQUATE YOUR PET’S PERSONALITY WITH SOMEONE YOUR SITTER KNOWS/LOVES
The way I described one of our cats, Emma, to our sitter friend is that she is sweet, kind, gentle, playful, funny and smart, much like my friend’s son. She immediately understood Emma’s personality and formed an instant connection.
CREATE A CATIFESTO /DOGIFESTO
I have to give credit where credit is due - my husband named the detailed document I create the Catifesto. This is what it includes:
Day-by-day, meal-by-meal instructions for each cat
What time to feed them
How to prep the food
Where each cat eats
How they want their dish placed
How to clean the dishes
Which sponge to use
Where dish soap is located
Where utensils are located
When to empty, clean and replenish water
Where the boxes are located
How often to scoop
When to scoop
How to dispose of waste
Where the broom/vacuum is located
Where extra litter is stored
Which toys each cat prefers
Where toys are stored
When they like to play
How to properly entice (and exhaust) each cat
Vet’s name, clinic, address and phone number(s)
Closest Emergency Vet Clinic
My sister’s phone number
Friend/back up sitter’s phone number in case of emergency
My cell / my husband’s cell
This can be included in your Catifesto/Dogifesto or as a separate document. Let your pet sitter know where things are – cleaning supplies, flashlights and candles, utensils, dishes and glasses, etc. Identify if you leave certain lights on at night or have night lights for your pet. If your oven is wonky, let your sitter know. If your thermostat is not accurate or requires a degree in engineering to set or if your faucet starts making noise when water begins to flow, this is helpful information. Make sure you include the login and password for your Wi-Fi. If you have plants that need watering, garbage that needs to go out on a specific day, mail that should be collected, this is space to include all of that and more.
DESCRIBE EACH PET’S ENDEARING QUIRKS AND BEHAVIORS
Provide a second document that explains each pet’s personality. Include physical descriptions of each so the sitter can keep the names straight (you can use photos, too). Highlight each pet’s likes and dislikes (which body parts are safe to pet, who is afraid of loud noises, etc.), where they like to nap/sleep, how to approach them, how they interact with each other, things that are normal but look strange, how each pet verbalizes or communicates stress, etc.
It can be very helpful to provide a copy of your itinerary with your sitter. It should include the name/address/phone number of where you are staying, flight info (when applicable), any activities that are set in stone, etc.
This may seem like a lot of work, but remember what the goal is – keeping your pet’s/pets’ life as normal as possible while you are away. Not only will it reduce their stress, but yours, as well.