How to Hire a Pet Sitter During a Pandemic
How to Hire a Pet Sitter During a Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic continues, and life goes on. As we adapt to what the new coronavirus variants will bring, people with pets will still need to plan around their work and school schedules, holidays, travel, and family emergencies. Pet sitters have ridden the roller coaster of the last 20 months along with the rest of us. Here are a few things they might want us to keep in mind.
Get Vaccinated and Stay Healthy
It’s essential that you, your pet sitter, your family, and your pets stay healthy, so please get vaccinated and take care of yourselves. Your pet sitter will want to know that you and your pets have had your shots and are in good health. Because pet sitters visits dozens of homes during the year, knowing your home is safe to work in is important. They will have guidelines for vaccinations and health status, social distancing, and use of masks, so they can help keep your pets and your home clean and safe.
You’ll want everyone to be healthy and your home to be clean enough for a visitor. If you or one of your humans or pets is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or another illness, let your pet sitter know, just as you would expect them to tell you.
Decide What Pet Sitting Services You Want
Before hiring, think about what services you’ll need. Do you want someone to check on your pet regularly during the workweek, walk your dog, or care for your pets while you’re away from home? Do you want someone who’s affiliated with your vet’s office (many in those offices also work as pet sitters)? Do your pets take medication, eat prescription food, or have special needs? What else does your pet sitter need to know about your pets, their preferences and daily routine, and your home? How often would you want your pet sitter to come to your place? Some pet sitters visit once or twice a day as standard care; others offer housesitting, grooming, and other services too.
In return, your pet sitter will ask you many questions about your pets and their routines and will want your vet’s contact information and a summary of your pet’s health history.
Interview Your Pet Sitter Before Your Start Date
Animal people agree that what’s most important when hiring a pet sitter is that the person has experience, connects with your pet, feels like a good fit for your family, and will meet your pet’s needs. An adult who is a friend or relative and is an experienced pet human can be an excellent sitter without professional certification, and may even know and love your pets already. Teenagers who are experienced with pets can be great too, if they’re mature enough to care for a pet on their own (and ideally, have backup from adults).
If you’ll be interviewing people you don’t know, you’ll want to ensure that your potential pet sitters are knowledgeable, professional, have references and clean criminal records, and are insured. To confirm that your pet sitter is licensed and is certified by a professional pet sitting organization, check with those listed in Resources below, or ask your vet for a recommendation. If you’re comparing pet sitting services, a checklist like the one from the Professional Animal Care Certification Council (PACCC) can help (https://paccert.org/choosing-a-pet-care-provider/).
Introducing your pets and your family to the sitter personally and walking them through your pets’ routine should be part of your hiring process. When you meet, you’ll be able to answer some vital questions: Do you and your family feel comfortable with this person in your home? How did they react to being with you and yours pets? Do your pets feel safe and at ease with them? Are they mature, knowledgeable, and professional? No matter what you see or hear in an interview, go with your gut. Never hire someone to care for your pets unless everyone agrees that the decision feels right.
Schedule as Far in Advance as You Can
Whether you’re planning a vacation or attending an in-person conference, tell your pet sitter as early as possible. Pet sitting services have seen their business wax and wane since March 2020, but you can help them accommodate you by letting them know your plans promptly. They’ll also want written instructions and contact information for you and your vet.
Keep Up with Medical and Veterinary Advice About COVID-19
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says in its most recent update: “A small number of pets worldwide, including cats and dogs, have been reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19. . . . Based on the information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.” Keep up to date by checking the CDC website along and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA; see Resources).
Steph volunteered with King Street Cats in Alexandria for 7 years and now lives in Pennsylvania with her humans and their two cats.
Professional Pet Sitting Organizations
National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS)
Find a Local NAPPS Pet Sitter | The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters
Pet Sitters International (PSI)
Pet Sitters International, the leading pet-sitter association
Professional Animal Care Certification Council (PACCC)
CHOOSING A PET CARE PROVIDER – PACCC: Professional Animal Care Certification Council (paccert.org)
COVID-19 Information About Pets
“COVID-19: If You Have Pets,” CDC, June 29, 2021
If You Have Pets | COVID-19 | CDC
“Current Information About COVID-19 and Pets: Caring for Your Pets with SARS-CoV-2,” AVMA
Selected Alexandria-area Animal Shelters/Rescues
Animal Welfare League of Alexandria
4101 Eisenhower Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22304
Fairfax County Animal Shelter
4500 West Ox Road
Fairfax, VA 22030
King Street Cats
25 S. Dove Street
Alexandria, VA 22314