Hiring a sitter for your house and pets while you travel
This post is part of a series about traveling without your pet.
When you have a lot of pets, a lot of plants and are on the hook for a mortgage, the prospect of leaving it all behind for a few days can be scary.
Rather than sending the pets to someone else’s house or to a (possibly expensive) professional boarding facility and hoping the garden doesn’t wither and the house doesn’t get broken into while you’re away, getting someone to stay at your house is sometimes the best option for traveling pet parents.
If you’re lucky like us, a friend or family member may be willing to play house during your trip. There may also be professional house sitters in your area.
Although this option requires you to clean your house real well, going with in-home pet care when you travel has a few important benefits:
- Your pets likely won’t experience as much disruption to their daily routine.
- Someone will be around to alert you quickly and/or take action if a pipe bursts, a tree limb crashes through the roof or other such unfortunate incident happens during your trip.
- The very presence of people can help discourage burglars who may otherwise target a house where nobody seems to be home.
Unless the sitter you’re inviting over owes you a favor, it’s always good to plan on providing a little monetary compensation or at least bringing back a super awesome gift. This will help encourage a willingness to assist during your future travels.
If you don’t know anyone who can house, pet and plant sit while you’re away, ask friends or co-workers for recommendations.
Back when I was a college-aged newspaper intern, I got hit up to house sit for colleagues all the time. I loved the chance to get out of my cheap apartment and enjoy the luxuries of someone else’s house and pets for a few days.
However, there are a few things to consider before entrusting someone, even a close friend, with the safety and security of your pets, plants and domicile.
- Will this person’s work and life schedule allow him or her to perform all the duties you require?
- Is this person responsible? If you aren’t well acquainted, ask for referrals.
- Are you comfortable with the idea of this person bringing other individuals to your home? If not, say so.
- Do you mind if this person eats your food?
- Is there anything in your home (private possessions, weapons, valuables) that you don’t want this person to find or have access to? If so, can you secure these items?
- Can you expect your pets to obey this person?
- In your gut, do you trust this person to manage your home base to at least the minimum degree?
- Bottom line: Do you trust this person with the life of your pets and, considering a key to your home is involved, your own future safety and security?
Once you are satisfied with your answers to the above questions, do everything you normally would to get the house ready for overnight guests. If possible, have the sitter come over a few days before you leave so that you can walk them through your house, answer any questions and — most importantly — introduce your pets to their new friend.
Summarize everything you explain verbally to the sitter in a comprehensive written list placed prominently in your home.
Here are a few things to include on your list for the house and pet sitter:
- Instructions for feeding the pets – how much food? where is it? what if they run out?
- Pets’ daily medication needs (if applicable).
- Instructions for exercising the pets – walk every day?
- Other special instructions, such as rooms the pets are not allowed in or rules about the pets interacting with strange people.
- Contact information for your regular vet, as well as an emergency vet
- Watering instructions for your houseplants and/or garden.
- Location of the fusebox, as well as flashlights and anything else needed should the power go out.
- Contact information for a trusted neighbor or other in-town friend or family member.
- Contact information for you.
Important fact to remember: Almost no one will be able to take care of your pets and home exactly the way that you do.
If the dogs aren’t allowed on the couch, don’t be surprised if you find evidence, i.e. hair, indicating they got up there during your absence. (That’s an actual mistake I got called out for in my house sitting days.)
Our experiences with house-sitting friends and family have been overall great. We have come home to a few oddities, including a chewed-up baseboard that suggested a certain golden retriever was overly anxious. A lesson there is that even under trusted care, your pets are almost guaranteed to miss you. That’s OK.
However, on rare occasions you may find yourself with a house sitter who loves your pets more than you do.
That happened for us last spring when Zach’s sister and her husband stayed at our house for a week and fell in love with the Luxor, the lynx point Siamese who had by then already taught me I’m not a cat person.
He’s now much happier as the only pet and king kitty of their household.
Do you have an in-home pet sitter? How did you find this person?