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Avoid worrying by picking the right holiday cat sitter
It’s the time of year where you might be considering a winter break, trip or visiting others for the holidays so it is important that your furry friends are well looked after. I know that I consider my cats a part of the family so finding the right holiday cat sitter is essential to give me a little more peace of mind (I still worry a bit though, and I like to think that is normal!) There are two options when you go away; cat boarding and cat sitting. The former involves taking your cat somewhere else to be looked after, for example, a kennel or someone else’s house and the latter is having someone come to your house to take care of your cat. I much prefer someone coming to my house because my cats are in familiar surroundings, it reduces cat stress and anxiety and makes them less affected by it. Plus my cats are spoiled so they aren’t a fan of going anywhere they don’t want to without causing a fuss!
Do Your Research
The joy of the internet is that you can find anything which means it doesn’t take much searching until you find a cat sitter, but are they the right one? Don’t just hire the first person you find, dig a little deeper and always use trusted websites or resources, things like Rover.com for the US and Canada or Cat in a Flat for those of us in the UK. They will both help search according to your area along with specifications to suit your needs, plus it makes checks and searching easier as they normally have to provide proof of insurance or documentation as part of the registering process.
Start your research in plenty of time so that things aren’t done last minute and you aren’t pressured into hiring someone for the wrong reasons.
Many of the sites I have mentioned will have a system that attaches ratings to cat sitters so that you can automatically see what others’ think of them but don’t be afraid to ask. Good holiday cat sitters will have references, referrals, and ratings that they are happy for you to look at.
Alternatively, ask around with friends and family for recommendations of who they use.
Check Certifications and References
I can tell you I’m the best cat sitter in the world with a Ph.D. from the University of Kittyville but can I prove it? You don’t have to hire someone who is certified, for example if they are a family friend or highly recommended, but if they say they have something then make them prove it. We don’t (and won’t) hire people who lie about their certifications or references, we always call and check because a lot of the time, people bet that you won’t!
Arrange a Meeting
Always arrange to meet your cat sitter beforehand because anyone can be anyone online. Plus, a meeting can help you create a rapport and explain what you need and want without getting your wires crossed. Meetings are beneficial for both parties to decide if the arrangement is for them as your cat sitter might not have realised how difficult it is to get to your house, or could be allergic to other animals you have etc. It’s better to deal with this now than have them let you down at the last minute.
More importantly, a meeting allows the cat sitter to meet your cats and can give you an idea about how they interact and you can watch them first hand.
Let your cat sitter know exactly what you want or are expecting, things like:
- How long the visit should be per day
- Start and end dates
- How many times a day to visit
- Food quantities and dietary requirements
- Location of bowls/cleaning equipment
- Health requirements or medication (plus how to give it to them whether directly or in their food etc.)
- Parking arrangements
- Litter tray cleaning
- Key arrangements (where it will be left or when they can be picked up/dropped off)
- Emergency arrangements
You may not like to think of looking after your cats as a business transaction but it is to a certain extent and you need to protect your interests which in this case is your furry friends. Many sitters will have their own insurances or documents that you will need to sign and you should ensure all of your expectations are included in that as well. Also, make sure that you don’t sign documents that removes liability from the cat sitter if your cat becomes injured or lost during their care, they may not be able to avoid oncoming illnesses but if your cat gets out and they lose them, they need to help find or pay costs to find them again.
What To Look For In A Cat Sitter:
You may be wondering how you know if a cat sitter is the right fit for you and what to look for, particularly if it is the first time leaving them alone. Here are some of the qualities and signs I look for when choosing a cat sitter:
- Personal recommendations – Most cat owners I know are also cat lovers which means if they have had a good (or bad) experience I listen to what they have to say. So if they highly recommend, or tell me to avoid someone then I listen. I also Google for reviews of the person/company because anyone can have positive feedback on their website but you can’t hide from the internet!
- Professional website or business – If I opt for professional services over someone we know then I check to ensure they look like a proper business, their website looks good and they take pride in their appearance. This means that even if they don’t get on with my cats they will feel a business obligation to ensure their welfare!!
- Their cat interaction – During the meeting phase, I always make sure our cats are indoors because I have two nosy ones that are comfortable coming up to strangers. I watch how the cat sitters interact and behave to see if it feels natural or forced and whether my cats like them. For example, Pheonix is very shy but our current cat sitter sat down and held his hand out and waited for her to come to him and they got on immediately, so really she decided.
What To Leave For Your Holiday Cat Sitter:
- Write a list – Particularly useful if your meeting was a while ago as it helps them to remember what the expectations are.
- Leave contact numbers – Contact and communication are key to giving you the peace of mind while you are away and also ensures that if anything happens, you are available. Leave telephone numbers for yourself, anyone you’re going with and if in a new country, leave your email address or details of the hotel (or people you are staying with.) Cover all of your bases and label them clearly.
- Place extra water bowls – You may find that your cats drink more water during the day, particularly if they are nervous and placing extra bowls around gives them the comfort of not “coming out into the open” so they can stay hydrating. Also, if the worst were to happen and your sitter misses a visit or has an accident and can’t come, your cats will be able to survive as long as they are hydrated. (however, this can be avoided by regular updates from your cat sitter to ensure they have visited)
- Gather documents – The last thing you want to worry about while away is that your cat can’t get treatment because the cat sitter won’t pay the vet bills. Gather together all of your documents including cat insurance (highly advised, even if you take out a short-term holiday policy for this purpose) so the cat sitter can take it with them to the vets to add to your account for when you get back. Also, it’s a good idea to inform your vet so that they can care for your cat if necessary and then you can settle up the bill when you get home so they aren’t stuck with any surprises and can call you if necessary.