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9 Tips for Choosing a Cat Sitter

Finding the right person will ease your mind while you're away. Here's how to do it.

 |  Sep 20th 2012  |   17 Contributions


There are lots of reasons why you might need a pet sitter. Maybe you’ve moved to a new city and haven’t yet developed a social network to help you care for your feline friends while you’re away, or maybe the family member or friend who usually takes care of your cats has travel plans at the same time you do. You could board your cat, but you know she’d be more comfortable at home. Here are some tips to help you find a pet sitter who will not only care for your cats but make you feel better while you’re away.

Woman holding gray cat by Shutterstock

1. Not all sitters are created equal

The kid next door might come and put down food and water twice a day, and maybe clean the litterbox regularly, but if your cat gets sick, that person might not know what to do. Some pet sitters prefer working with dogs or other animals and might not have that special knack for working with cats. And some people who call themselves pet sitters might not do any more than the kid next door.

2. Start your search early

Cat sitters need at least a couple of weeks’ notice before taking on a job. You also want to have time to meet your potential cat sitter before entrusting your cats and your home to her.

3. Review her qualifications

Ask about your sitter’s experience and qualifications -- for example, is she a veterinary technician? Has she taken animal first aid and CPR courses? (The Red Cross offers them, if you’re interested.) If your cat has special needs, ask whether she has experience with such cats.

A well-qualified cat sitter will know how to give special care such as medication, subcutaneous fluids, and bottle feeding. Orphaned kitten drinking from bottle by Shutterstock

4. Schedule a meet-and-greet

Your cat sitter should meet your cats before you go away. You’ll want to minimize the stress of them meeting a stranger, and you should also watch how your cats react to the sitter herself. If they don’t care for her, or if your sitter doesn’t use species-appropriate tone and body language, choose somebody else who is more experienced with cats. Trust your own instincts, too: No matter how well the sitter seems to get along with your cats, don’t hire her if you have a bad feeling about her.

5. Don’t forget about the business

Be sure your sitter has liability insurance and is bonded if your state requires that. Ask her for references and call those references. Have a written agreement about the cost of the services and what services the sitter will provide. Buy all the pet food and supplies your sitter will need and have copies of your cats' veterinary records available in case of an emergency.

6. Contact your vet

Let your vet know that you’re going to be away and that you’ve hired a sitter to take care of your cats. Give the clinic the sitter's name and ask whether the staff wants a credit card number on file in the event that your cat needs treatment. Be sure the clinic has a number where staff members can contact you while you’re out of town.

Be sure to remember the business end of the pet sitting job. Having a written agreement about the services the cat sitter is to offer will protect both you and the sitter. Handshake after an agreement is signed by Shutterstock

7. Write a note for your sitter

Before you leave, make sure your sitter has all the information she needs in order to be able to take good care of your cats. The note should include your contact information, your vet’s contact information, anything she should know about your cats’ diet, and the cats' favorite toys and games. If your cat has to take medication, include the dosing instructions.

8. Exchange phone numbers

If you rent, include your landlord’s or building manager’s contact information in your note. If you own your home, give your sitter the phone number of a neighbor who has an extra key to your house … just in case. Be sure that these individuals know you’ve hired a sitter, who that sister is, and how to contact her.

9. Relax

If you’ve done your work, your cats will be fine and healthy in your sitter’s care, so enjoy your vacation or get as much as possible out of that business trip.

A good cat sitter will make sure that when you return home, you'll find a healthy cat who's happy to see you. Woman holding her cat by Shutterstock

Got any other tips about hiring a cat sitter? Please share them in the comments.

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