Whether you’ve spent years loving your aging pet or you adopted him mere months ago, you know older dogs and cats have a lot of love left to give. On the outside, their fur may be thinning and graying. They may not be able to get around as well as they used to. They may even have some health concerns that require special attention. But on the inside, they are the same sweet creatures they have always been.
If you are fortunate enough to love an old dog or cat, then you are certainly aware of the worry that comes along with leaving them while you work, travel, or even spend an afternoon running errands. Luckily, there are plenty of pet sitters who know how to keep your aging pet happy and healthy while you’re away. You just have to know what qualities to look for and where to find them.
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Qualities to Look for in a Good Pet Sitter
When choosing someone to care for your aging pet, not just anyone will do. You want someone who understands the unique requirements of older cats and dogs. Even the most highly-recommended sitters may not have what it takes. To ensure your best friend is well taken care of, look for these specific qualities in a candidate:
- Experience with Older Pets – Most pet sitters love all pets. So, while their online profile may list a specialty in geriatric animals, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to filter your results to find only those candidates. Therefore, the best way to find a sitter with experience caring for older dogs and cats is to choose a sitter who meets your other criteria — geography and availability, for example. After you review their profile, you can send them a private message asking for more information about their experience with aging animals.
- First-Aid Training – Even if your pet has no major health concerns, a caregiver qualified in dog first aid will be better equipped to handle any emergencies that come up in your absence. If you’re searching online, you can filter your results by checking the box that says “Dog First-Aid Certified.” To be sure your sitter has everything they need within reach, pack a pet-specific first-aid kit with items like gauze pads, adhesive tape, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol wipes, and saline solution. For a full list of necessary supplies, refer to this list from the ASPCA.
- In-Home Care Options – Most older pets will be more comfortable in their own home where they feel safe and secure. To allow your dog or cat to remain in a familiar environment, find a sitter who offers in-home care. Depending on your pet’s needs, that may mean they stay in your home the whole time you’re away, or it may mean that they come to your home to walk, feed, and snuggle your pet multiple times per day. On sites like Rover, you can search for candidates who offer house sitting or drop-in visits.
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Questions to Ask Prospective Sitters
Once you’ve found a handful of qualified sitters, it’s time to start the interview process. While these questions can be asked via email or over the phone, you’ll also want to set up an in-person meeting before you hire someone to care for your four-legged family member. There is no substitute for seeing how your pet responds to and interacts with a prospective sitter, or vice versa.
- Can you meet my pet’s specific needs? Your furry friend may need special medications or supplements, extra bathroom breaks, or a helping hand when climbing the stairs. Make a list of your pet’s unique needs, and discuss each of them in detail with prospective sitters. If you sense any hesitation, don’t hesitate to dig deeper. The right sitter won’t shy away. In fact, she’ll probably appreciate your high level of discernment.
- Are you bonded and insured? In addition to obtaining background checks and certifications, career pet sitters who are serious about their profession will sometimes go the extra mile to bond and insure their business. While it’s not always the case, and it doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker, this extra qualification may help you in the decision-making process.
- Can you provide references? Online reviews are a great way to see what actual clients think of a sitter’s services. However, they won’t always address older pets specifically. Ask for references from clients with aging pets. While every pet is unique, the experiences of other pet parents with older animals will give you a better idea of what to expect.
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Tips for Leaving Your Pet in Your Sitter’s Care
If you followed the recommendations above, you should end up with a qualified, caring sitter who will love your dog or cat like her own. Still, before you leave your precious pet with their new caregiver, there are steps you can take to set your pet at ease and provide yourself peace of mind.
- Do a trial run. Invite your sitter over for a short period of time to bond with your pet. If applicable, schedule the visit when your pet needs special care, like administering medications. Then, you can show your new sitter how you do it, and give him or her the opportunity to ask questions or voice concerns.
- Leave detailed instructions. When you live with an aging pet, you may not notice their day-to-day habits. Spend a day consciously observing your pet and writing down his or her schedule, routines, and preferences. Do they wait longer than your average pet between bathroom breaks? Is it normal for them to snooze all day? Do they get a tummy rub every night before bed? Sharing this information with your sitter will let them know what to expect and how to make them more comfortable while you’re away.
- Check in. Don’t be afraid to check on your pet while you’re gone, and don’t hesitate to ask your sitter to call, text, or send pictures while your animal is in their care. Leaving an aging pet can be stressful. Plus, you’ll miss them!
Leaving a pet behind is not an easy task for any pet parent, but it can be especially difficult when your fur baby is not a baby anymore. The key to finding a caregiver you can trust is to know what qualifies a person to look after older pets specifically. With the right qualities, the right questions, and the right preparations, you can rest assured you’re leaving your aging animal in the right person’s care.