The excitement of bringing a new kitten home is dampened only by the fact that you know you must leave them at some point. Whether you have to work, go to school, or attend to other obligations that require you to leave home, you can’t be there 100 percent of the time, but you can bring in an extra set of hands to keep your kitten safe and happy while you’re away. Pet sitters are not just for puppies, and your new feline family member can benefit greatly from the safety a sitter provides.
Although your little ball of fur will soon grow into an independent and fearless feline, kittens need regular supervision. A kitten sitter can provide this once (or more) each day. Here are some tips on choosing the right sitter for your kitten, and tips on how to make the arrangement work best for all concerned.
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Knowing your needs
No two animals are alike, and even the most experienced provider can’t always anticipate your kitten’s needs. Before contacting a potential sitter, know precisely what you require of them. Many pet parents opt for a once-per-day visit, which may be your sitter’s standard offering. If you need more than that, let them know ahead of time. If flexibility is imperative, such as if you have an irregular work schedule, make this known as well, and detail exactly how much advance notice you are likely to be able to provide each week. Care.com notes that flexibility is a key characteristic to look for, and is important if you believe short-notice care will ever be required.
Let them know about any special needs your kitten may have. A special needs cat is one with physical disabilities or health concerns that require attention outside of the scope of standard care. Behavioral issues, age-related diseases (such as renal failure or hypothyroidism), and terminal illness all fall under the umbrella of special needs. If your kitten has begun to display behavioral issues, such as scratching, aggressiveness, or soiling outside of their litter box, your sitter should be aware of these issues as well, and they should reinforce positive behaviors just as you would.
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Your kitten sitter will likely be happy to clean the litter box, change out their food and water, and administer oral medications, but may not be prepared for more significant responsibilities. Highlighting your expectations and needs from the beginning is the best way to prevent a misunderstanding or, worse, losing your kitten’s caretaker after the first visit and having to scramble to find a replacement.
Finding a kitten companion
Most people these days choose to find kitten sitters through sites like Rover.com and Care.com. Similarly, you can ask your veterinarian for a list of care providers with whom they are familiar, or check the ad board at your local animal shelter. Friends and family may also be able to provide names and contact information of sitters they use.
A kitten sitter in your area with potential
In the world of kitten care, not all applicants are alike. Even after you’ve established your expectations and your kitten’s needs, you will need to conduct a thorough interview, get to know the individual, and determine if they are indeed qualified.
The interview process will be much the same as any other job. You and your sitter will agree upon a date and time to sit down and discuss their qualifications, rates, availability, and more. Ask your kitten sitter key questions, including:
- What is your standard rate, and what services does that include?
Verify the services offered in their base rate. This will usually include things such as feeding, giving water, changing the litter box, and spending some time together playing. It may not include cleaning, grooming, or administering medications.
- Have you undergone any specialized training in kitten care?
Pet sitting certification is not a requirement to work in the industry. However, an individual who has taken this extra step has shown they are committed to upholding accepted professional standards.
- Which veterinary clinics do you have a relationship with in case of an emergency if my vet is unavailable?
After-hours veterinary service is not available at most animal clinics. Your pet sitter should be able to quickly identify local pet ERs. While you certainly hope that your kitten never experiences an emergency, your sitter should have this safety net in place just in case.
- Do you carry insurance, and are you licensed and bonded?
A license grants an individual permission to perform a service for pay. While it may not be required everywhere, some states, such as North Carolina, require licensing for any animal service provider that offers in-home boarding and care. Insurance and bonding are issued through a private organization, and provide financial protection for both you and your pet sitter if problems arise. For example, if your sitter breaks a valuable heirloom or your kitten is injured due to neglect while he is in the sitter’s care, their insurance should cover these expenses.
- Are you available for night time visits, or can you provide services in your home if I must be away for travel?
Some sitters enlist a strict daytime schedule, while others may be more amenable to nighttime visits. This is important if you work overnight or will be away for more than 24 hours.
- Do you have other pets in your home or that frequently make house calls with you?
You can expect that your sitter will have other animals in their possession, whether it’s a personal pet or other four-legged clients. If you are concerned about your kitten’s safety, request that your sitter come into your home alone, with no other animals in tow.
- Who else will enter my home and interact with my kitten?
It is not uncommon for a kitten sitter to bring their children along as they make their rounds or to have a partner who works on their behalf. If you prefer that only one individual accesses your home or interacts with your kitten or other pets, the interview is the perfect time to determine your sitter’s intentions and state your position.
Once you’ve narrowed down your selection based on their qualifications, you’ll need to plan a meet-and-greet session with your kitten. During this 15- to 30-minute period, evaluate your sitter’s demeanor. A pet sitter should always remain calm and patient, even when your kitten is being strong-willed. They should be able to read your cat’s cues and feline language, and respond appropriately.
Considering that your kitten sitter will be coming into your home, it may be wise to conduct a background check. Acutraq Background Screening services explains that a background check for a pet sitter should include a multi-state criminal search, sex offender registry search, Social Security trace, and search on the National and International Terrorist Watchlist.
You should provide your sitter with pet care instructions — you can download a template via Microsoft. In turn, your sitter should provide you with a written agreement that details their rates, services, and exceptions, and that outlines an emergency plan should they become unavailable.
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Choosing the right person to watch your kitten is really an ongoing process. Even after they have made several visits to your home, it is your responsibility as a pet owner to continue to monitor their interactions with your kitten. Unfortunately, not all pet sitters remain loving and attentive for the long haul.
Look for signs that your kitten is not being cared for properly. This might be indicated by an overflowing litter box after your sitter has made a visit. A lack of communication regarding your kitten’s well-being is another red flag that can’t be ignored. Reader’s Digest explains that an animal that hides when your provider comes to visit may indicate that he’s uncomfortable with that individual. The magazine notes, however, that this behavior is normal until he has had adequate time to get to know the sitter.
Experts at the Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Department at Texas A&M University advocate the use of drop-in sitters for kittens and other pets if you must be away. The University asserts that this provides your pet with an opportunity to remain in a familiar environment and does not restrict their movements as a boarding facility would. Further, having an individual on site means you have an extra set of eyes on your home. Your sitter can alert you if anything seems off, meaning both your kitten and your home are more secure.
There are thousands of individuals out there willing to provide care for your precious new kitten, but don’t just choose the first one that pops up when you search. Take the time to get to know your potential sitter, and don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions and continuously monitor the care they provide. Your kitten is a part of your family and deserves the best care possible, and it is your responsibility to ensure he receives it.