Friday, February 17, 2012

Finding the perfect pet-sitter

Lucy Maggie and Eamon the cats are all sleeping together
These spoiled cats clearly won't settle for any-old pet sitter.
I am a giant home-body. In fact, I am extremely liable to take a "vacation" and spend it at home working on the garden or reading a good book on the couch. But, there are times when I need to go out of town for a day or two, and then the hunt begins for a good pet sitter. Since the pug either comes along on these trips, or he goes to a reputable kennel, I am only looking for a cat-sitter.

When I search for a cat sitter, I look for people who also have cats. It sounds silly, I know, but some people simply don't know how to deal with cats. They slam doors, plop down dishes, stomp their feet and otherwise scare the crap out of cats. People who have cats, by contrast, know how to treat the animals gently, and they know how to appeal to these shy critters.

I also like to work with people who live in the neighborhood in a sort of "I'll scratch your back, you'll scratch mine" arrangement. I watch their cats, they watch mine. I could hire pet sitters, of course, but close neighbors can also watch the house and make sure that no nasty people break in and steal my things. No pet sitter would be able to do that.

In addition, most people who provide professional pet-sitting charge by the pet, and the going rate in the Portland area is $20 for three cats. Since I have six cats, I could rack up $40 per day, and they won't watch my house! Now, I'm all for supporting small business, but even I think this is a tad much. I'd rather use the neighborly approach, thank you very much.

Now, working with neighborhood people can also be risky, depending on your neighbors. Often, setting few ground rules can ease the pressure:
  • No outside pets. Unbelievably, there are people who bring their own pets for "visits" when they visit yours. This is a definite no-no.
  • No outside food. Special treats might seem like a good idea, but when you're gone, your pets are stressed enough. No need to add to their pressure with gastrointestinal distress.
  • Call with concerns. Anytime that my pets act strangely, seem off, won't eat, whatever, I want a CALL. Sometimes, this stuff is totally normal and I know all about it. If I don't, I want to tell the person where to take my pet for medical care. Information is power!
  • Keep your promises. If someone says they will feed my pets, I want reassurance that they will actually do it. Yes, unbelievably, I've heard of neighbors who have "forgotten" to drop by for a meal. Totally not okay.
I am an excellent pet-sitter, by the way. I am currently watching my neighbor's lovely cat and she is a joy to sit for. She's gentle, kind and extremely happy to see me when I come over for my visits. Sometimes, being a perfect pet-sitter is just as rewarding as finding the perfect pet sitter.