The enjoyment of planning a vacation can quickly shift to stress when you’re worried about finding a pet sitter. While some people rely on boarding kennels for their pets, many others prefer that their animals stay with a sitter, either in their own homes or in the sitter’s home.
Other pet owners rely on sitters for daily dog walks or drop-in visits, particularly if they are at the office for long stretches of time and want to make sure their dogs get bathroom breaks, a meal, and/or their medications.
Since 2019, Jacque Peters has owned Fetch! Pet Care North Pittsburgh, a pet sitting and dog walking company servicing most of the North Hills and southern Butler County since 2008. Peters contracts with pet sitters that she insures and bonds after they go through a background check and vetting process.
In addition to dog walking, a pet taxi service to transport them to appointments, and medication administration, Fetch! offers overnight visits that are 12 hours or 24 hour live in.
“The demand has been up since the pandemic; we have noticed that a lot of dogs and cats are having separation anxiety,” said Peters.
It can be hard for pets to acclimate to someone outside the family, which is why many pet sitters, like Laura Harwin, owner of Pied Piper Pet Sitters, arrange for meet and greets with the pets prior to taking on a job. She also provides welcome packets for clients who then provide her with all of the information she needs to know about their pet’s needs, likes and dislikes, routines, etc.
This is something that Lindsay Connor with Gary’s Animal Kare agrees with.
“The best suggestion we give is to make sure you do an in-person interview before letting anyone care for your animals. Every relationship is different from animal to person so most importantly you want to make sure the sitter and animal are going to be safe and happy together,” she said.
Harwin opened her solo pet-sitting service in 2015. Her service area includes Avalon, West View, Northside, Troy Hill, Spring Garden and parts of Ross.
“I’ve had dogs my whole life, and I’ve had dogs with anxiety and other concerns. I know pet parents have those concerns,” she said.
She primarily cares for dogs and cats but she’s also stepped in to care for turtles, birds, rabbits and chickens.
In addition to dog walks, Harwin also provides overnight pet sitting services.
“The whole idea of in-your-home pet sitting is that it creates a lesser stress environment. They’re stressed out because their people are gone, but they are less stressed when they are in familiar surroundings; we try to keep to their routine as closely as possible,” she said.
The pets are not the only ones who can get anxious in a new situation: it can be difficult for pet parents to trust someone new to care for their pets. Peters offers some advice for pet sitter interviews.
“You want to make sure that sitter is background checked. Whether you’re going with a service or an independent person, make sure that they are insured.”
Harwin agreed with this.
“You want somebody that has insurance, business licenses, and that they continue to be educated. I belong to Pet Sitters International (PSI), and it’s a national organization of professional pet sitters; they provide resources, training, a chat group on Facebook, etc. It’s a great networking opportunity to learn from other pet sitters,” she said.
Another thing that stands out to Harwin is hiring a professional versus a hobbyist.
“You know we’re going to show up because this is our full time job. Some people do it part time, but this is our focal point,” added Harwin.
Yet another subject to bring up with a potential pet sitter is to ask what would be the plan if the sitter gets ill before the job is to begin.
“With our service, if we have enough advance knowledge, we do everything in our power to accommodate getting another sitter in place,” said Peters.
“Requirements should be based on the need of the animal. Every animal merits different care, so you want to make sure you’re hiring the right sitter for the job! As an owner, ask yourself ‘Can this person fulfill all aspects of what my pet will need while I am away?’” Connor added.
When you’re out of town and start missing your pets, most pet sitters will send updates via text; Harwin said she sends texts after every visit. Fetch! offers an app for customers to download, which can be utilized for scheduling, invoicing and uploading photos.
Most people who enter the pet sitting field are themselves pet lovers, or they would not do what they do on a daily basis.
“Animals are such intelligent and amazing beings, and I love being able to provide safe and knowledgeable services for them as a caregiver. Plus, it’s way better than a desk job! The most rewarding part of my job is helping animals to thrive in their daily lives as well as building amazing relationships with their owners,” said Connor.
Peters finds her career to be incredibly rewarding as well, from the gratification of being greeted by happy pets to helping people care for their beloved animals.
“We’re not just helping people going on vacation, we’re there for the pets. Some elderly clients can’t necessarily get their dogs out to get walked on a regular basis, and we are there to help them and be there for them. Knowing that your poor dog isn’t cooped up all day and we can help; that is what we are looking for,” said Peters.
For Harwin, every day is a new adventure.
“The dogs have different personalities; it’s such a warm greeting when you come in. I think the most rewarding thing is that people and their pets are counting on me not just to show up but to provide excellent personalized care so their pet is safe and happy in their absence.”
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