The bags are packed, plane tickets are in hand, and you’re ready for a nice, long vacation. While you’re away, it’s important that Buster gets cared for as lovingly and safely as usual. That’s where finding and preparing for a quality pet-sitter comes into play.

Finding the right pet-sitter is crucial to having a safe, enjoyable experience. Cathy Shea, owner of Shea’s Sit and Stay, receives most of her new business from satisfied clients referring her to their friends and family. Paul Flotron, owner of Creature Comforts Great and Small, says another way to locate a qualified pet-sitter is through a veterinarian. Typically, he says, an experienced pet-sitter will have respected relationships with local veterinarians, who will, in turn, be glad to recommend them.

Clients should look for pet-sitters who are well-equipped to handle a medical emergency, and be certified in pet CPR. Someone who is connected in the animal community, and associated with a national or international pet sitting association, also is likely to be more qualified, Flotron says. References give potential clients a good idea of how pet-sitters have treated animals, homes and their owners in the past. A quick Google search should bring up any poor or positive reviews of the company and pet-sitter, as well. Both Shea and Flotron agree that trusting your gut is key in finding a good pet-sitter.

“If the person isn’t up front with them, or doesn’t express concern for their animals, that’s a warning sign,” Shea says. She adds that booking in advance—up to a year ahead of time for holidays—also is important.

After you’ve found the pet-sitter that’s right for you and your animals, a pre-visit introduction is essential. Invite the pet-sitter over to get to know the pet, your home, and your animals’ routines. Flotron suggests compiling comprehensive care instructions to leave with the pet-sitter, including information on feeding, walking, watering and emergency contact information for the veterinarian, as well as friends, family and neighbors. Information about how to contact an owner while they’re away, plus any security access codes and how to reset the circuit breaker also are important. Shea recommends that clients give pet-sitters a tutorial on how to administer any pet medication during this visit. The more information you provide, the more likely your pet will stay safe and comfortable while you are away.

“The three most important qualities a pet-sitter should have are trustworthiness, reliability and dedication,” Flotron says. “This business is personal, professional and customized. Ask yourself if that person is willing to accommodate you fully, or are they just doing a job.”

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