How to Set Your Pets and In-House Pet Sitter Up for Success

With spring break around the corner and lots to prepare, we thought it would be helpful to provide you with a checklist of things to get your pets and your pet sitter ready for your vacation.

To ensure a relaxing vacation, ensure your pet sitter is qualified and reputable – someone you trust to stay in your home, or their home is somewhere you trust your pets to stay while you’re away. Don’t be afraid to ask for references. If your pet is staying at someone’s else, we highly recommend you visit the location. If you’ve never met this pet sitter before, ask if they’re licensed and bonded.

Schedule a trial to make the transition less stressful. Just like with human children, a parent will schedule several shorter babysitting experiences (such as a date night) before leaving their child with a sitter for several days. It’s important your pets are comfortable and friendly with the sitter before you leave town. This might require multiple visits.

If the pet sitter is staying in your home and you have a social pet who has had no issues with visitors to the home, invite the sitter over for lunch and do your typical introductions plus a house tour. If you have a long trip planned, schedule the pet sitter for a one night ‘practice stay’in advance. This gives the animals the opportunity to get comfortable with the pet sitter and it gives the pet sitter the opportunity to ask questions or express concerns.

If your social and confident pets are going to the pet sitter’s house, you’ll also want to do introductions beforehand. If the pet sitter has dogs, schedule a dog walk on neutral ground to introduce them. Then, visit the pet sitters house to smell the space with you by their side. Next, book a “practice sleepover” there to help your pet become familiar and hopefully have a good time.

If your pet is more reserved, uncomfortable with strangers, generally timid, fearful, or new to you, utilize this safe and slow introduction routine:

Step 1: Olfactory introduction    

  • Before any in-person introductions, ask the pet sitter to loan you something with their scent on it (such as a shirt or scarf) and leave it in a common area in your home so your pets can become familiar with their scent before meeting face to face.
  • For cats, do the olfactory introduction and then jump ahead to step 3.

Step 2: Meet the pet sitter in a neutral location

  • Often, dogs who are concerned with people entering their home do better when meeting in a neutral location. Go for a walk together before going to the house.
  • On the walk, start with you holding the leash and if your dog is comfortable, have the petsitter hold the leash while you drop back a little way.

Step 3: Invite the pet sitter into your home 

  • You can walk into the house with the pet sitter as you return from a walk.
  • Alternately, you could crate your dog with something delicious to chew on when the sitter arrives. This gives your dog some time to acclimate to their presence before bringing them out into the main room.
  • Use your body language and friendly voice to express to your pet that the pet sitter is a friend of yours who is welcome in your home.
  • Let your pet decide when they’re ready to interact with the sitter. There’s no need to force or bribe contact. Chat with the pet sitter and instruct them to ignore your pet while your pet sniffs them and if your pet isn’t ready to interact yet, you can have the pet sitter toss them treats from afar. Aim behind the pet instead of luring them closer which is a no no. Know that building trust and comfort with the pet sitter may take multiple visits.
  • For cats: have the pet sitter fill the cat’s food and water bowl. The cat will begin to
    recognize that this person is here to feed them.
    o Special notes: start these introductions weeks ahead of time and slowly transition your pets to whatever the new routine will be. If you’re home all day and your sitter won’t be, that’s going to be a really big and difficult change for most pets.

Stock up on extra pet food and medication in case you experience flight delays or need to elongate your trip.

Call your vet and let them know you’ll be out of town. Tell them who your pet sitter is and that they have your permission to call the vet in case of an emergency. This is especially important if you’re going out of cell service!

Write down emergency contact information such as the vet’s phone number and address as well as a backup pet sitter should your pet sitter need to cancel last minute. Make sure to confirm your backup pet sitter is available if needed!

Do a thorough house and yard check.

With a new routine and perhaps the stress that results from you leaving town, your pets might be more inclined to dig through garbage or chew shoes so tuck all potential chewable items away.

Make sure doors and windows are closed, gates are securely latched, and fences are properly fenced. Pets might wonder where you went and try to go looking for you. If your dog is crate trained, leave extra blankets, towels and comfort toys accessible so the pet sitter can keep your dog’s safe space clean and welcoming.

Confirm your pet’s collar is up to date with your contact information. If you’re going out of cell service (such as down the Grand Canyon), consider getting a pet tag made with the pet sitter’s phone number.

Provide extra treats and enrichment such as peanut butter kongs for dogs and feather wands for cats. This helps the animal trust and bond with their pet sitter.

Leave detailed instructions about your pet’s routine including what time they wake up, what time they eat, how much exercise they’re used to, where they have alone time (are they crate trained?), etc. Whether the pet sitter is staying at your house, or your pets are going to the pet sitter’s house, don’t forget to educate your pet sitter about house rules such as if animals are allowed on the couch and in the bed.

The more you communicate with your pet sitter, the better care they can provide.

Happy travels!