How to Choose the Perfect Pet Sitter

Finding a great pet sitter may take some time, but asking the right questions is essential to keep your pet and property safe.

Apr 28, 2024By Maya Keith
how to choose the perfect pet sitter

The world would be a much nicer place if we could bring our pets with us wherever we go, but this isn’t always practical. Many places prohibit pets, and, even if they do, your companion may not be comfortable joining you on your trip.

Pet sitters offer a valuable resource for those who need someone to stay with their pet or stop in periodically, but you must do ample research before inviting them into your home and life.

Follow this guide to choose the perfect pet sitter!

Know Your Situation First

golden retriever smiling tennis ball
Image Credit: Doriguzzi, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Before you start calling up pet sitters, you should understand what information they will need from you.

When do you need them to stop in? You need to decide if there’s any wiggle room in your expected schedule, as well as when you want them to be available to care for your pet. You should also have a decent understanding of your pet’s schedule, as well as what can be moved around.

Be prepared to describe your pet’s personality and their care requirements in detail. Species and breed are important, but your pet’s unique behavior and quirky habits are more so. Is your dog reactive? Do they need special attention if there’s a thunderstorm? Are they high maintenance breeds? Your sitter needs to know.

Doggy exercise level and health also vary greatly from pet to pet, so make sure you can answer questions in these areas accurately. Some puppies are couch potatoes, while some senior dogs still need to go hiking every week to keep their mind sharp. If your pet is taking medication or has a severe or chronic health concern that may interrupt a normal schedule, you need to see if your sitter is comfortable handling that situation.

Ask for Recommendations

black white cat on laptop
Image Credit: Wilson Afonso from Sydney, Australia, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The easiest way to find a trustworthy sitter is by asking people you trust for recommendations. Friends, neighbors, and family are a great first step, but so are:

  • Veterinarians
  • Groomers
  • Animal shelters

Animal care facilities may have experience with certain individuals, or they may have employees for pet-sitting on the side.

You can also ask for recommendations on social media, or you can perform an online search for sitters in your area. For-profit organizations like and usually have a long list of affordable sitters, but they don’t do as much to vet their references as other agencies will.

If there aren’t any recommendations in your area, check professional pet sitting associations like the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters or Pet Sitters International.

Know What to Ask

Bill Clinton on Phone With Dog
Image Credit: U.S. National Archive

When you have your list of recommendations, it’s important to go through them and ask a series of questions. Schedule a phone interview to cover basics like:

  • Their pet-sitting experience and experience with pet’s species/breed/size (some sitters cannot handle large dogs)
  • Services they offer and services you need (i.e. do they only do drop in visits, or will they stay at your house?)
  • Their fees

Ask for information regarding special training, certification, bonding, and insurance they may have. Don’t be afraid to go over hypothetical situations, like what they would do if something broke in your house, what they would do if your pet had a medical emergency, or what their plan is if they have a personal emergency and cannot care for your pet.

Meet in Person Before Booking

Rob Vincent meets actor dog, Ernie
Image Credit: SAMHSA from Rockville, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

If all is well, it’s time to meet in person. This gives you an opportunity to meet them face to face, get to know their personality and vibe better, and see how they interact with your pet.

This is the perfect time to show them where everything they may need in your home is and go over specific instructions. They should also bring copies of their credentials to this meeting, including their references and copies of their bonding/insurance. Many professionals will have an agreement for you to sign, going over their terms, cancellation policy, and signing a veterinarian release form.

If you have time, consider doing a trial run before booking. Giving them a day with your pet will tell you a lot about how they do business, how your pet feels about being left alone with them, and whether you want to commit to this sitter for the long-term.

The Right Sitter For Peace of Mind

dog on leash red rocks park
Image Credit: Lovemedead, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ideally, you won’t have any issues with the sitter you choose, but it’s never bad to implement a few security measures. Make sure your sitter is comfortable with posting updates and sending pictures or videos regularly (e.g. every drop in or every few hours).

Best practice is to let them know of any security cameras you may have in the common areas of your house and any areas they are not allowed to enter. A doorbell or porch camera is a great way to ensure they’re showing up at the times you agreed upon.

If your pet-sitting agreement includes exercising your dog or taking them for walks, consider investing in a smart-collar. GPS collars track their location, with some tracking their as their activity, verifying your sitter’s claims. They can also help you locate your dog if they decide to slip out and search for you on their own.

Maya Keith
By Maya Keith

Maya is a lifelong animal lover. While she switched from studying veterinary medicine to English, she continues to help by fostering animals in her community. Her permanent residents include 3 dogs, 2 cats, 5 quail, 19 chickens, and a small colony of Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches.