How to Interview a Pet Sitter

9 questions to ask when looking for a new pet caregiver.

woman hugging dog

You love your pet and want it to have the best care at all times. But sometimes you can't be there to provide it. So you need to look into finding pet care options in your area. One great choice may be a pet sitter, who comes to your house to look after, walk, feed and play with your four-legged family member. But choosing a pet sitter is not a task you should approach casually. Once you've posted a pet care job on Care.com, the applicants will start rolling in. But how do you choose one?

The interview process is key. You need to interview candidates with the same care you would when interviewing a babysitter or nanny. Go through the applications you receive and narrow the choices down to a handful that show promise. Reach out to the candidates and set up interviews -- in-person if possible. Here are nine questions you should ask during the interview process to help determine the best match for you and your pet:

  1. Why Do You Like Being a Pet Sitter?
    Starting with an open-ended question like this gives you the opportunity to assess the sitter's level of enthusiasm for animals and for this type of job. If a person seems animated about this field, it may be something she's doing because she actually enjoys it -- not just as a way to earn some extra cash.

  2. Will You Play with My Pet?
    Bring your pet along to interview to see how compatible it is with the sitter. All the training in the world doesn't matter if your pet doesn't get along with the person you're interviewing. Sometimes pets have an instant negative reaction to a person. See how the candidate interacts with the pet. Is she comfortable playing with and being around your animal?

  3. What Training Have You Received?
    Having someone who is enthusiastic is important, but also ask what type of actual training the person has had. This may include a degree of some sort. A Veterinary Technician who is licensed to give shots, help with exams and assist in surgery would be quite a catch. In lieu of that, make sure the sitter can spot health problems and react accordingly.

  4. What Previous Experience Have You Had?
    Has she cared for similar types of pets in the past? What did the sitter like and dislike about these experiences? What did she learn from them?

  5. What Services Do You Provide?
    Do you want your pet to be groomed while you are gone? Do you think it's important that he spend at least an hour a day catching a Frisbee. Do you want a sitter to provide a checklist of what she did with your pet? A pet sitter can do all these things. But you need to find out if your pet sitter will do them. And ask specific questions. What types of grooming products does she use? What does she look for in a dog park?

  6. Do You Have a Contract?
    A contract that lists services and fees is good for your peace of mind. (Although this is information on a nanny contract, read this article about contracts to get an idea on what a contract should say and provide for). Read any contract thoroughly before signing, so you know what you're getting. For example, make sure the pet sitter doesn't have a clause in her contract that states "Will feed but will not water."

  7. Can You Provide References?
    You really want a pet sitter who can prove that he or she satisfied customers before she got to you. Call the references and ask what their experience with the sitter was like.

  8. Are You Bonded and Insured?
    This would cover many dire contingencies(accidents, negligence, theft of your property, etc,).

  9. How Many Other Pets Are You Currently Sitting for?
    You want to make sure she has enough time to care for your pet. If she also watches over numerous other animals, she may not be able to devote lots of special attention to yours.
Remember that this interview isn't only about you and your pet. The pet sitter should be asking you as many questions as you are asking her. If the candidate doesn't seem curious about your pet or isn't asking thoughtful questions, that is a red flag.

Steve Penhollow is a writer and editor specializing in trends, arts and entertainment for families.

 

Like this? Get more. Sign up for the latest articles, news and tips of your choice. All delivered weekly to your inbox.
Enter your email address:
Comments (36)
Meaghan P.
Great tips! I always meet the owners and the dogs a few days before the actual date, to make sure it is a good fit and so that they may will feel more comfortable with me.
Posted: January 05, 2014 at 5:10 PM
Photo of Ana S.
Ana S.
Great tips!!! I always meet the owners and the doggie a few days before the actual date, to make sure he/she is ok with my 2 doggies, and so that he/she will feel more comfortable when dropped off.
Posted: October 17, 2013 at 5:16 PM
Photo of Carol P.
Carol P.
As a pet parent and as a pet care provider, I agree about interviews being done as if it is interview for your young children. I have talked to a few people in the past who say it is only the $ and animals are okay but the sitter interacts in ways only like feeding and taking out to do pets business. This is sad. A siitter/walker should love animals of the type they are to care for. Depending on animals dispotition, loving hugs, belly rubs, for cats scratching and interacting with toys, are part of the job. BUT, should be enjoyable to the care giver. Being willing to walk a dog longer than just while doing their business is important. Being playful and hugging pets, even relaxing them at night with quiet time rubs, are all what a sitter SHOULD want to do. Many animals miss the people who they live with. It is important to do your best to make the pets feel secure with you. So if your searching for a good quality pet sitter, ask many ?'s, watch how the caregiver acts with pets, how do the pets act? Also remember your home is open to this caregiver for a few hours or a few days. IMO you need to check out background and ask for info that will make you feel they are trustworthy to be in your home. Having a friend or relative stop over if it is more than a day, to just check things out. A good sitter will understand and not be put out by the visit. This is what I would follow if I were to hire a stranger to stay with my animal companions.
Posted: September 28, 2013 at 8:54 AM
Pat N.
I always thought people who cared about their animals knew what questions to ask. I quickly learned that the most caring people are at a lost at asking the right questions. I love animals and their human partners. I also know I can't run a long time with bigger dogs but am great with the small to medium size dogs. So, to say I will exercise your pets isn't always true to the average animal. I have learned that I have to be the one to explain what I can and will do with your trusted friend.
Posted: March 24, 2013 at 12:50 PM
Linsey I.
much obliged :-D... look forward to saying my truth
Posted: February 06, 2013 at 12:35 AM
Pamella L.
I just met a neat lady with 2 beautiful cats "Kate" and "Will". She asked all of the right questions! One of the reasons I am a Pet Sitter is that I get to meet wonderful people with great animals!
I recently saw an ad on a local TV station for care.com. I am really glad you are advertising in this way!

Pam L. De
Posted: January 26, 2013 at 6:58 PM
Photo of Susan C.
Susan C.
Very good list of questions to be asked. Finding a good pet sitter can be a daunting task, since you need to put your trust in them. I think one of the best ways to tell if the pet sitter is a good one is if they truly LOVE animals and how they interact with your pets when they meet. Being a pet sitter myself I remember when I was in the position of needing a pet sitter and called upon "friends" to care for my dogs. Big mistake. Its so easy to make the wrong choice, but hopefully you'll meet that "right" pet sitter.
Posted: January 11, 2013 at 3:55 PM
Photo of Olga W.
Olga W.
Just started to look for a pet sitter. Hoping to find someone good and reliable. Thanks for the list of ?'s I should be asking!
Posted: January 08, 2013 at 7:45 PM
Photo of Giuseppe D.
Giuseppe D.
I just started in pet-sitting and found this a very helpful article. The interview is a good starting point for both the owner and pet-sitter; to determine if the relationship will work.
Posted: January 07, 2013 at 11:34 AM
Rita G.
I have two young cats one is 4 the other is 9 months, I will be away for a month what is the the usual amount per day to pay.thank you for your help, please get back to me. Rita
Posted: January 04, 2013 at 7:16 AM
Photo of Andrea M.
Andrea M.
I'm considering adding pet sitting to my profile, so this was very informative. Thanks. :)
Posted: January 03, 2013 at 8:16 AM
Tally Pet Pal
Nothing beats a Professional Pet Sitter. You wouldn't stay at a hospital in lieu of hotel on your vacation, why would you board your pet at a Veterinarian's office where there are sick and stressed animals? Many dogs do just fine and dandy at Boarding Kennels - but not all are created equal! Most pets are the least stressed in their own environment with a Professional Pet Sitter. Not all pet sitters are created equal, either - do your homework!

Take care to choose an established pet sitting company with mature, experienced staff; one that is bonded and insured, and preferably affiliated with an organization that sets a standard for excellent service, such as Pet Sitters International.
A pet sitter with a training and behavioral background can be very helpful as well. Make sure that the pet sitter is at ease with your pets, and visa versa, but remember - if you have a kitty that hides under the bed when visitors come around, that's not going to change when the pet sitter comes around! If you have a dog with severe separation anxiety (behavior caused by humans - get a behaviorist or qualified trainer to help you with this!!) then boarding IS often the best choice.

Close off areas in your home and restrict access to rooms in which your property can be damaged, and please make sure your pet and property are flea free and your pets are up to date on their vaccinations - your pet sitter cannot run the risk of spreading infestation or illness to other clients or their own pets!

Just as with most things in life - you get what you pay for!
Posted: August 05, 2012 at 10:07 AM
Kim L.
I felt that the information is helpful for interviewing a Pet Sitter.
Posted: July 29, 2012 at 8:19 AM
Photo of Laura J.
Laura J.
THANKS YOU FOR ALL YOUR GENERAL INFORMATION PETS CARE IS ONE INPORTANT JOB. GET TO KNOW THE FAMILY AND THEIR PETS BEFOR DECIDING TO EXCEPT THE CARE OF THEIR PETS.
Posted: July 24, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Photo of Jessica M.
Jessica M.
This was helpful. I have 3 small dogs and two of them came from an abuse situation before we rescued them. Reading this article helped me understand what I needed to look for as well as what to ask potential pet sitters.
Posted: July 24, 2012 at 2:47 PM
Photo of Kassie B.
Kassie B.
I think pet sitting is the best job ever. =) I'm especially a dog lover!! I'm an animal lover in general. I think that a lot more people should take more time to pet and play with their animals because unlike us they don't have too much means of their own entertainment. Also give them treats!! They can easily get bored. :( I also feel bad for people that barely pay attention if the dog needs more water or food or if they need to go outside for the bathroom. It's also sad to me when people do not take the times out of the day to give their pets walks to stimulate their brain and to get more exercise. Animals can't talk to you to tell you what they want but they can show you in different ways. Too many times I have seen people get a dog or 2 or 3 and just get more pets just to get more, then be too lazy and not care to take care of them.
Posted: July 23, 2012 at 6:26 PM
Julie W.
Oh Corrine....That is terrible!

I am a pet sitter for my family, friends and WHO they recommend. I always want to go to the house a few times that way everyone is comfortable. I am sorry but I am glad you didn't hire them.
Posted: June 16, 2012 at 7:54 AM
Photo of Laura R.
Laura R.
Interviews are very important when hiring a pet sitter. You hire this person to take care of your pet. They come to your home. A professional pet sitter is very important. What happens if your pet gets sick and you are away? What about dragging mud into your home? A professional pet sitter knows how to handle the unexpected. They are worth the extra expense. You get what you pay for.
Posted: June 15, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Debbie T.
How do i get a number for a pet sitter???
Posted: June 14, 2012 at 10:57 AM
Joanne N.
I was checking out this site in the event that I need to use it in the future for an older female cat. Thank you.
Posted: June 11, 2012 at 11:06 AM
Photo of Adventure Pet Sitting
Adventure Pet Sitting
I enjoyed reading people's comments & your tips. My husband & I have been professional pet sitters for almost 20 yrs. We are continually working on updating our skills & changing with what's current.We recently became American Red Cross Pet First Aid Certified & we are a Certified Pet Sitting Service through Pet Sitters International. My husband is becoming a certified dog trainer & I am a Certified groomer. I also volunteer as an adoptions counselor at a large shelter in our area.
Almost everyone loves animals but it takes a responsible & caring person to make sure your "babies" are happy while you're away.
Posted: June 07, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Deborah K.
Ask them if they have pets themselves.
Posted: June 01, 2012 at 2:29 AM
Photo of Margaret W.
Margaret W.
This is excellent! Since many people have pets and pay pet sitters similarly to child care providers, I would think these are all good questions to ask. Also, as an established pet sitter, I always offer a variety of methods that I can update the client while they're away (email, text, phone). Pets are family members and care providers need to be screened just like care providers for people
Posted: May 29, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Photo of Christine R.
Christine R.
This page has been very helpful to me as well as it is for the owner. I am very new to this kind of help and would like responses from others who entertain this kind of work. All information would greatly appreciated. Thank you Christine Ramirez
Posted: May 29, 2012 at 11:36 AM
Photo of Judi K.
Judi K.
I received several great responses for taking care of our 4 dogs and cat,for a planned trip,and also for some weekend trips through the year. I did weed out the ones I was not interested in,like age related,family obligations that could interfere with the job offered,since it is staying here,not just 'dropping" in.
I always have had friends stay,but that luxury is no longer,since many have moved,and the couple left locally,work a lot...so this was all new to me,as well.
However,since I have worked in the dog world,I figured I could pick the right one,but I must say,meeting these people and talking to them,was a bit of a challenge for me,since I tend to be more trusting than necessary,and knew that would not work,since our dogs are like family,not just dogs..and 2 of them are seniors, (like me:) and none have ever been boarded,so that was never an option.
Happily,it was easier than I thought it would be! I met with 3 different people,and liked all of them! and I think any of them would have worked out well with our dogs.I watched our dogs very carefully when they interacted with "strangers",since they are the best judge..The one that I hired,stayed here about 2 hours,got on the floor with the dogs,asked me all the right questions,about their individual care! Not packing them all up into "one dog is the same as the other".
She also had great references,background check was requested,and approved,and her other dog care job is 10 days a month,so we can work together with her schedule when we want to go see family on some weekends!She,I anticipate,will be just who I was looking for...
Another meeting could turn out to be our backup,should we need one,as well,depending on her work schedule.A lovely young woman..and the third one is a man,with a family,so although we ruled him out to stay here,(our dogs like women more,anyway) we did give him a call to come help wiht some yard work,and he is wonderful at that!
To wrap this up,I must say,I am SO happy I did some research to try to even find someone,and Care.com was the very happy ending answer...Will highly reccomend,and use again,if or when necessary.
The best is right!
Posted: January 31, 2012 at 8:01 AM
Photo of Ricky G.
Ricky G.
This as well as other articles have been very helpfull. Great little "cheatsheat" to aid in conducting an interview with a total stranger...
Interviewed our first petsitter today, all went well for us, and I believe she will do just fine... "Thanks" Care for all your help and tips.You guys are the best!!
Posted: January 06, 2012 at 1:34 AM
Photo of Cathy M.
Cathy M.
Thanks Care.com !!! This will be my 1st experience leaving my 2 babies in someone else's care. I found this to be extremely helpful while looking/interviewing people to care for my babies. Think I will be printing this page out so I won't forget anything you mentioned !!
Posted: August 30, 2011 at 10:57 AM
Corrine
Notice the sitter's behavior while you interview them. I just interviewed a highly recommended pet sitter to care for my cats. My dog is very home protective so when she came to our house, I had him already crated and had placed a blanket over his crate, a method that my trainer taught me.

I said to the sitter, "The dog is in the crate and you are safe to come inside. You will not be caring for the dog. He is coming with us. Pay him no mind."

The sitter walked directly to his crate and raised the blanket, bent down and stared in at him. She did not ask me first if it was okay. From this one action, I understood that she is not respectful of appropriate boundaries. Her subsequent behaviors and actions during the interview continued to confirm my suspicions. She talked a lot about how she was traumatized because a 13-year-old German Shepherd had died the previous day and while she offers additional free services, like bringing in the mail and putting out the trash, she said, "Your trash is being picked up today so you won't need that." Because we'd be away on the next trash day, we did need her to put out the trash!

I wasn't convinced that this sitter had a client focus or would even stay out of my closets!
Posted: August 03, 2011 at 1:20 AM
Beverly B.
This is very helpul and gave me a lot to think about. I will take this process very seriously
Posted: July 29, 2011 at 2:00 PM
Kathy M.
I will be leaving my pets for the first time with a pet sitter. Usually we leave them boarded at the vet however since the dogs are older the last boarding experience nearly did our oldest one in. We have an interview coming this week and yes I am like a nervous mother however with care.com offering me all the tools to find the best pet sitter I am confident our choice is going to work out find.
Posted: July 18, 2011 at 1:27 PM
Photo of Jena D.
Jena D.
I QUALIFY FOR ALL OF IT!lol this was very helpful and hopefully you post new tipps!?
Posted: July 01, 2011 at 7:26 PM
Julie T.
This was very helpful and enjoyable to read. It gives exactly what I would want to know and ask a care provider; it's just good, smart common sense for both party's involved.
Posted: June 22, 2011 at 12:03 AM
Photo of Joseph S.
Joseph S.
These questions cover everything about the petsitting. I have had bad experience with one pet sitter before. Based on these questions, i was right not to get her again. I thought she was a friend. Just looked at my cat as dollar signs.
Posted: June 21, 2011 at 1:33 PM
Photo of Ginny H.
Ginny H.
These are good tips which I have been doing as a pet sitter for almost 20 years. Pet owners have a duty to find the best care for their precious pets.
Posted: June 16, 2011 at 10:03 AM
Photo of Deborah S.
Deborah S.
Being new to this field it was nice to have a direction to increase my skills with taking care of pets & make owners happy!
Posted: June 07, 2011 at 7:25 AM
Jayme C.
This was very helpful
Posted: May 18, 2011 at 12:45 AM
Leave a Comment
You can post a comment by logging in to your Care.com account or continue as a guest below.
errortext
Email*
Display Name*
Comment*
Success! Your comment is waiting to be approved. It will post soon.
Post another comment

Connect with Care.com

Join Free Today!
What would you like to do?
Membership Type*
By clicking Join Now, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.
Put Safety first
Read our Safety Guide for tools and tips to keep you and your family safe.
Visit Sheila's Blog
Get advice for your family from our founder (and chief mom officer), Sheila Lirio Marcelo.