How to Interview a Pet Sitter
9 questions to ask when looking for a new pet caregiver.
Steve Penhollow, Contributor
Articles> How to Interview a Pet Sitter
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 considerable 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.

 

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(20) Comments
Meaghan P.
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.
January 5, 2014 at 5:10 PM
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.
October 17, 2013 at 5:16 PM
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.
September 28, 2013 at 8:54 AM
Pat N.
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.
March 24, 2013 at 12:50 PM
Linsey I.
Linsey I.
much obliged :-D... look forward to saying my truth
February 6, 2013 at 12:35 AM
Pamella L.
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
January 26, 2013 at 6:58 PM
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.
January 11, 2013 at 3:55 PM
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!
January 8, 2013 at 7:45 PM
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.
January 7, 2013 at 11:34 AM
Rita G.
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
January 4, 2013 at 7:16 AM
Andrea M.
Andrea M.
I'm considering adding pet sitting to my profile, so this was very informative. Thanks. :)
January 3, 2013 at 8:16 AM
Tally Pet Pal
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!
August 5, 2012 at 10:07 AM
Kim L.
Kim L.
I felt that the information is helpful for interviewing a Pet Sitter.
July 29, 2012 at 8:19 AM
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.
July 24, 2012 at 11:02 PM
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.
July 24, 2012 at 2:47 PM
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.
July 23, 2012 at 6:26 PM
Julie W.
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.
June 16, 2012 at 7:54 AM
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.
June 15, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Debbie T.
Debbie T.
How do i get a number for a pet sitter???
June 14, 2012 at 10:57 AM
Joanne N.
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.
June 11, 2012 at 11:06 AM

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