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Tiffany Smith

How to prepare a babysitter for a pet.

A sitter is often tense when she walks into a new home -- especially one that has animals. Pets, who can sense that tension, might not be at ease when there's a stranger in their home. To take everyone's stress (including your own) down a few notches, make sure your sitter is comfortable with your pets, and is prepared to care for them while you're away.

Before you leave

  • Show the babysitter where the pet food and treats are, and where the pets sleep.
  • What are the basic commands you use with your pet? Giving the sitter the right words and tone of voice to use is imperative for her to communicate with your animals.
  • Give her a list with pet rules: Are they allowed on the furniture? Outside? When do pets get treats, and when should they be reprimanded?
  • Let the sitter know if your dog barks often, or whether barking a sign of distress -- and if so, what to do if the dog barks.
  • Explain any strange behaviors your sitter might witness, what triggers those behaviors and how she should handle them.
  • Let your sitter know if any of your pets are aggressive. If this is the case, you might want to restrict the animals to a different area of the house so the sitter can focus on the kids.
  • Explain what to do if a pet has an accident indoors. You might not expect a sitter to clean the carpets, for example, but she can take steps to keep a stain from setting.
  • Let her know if the children have any pet-related jobs. Will someone be in charge of walking or feeding?
  • Make sure to leave emergency contact information for the pets as well as the kids: What is the name and number of the veterinarian? Is there an emergency animal clinic nearby? What should she do in case of an emergency -- say, if the dog eats chocolate while she is baking cookies with the kids?

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The bottom line

If a sitter can handle your children, she should be able to handle your pets. Make sure she understands how to care for your pets, and how much she can rely on the children to help -- or to help her understand what normal routines and behavior are.


Tiffany Smith is the senior associate editor here at Care.com. She has written for All You, Time for Kids and the Boston Globe. And as a former babysitter, she knows a lot about fun games to play with kids. Getting them to eat their veggies -- that’s a different story! Follow her on Twitter at @tiffanyiswrite

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