Considering a pet-sitting service? Keep in mind that this is usually more expensive than stays for a single pet at a kennel—pet sitters generally charge between $60 and $85 per day for one pet. Most services offer discounts for additional pets, and some charge by the visit, regardless of the number of pets they care for. So if you have more than one pet, a pet-sitting service might cost less than a kennel.

Unfortunately, because you can’t inspect a pet-sitting service as you can a kennel, you have to depend on what the company says it will do.

You can find pet-sitting services by asking other pet owners or veterinarians. Also, consider services that have received favorable recommendations and comments from local consumers we survey. Here is our advice for choosing a service:

  • Ask to see current documentation that the service is bonded and carries liability insurance.
  • Check references.
  • Ask how the staff manages each pet. In addition to getting your contact information and other basic facts, some services compile detailed profiles of your pet and its care (plus standing instructions about household maintenance if that’s part of the deal); most use the profile to train sitters and should therefore have you update it periodically if you use the service for routine care.
  • Invite the specific person who will care for your pet to your home to see how he or she gets along with your pet and whether he or she asks detailed questions.
  • Ask for pricing, how much time the sitter will spend on each visit, and what they’ll do with your pet.
  • Ask about the sitter’s training and experience.
  • Find out what happens if the sitter becomes ill or can’t come to your home because of an emergency.
  • Ask if the sitter will take your pet to your veterinarian if the pet becomes sick.
  • Find out what special services the sitter offers. Most will administer shots and medications, provide light grooming, rotate lights and curtains to make your home look lived in, care for house plants, and bring in and forward mail. Some will call you at regular times to report on your pet, water outdoor plants, and stay in your home overnight. Most offer a “key hold” arrangement in which they keep a copy of your house key so that they can get into your home if you unexpectedly have to work late or need them for some other reason.

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Once you have chosen a service, work with it to ensure your pet gets the best possible care.

  • Make arrangements as early as possible, especially for holiday periods.
  • Give the pet sitter both written and oral descriptions of your pet’s routines and habits—when, where, and how the pet eats, sleeps, walks, and plays. Describe any health problems and medication routines. Make sure the pet sitter knows where to find food, medications, and toys. If the pet has a habit of hiding, tell the sitter where to look.
  • Give the sitter a phone number where you can be reached.
  • Buy plenty of food, litter, medicines, and other supplies—enough to last if you are unexpectedly delayed.
  • Be sure the pet has identification tags, and that the sitter knows where to find verification of vaccinations.
  • If your dog is not used to walking on a leash, practice with it. Your sitter should use a leash.
  • Give the sitter the name and phone number of a veterinarian and a neighbor.
  • Let your neighbors know that a sitter will be coming to your home so they don’t suspect foul play.
  • Call the sitter the day before you leave to make sure he or she is coming. Call after you have been away for a few days to answer any questions.