Last updated in November 2015
If you are considering a pet-sitting service, keep several points in mind.
Pet-sitting services are usually more expensive than stays for a single pet at a kennel—pet sitters generally charge between $55 and $75 per day for one pet (see the table below for illustrative rates our mystery shoppers collected). 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.
Click here to find ratings of pet-sitting services. You can also ask other pet owners or veterinarians for suggestions. 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 and administers each pet. In addition to obtaining your contact information and other basic facts about you, some services compile a detailed profile of your pet and its care (along with standing instructions about household maintenance and operation if those services are part of the deal); most use the profile to train sitters and should therefore give you the chance to update it periodically, either before the next assignment or as circumstances merit, should you use the service for routine care.
- Meet with the specific individual who will be caring for your pet. Invite this person to your home to see how he or she gets along with your pet. Note whether the sitter asks detailed questions about your pet’s habits and needs.
- Ask how much time the sitter will spend on each visit, and what the sitter will 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.
- Check prices.
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 pet 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, lest they 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.
|Illustrative Costs for Pet Sitters||Regular daily rate for:|
|One dog, three visits||Two dogs, three visits|
|Affectionate Pet Care Fairfax Station, VA, 703-250-5233||$54||$63|
|All Friends Pet Care Herndon, VA, 703-716-7387||$63||$72|
|Alternative Pet Care Great Falls, VA, 703-766-6182||$60||$69|
|Becky’s Pet Care Alexandria, VA, 703-822-0933||$64||$64|
|Fur Fins & Feathers Rockville, MD, 301-840-1989||$54||$60|
|Fur-Get Me Not Arlington, VA, 703-933-1935||$62||$65|
|Macdougal’s Pet Care Lanham, MD, 301-980-4015||$75||$75|
|Peace of Mind Pet Sitters Silver Spring, MD, 301-271-6060||$66||$66|
|Pet Companions Laurel, MD, 301-776-2885||$69||$69|
|Precious Companion Lorton, VA, 703-690-8396||$54||$60|
|Puppy Love Pet Sitters Washington, DC, 202-337-8456||$78||$78|