South African households show an increasing importance on responsible pet ownership. As members of the family, pets need to be well cared for when their parents are away on holiday or business trips. A number of pet owners often forfeit a trip because they don’t have anyone they trust to look after for their beloved animals. Should you own an exotic, fussy, needy or particularly high maintenance breed you might eventually require someone reliable to look after them.

Pet sitters care for your pet similar to the way a babysitter will care for your children. A pet sitter will look after your pet as you would yourself. A great caregiver will cater for basic needs like food and water but also exercise, company, comfort and playtime while you’re traveling, and be alert if your pet needs veterinary attention. This professional service will allow the most positive experience for your pets while you are not there, with the added advantage that your pets can stay in their own environment, as boarding facilities can expose them to contagious diseases and be very stressful for some animals.

Hiring a pet sitter will not only give you peace of mind but will also save you worrying about your pet while you are away. Your home is also a lot safer, as someone will pick up the mail, water the plants and check on the general welfare of the entire home. Pet sitters provide one on one attention and the special care that your beloved pet requires, in your absence.

Choosing a pet sitter
When choosing a pet sitter you don’t want to take any chances. After all it’s not just your pet who is vulnerable it’s your home too!
• Ask your friends, family or veterinarian if they can recommend anyone. In many cases your vet often knows who the best pet sitter in the area is.
• Request for references, and follow up. This is the best way to determine of how reliable the candidate is. Glowing references are the best way to gauge which is the best pet sitter for your pet and home.
• It’s best to arrange interviews with more than one candidate. Observe how they interact with your animal. Many pet owners know that their animals can be fussy too!
• When interviewing your prospective pet sitter see if they asks a variety of questions. The pet sitter should be genuinely interested in the likes, dislikes, allergies or any medical conditions your pet might have. If your sitter does not ask these questions rather choose someone who is truly concerned about the well-being of your pet.
• Meet up with the pet sitter beforehand to explain your pet’s daily routine and show them where all the basic supplies are kept.

Duties of the pet owner
You can make things a bit easier for your pet sitter – ensure there is extra pet food, treats, toys, litter, cleaning supplies, medicine and other essentials to last for the period while you are away.

• Instructions: Write down clear instructions that cover all the responsibilities and your expectations while you are away. This should include guidelines relating to feeding times, exercise, your pet’s unique quarks, hiding places or medication that needs to be administered.
• Pet: Be honest when describing the health, behaviour and personality of your pet. You need to assess if the caregiver is skilled enough to look after you pets. Experienced pet sitters are more likely to handle demanding breeds and behaviours.
• Emergencies: An emergency contact should be provided as well as the address and location of the family veterinarian. Discuss emergency care plans should the pet sitter fall ill or in the event of unforeseen circumstances.
• If you have an alarm system make sure to clarify how to get in and out, and how to secure the property in your absence. Leave a set of your keys with a trusted neighbour and explain to them that you will be away. You can never have too many people keeping their eyes open.
• ID tags: All pets should have updated identification tags on their collars and be microchipped.

Request a daily report and photo via SMS or email. Owners miss their pets as much as their pets miss them. A photo goes a long way in making sure they know their beloved pets are happy and well looked after.
Now that you know your pet and home are in good hands, you can have a relaxed holiday or attend that important out of town conference.

About the Author
Stefanie Bosman is passionate about improving the quality of life of pets, and the humans that love them – one fur kid at a time! She is the owner of Cosmic Pets™, offering a wide range of products that are pet approved and people friendly. For more information visit www.cosmicpets.co.za or contact info@cosmicpets.co.za

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