Any number of problems could occur inside a home while you are gone and the last thing anyone wants to happen while they are away from home is to come home and find your home not there or damaged, or your things missing or your pets gravely ill or possibly dead or any other major catastrophe. I created this guide in an effort to better educate homeowners, renters, residents and pet owners, if they choose not go with a professional care person or company who is qualified for any of those three major aspects described above.
For starters, consider all the problems that could occur in the home that could escalate to serious repairs, damages, or losses. Consider every detail I mentioned above and create a contingency plan for each scenario. Instruct your care provider thoroughly on that plan. Make every effort to communicate necessary information to the person taking care of your home. Create a guide to your home that includes a blueprint of your property indicating all points of entry, the location of household products and cleaners, pet supplies and emergency contact information. Make sure the person caring for your property has the contact information for every house and pet related issue or need. Some of which are vets, security companies, local law enforcement, emergency contacts, your travel contacts, plumbers, electricians, window and door installation companies, carpet cleaners, house cleaners, water damage specialists, fire damage specialists, gardeners, garbage men, or anyone who might need access to your home. Make sure you properly and thoroughly instruct the person on your pets’ needs, wants, desires, commands, when they go for walks, when they use the bathroom after a meal, when they eat, what their medications and medical issues are, quirks, bathing rituals, grooming rituals, nighttime rituals, etc. Make sure they know where the fuse box is and extra candles, flashlights or other illumination devices are. In California especially, make sure they know where the earthquake preparedness materials are and know what to do in the event of an earthquake. Make sure they know where the water shut off valve is. Make sure you have prepared your home, turning off unnecessary appliances, etc. Make sure you have the person tour your home and show them physically how to open/shut all points of entry, how to secure and test your alarms, and anything security or hazard related to your home. Remember to never forget a detail no matter how large or small. Then before you leave, take inventory to see if anything was forgotten and to make sure they are well informed of new instructions. Leave your care provider emergency cash on hand in the event a supply is needed…they may not carry cash with them when they visit and may be peeved that they have to pay for something on your behalf. I have a pet owner checklist preparing pet owners for pet sitting services and their trips that would be extremely useful which details these issues that I would be happy to provide you. Please feel free to ask.
Although many people like to supplement neighbors, relatives, and friends for professionals when it comes to pet sitting or house sitting duties, these well-intentioned actions often create confusion and problems during a required sitting assignment. What most homeowners and pet owners don’t understand is what exactly goes into the care of the home and pets while the primary owner is out of town that the average person may not even realize. There are three major components to pet sitting. All of these components require extreme attention to detail and alertness that the average person may naturally overlook.
Firstly, the actual pet care requirements alone. Pet sitting is a very large responsibility and covers a wide variety of needs for each pet. It is not just about feeding the pet(s), cleaning their litter boxes or potty areas and making sure they are hydrated. Pet care is also about monitoring their health, grooming needs, behavioral needs, emergency problems, handling any “quirks” and much more. For the experienced pet care provider and pet owner these issues are easily noticeable and commonplace.
The average person may not know what to ask for when a pet owner asks they if they can take care of their pets while they are gone. They may not realize how important having certain contact information handy will be until it is too late. They may over-feed your pets or forget a feeding. There may be an altercation between your pet(s) and another person, even the person caring for the animal that results in injury and the person caring for your pets may not know what to do or may end up getting fined for negligence (thusly something you would pay for). Alternatively, in the case they get hurt by the pet may treat that pet differently or negatively. They may forget to walk the dogs for exercise and keep them consistent on obedience commands. They may unknowingly let a pet into a restricted area of the house or leave a door open and the pet escapes. Usually because the door is opened to take the trash out, or to quickly get something outside. Some tasks will be missed and not performed. Pets have a tendency to enter areas of the house they are not supposed to be in, or may get locked in an area they can't get out of - when others are in the house. They may not realize the pet(s) followed them. The pet(s) may have chewed through a wire or electrical cord and may have gone unnoticed until there is a power surge causing sparks to fly, possibly catching your home on fire, or if the animal gets electrocuted. Professional care providers have a trained eye for these details and can often deter any house or security problems resulting from a pet’s behavior.
For many people, a trusted neighbor or relative that is familiar with your home and pet(s) may work just fine. However, friends, family and other non-professional helpers may come for the first 2-3 days then get bored with the pet(s) and just do not "feel like" coming any more, the may not even tell you or may try to cover up the fact they did not provide care for your pet(s). They may also may not be INSURED or BONDED and if something should happen the owner is responsible. The pet(s) may go uncared for, possibly for days until your return. Most tasks will be completed diligently, but one task usually is consistently incomplete. Non-professional help may not be versed in what to do in case of emergencies or medical situations. If you go to their home how do you know it is hazard free, illness free, pet free and clean???? Most non-professionals will be initially excited about the opportunity to sit for your home. Usually they will have a genuine love for your pet(s). However, they are probably not used to the "quirks" that your pet(s) may have (that you or your professional pet care provider will notice!) and often the initial enthusiasm will turn to frustration that the pet(s) will not "behave" the way they expected. Once the enthusiasm has diminished, the pet(s) may receive less affection.
The second major component is house-sitting duties. House sitting duties rely solely on household management. Certain important details about your home may be forgotten or not relayed to the person you ask to sit your pets. Of course, these minor details could very well end up being a major issue in an emergency. A non-professional may see an accident on the floor but do nothing about it. They could make a judgment call that could hurt your pets like using an excessive amount of a very toxic chemical on the floor to clean the mess and the pet accidentally ingesting that chemical. Or in some instances I have heard from clients, the helpful friend got tired of cleaning up the messes after a few times and failed to clean up those messes in the future leaving a massive cleaning problem for the client. Although not intentional, as a pet owner myself after employing the aid of a neighbor, have noticed major household hazards such as these after coming home. This is especially true if you live in an older home. A professional care provider will specifically ask for these things, along with asking about the layout of the home and gain a tour of the home and make notes about your home.
Finally - PROFESSIONAL HOME SECURITY. Professional help is well trained and versed in property security. They use their senses to detect problems. A neighbor or friend may not think to test the alarm system. They might not think to physically check points of entry. They may not even do a thorough patrol check of the property. Furthermore, most would not even think to check for potential hazards. They may decide to leave if there is a broken window or door they cannot secure. What if keys get lost or broken? What if there is a power outage? What if the pet dug a hole exposing the fence? What if the home was burglarized while they were gone? What if there is a burglary in progress while they are on site? Professional security help is trained and licensed to do what is necessary and stay on site until problem is resolved. Although a majority of pet care providers are not licensed to provide security (thusly trained, background checked, examined by the State, etc), they should know what to do in terms of the basic security of your home.
written and copyright by Kat