House sitting is an amazing job that comes with lots of perks and interesting aspects, but it also comes with a lot of responsibility. When you add pets into the mix, things get even more complicated. You’ll have tasks to perform each day, notes to remember, and a living creature who’s relying on you for their care. But, your next pet sitting job will go much more smoothly if you consider these important questions to ask pet owners before you say “yes” to the gig.
1. How Many Pets Are There?
This seems like the most basic information, but you don’t want any surprises when you arrive. Ask the owner to list all of their pets, including their ages, and ask them to include animals in cages or aquariums. Dogs, cats, reptiles, birds and fish are the most common pets, but you’ll want to know if the owner has a pet spider or rat in the home.
2. What Is the Pet’s Temperament?
Just like people, animals all have different personalities and temperaments. No one knows this better than the owner. Ask them to describe the pets’ behaviors — are they shy? Mischievous? Skittish? Attention-seeking? Are they scared of thunderstorms? Do they like children? If the home has multiple pets, do they get along well?
Some pets are easier to care for than others. You may expect a Labrador with a laid-back personality but show up to find a 70lb ball of energy.
3. What Training Techniques Does the Owner Use?
Every owner trains their pets differently — and some don’t train at all. That’s why you should ask. Does the owner discipline their pets for misbehaving? Do they offer treats as rewards for good behavior? Are there any specific “tricks” they’re currently trying to teach a pet?
If so, you may be expected to continue the training while the owner is away. You may also find that the pet knows lots of helpful commands, which should make your job a bit easier.
4. Does the Pet Have Any Medical Issues or Allergies?
Most owners will let you know if a pet has a serious health condition, but you should probably know about smaller issues, too. For example, some dogs are prone to developing a skin condition called contact dermatitis, which is normally caused by a mild allergy. It’s usually not a serious condition, but it can catch you off-guard if you’re unaware that it’s an ongoing issue. You can save yourself a bit of stress and possibly a vet visit if you ask about problems like these in advance.
5. Does the Pet Take Any Medications?
While you’re asking about medical issues, you should also inquire about medications. The owner may need you to dispense prescription drugs, and you’ll need dosing information.
Some medications, like Heartgard for dogs, are easy to give because pets are happy to gobble them up. Others, like hard pills, may need a bit more creativity (for example, wrapping the pill in a piece of lunch meat).
The owners can tell you which method has worked best in the past.
6. What Should You Do in an Emergency?
Emergency situations are rare when you’re pet sitting, but they can happen and you need to be prepared.
Obviously, if a pet gets sick while in your care, you should rush them to the nearest vet, but which vet does the owner use? Is the clinic open after hours? Where is the closest emergency animal hospital? Are the pets insured, and if not how will you pay for treatment?
These are all questions you need to know quickly in an emergency, so write the answers down and keep them in a safe place while you’re pet sitting.
7. Are Pets Up-to-Date on Vaccinations?
At the very least, dogs and cats should be vaccinated for rabies for their own safety and for yours. (This may vary country to country). However, there are other vaccines available for pets, and you should know about these, too.
Ask the owner for a list of the animals’ most recent vaccines. You can keep this information with your emergency contact list; the vet may ask for it before recommending treatment at an emergency visit.
8. What Is the Pet’s Daily Routine?
Most pets have a regular daily routine. You should ask about:
- Meal times
- Average number of walks per day (and approximate times)
- Whether walks are leashed or unleashed
- Sleeping area and habits
- Are pets fully house trained, what are there toilet habits?
- Bathing schedule (if needed during your stay)
- Play times
- Other regular socialization
Pets are usually attached to their owners and may be lonely during your stay, but you can help ease the transition by sticking to their normal routine.
9. Is There Anything Else You Should Know?
While nearly everything important should be answered by these questions, there may be something the owner should mention that is specific to their pet or their home. By asking for any other pertinent information, you’ll help ensure that there are no surprises during your stay.
Pet sitting is an incredibly fun and rewarding experience, but it also carries a lot of responsibility. When you take the time to ask these questions about your potential pet sitting job, you’ll gain valuable insight into your future job and possibly even impress the pet owners with your thoroughness, as well.