I have to confess, the photo made me just a bit jealous. Here I was, in San Francisco for a conference, and my pet sitter emails me a picture of my three cats on the bed with her: Sparkle at the foot of the bed, Boodie off to the side, and Binga on top of her. Just the same way they usually are when I’m home. It’s like I’m totally replaceable. But do I really have a right to complain? I’ve searched long and hard for a pet sitter that satisfies all three cats, and my fiancé’s dog, Sushi.
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It’s really not that hard to find a pet sitter. Your friends probably know a few. Your vet may have some leads – in fact, one or two of their techs may even do it on the side. There are two main organizations for pet sitters with databases of members: the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters and Pet Sitters International. You can Google for pet sitters in your area and find Yelp reviews on them. But nothing will tell you whether any one pet sitter will be the right match for your own feline (and maybe canine or other critter) family. That’s the hard part.
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Our first pet sitter was great. A decade ago, back before we had cell phones, she provided temporary tags for our pets that had her phone number, in case anything happened and they got out or got lost. Everyone loved her, even Boodie, who is shy with strangers. But when I gauge a pet sitter’s success, it is by Sparkle’s reaction. If I come home from my trip and she gives me her, “Oh, you’re back. So what?” look, the pet sitter has been a success. She must have really liked this pet sitter because when I got home, she looked at me like she wished I would turn around and leave again! When this lady moved away, I had to find a new pet sitter and the first one I tried, I never used again. Why? Because when I got home, Sparkle was desperately happy to see me. I don’t know what happened (or didn’t happen) while I was gone, but clearly these folks weren’t up to her standards! Another pet sitter I interviewed tried to grab and hold Boodie the first time she came over. It was the wrong thing to do with this reserved, highly introverted cat. Boodie was scared and felt violated, so that pet sitter never got a call back.
I don’t even remember now where I found our current pet sitter, but she has been great. I explained to her that Boodie was shy and showed her where she usually hid so that she could check on her. After that, she gradually let Boodie come out and make friends with her over the course of several visits. She also let Sparkle make friends on Sparkle’s own terms. Binga and Sushi love everybody, so they have always been easy. Once, our pet sitter showed up before my fiancé and I had left and Binga immediately ran up to greet her – and ask for food! This lady probably takes better care of our pets than we do while we are away … which is exactly what you want from a pet sitter. So as long as none of the cats actually ask to go home with her, I am glad she serves as my temporary replacement.