How To Choose A Pet Sitter

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

Thistles and Coos is a pet-friendly organization. We LOVE our furry friends and want to be sure they are taken care of while we are traveling. It is our mission to bring you applicable and affordable travel tips, how-tos sprinkled with our funny stories.

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” ~Anatole France


We are going to offer you a bird’s eye view of the Thistles and Coos love of animals

our entire team consists of writers, travelers, children and 6 dogs and 5 cats…

several wild squirrels, cardinals and a bunny we have named “Robert the Bruce.”

When choosing a pet-sitter, there are many factors to consider:

  • In-home versus boarding

  • Cost

  • Services provided

  • Reputation

  • Experience

  • Exotic pets

  • In home versus boarding

First and foremost, you need to decide whether in-home care or boarding is best for you, your home and your budget.


Boarding works well if your baby may need some medical attention while you are away. We have boarded with our veterinarian knowing our kitty-cat needed surgery and plenty of time to recuperate. While on vacation was the ideal time to board and schedule the procedure. She would receive the best care and ample time to recover. Boarding with our veterinarian was the best option in this case.

We have also hired individuals to come into our homes to care for our pets. When all babies are healthy, it seems better to have someone stay in the home or make scheduled visits. We have found that it is less stressful on our pets.

Rule of Thumb: Have the pet-sitter visit your pets prior to departure. Be sure your babies like the pet-sitter and vice versa… Pit Bulls and Chihuahuas can be selective as to who they like.


Can you put a price on the care of your fur-baby?

According to Rover ( in the Nashville, TN area, you have options for the care of your pets.

If your pet stays with the sitter in their home, this will cost about $30 per night in the Nashville, TN area. You will need to check your local area as prices will vary.


For the pet-sitter to visit your home, it is an average cost of $15 per visit. This is typically a 30 minute check-in with your pet. You can choose how many times your sitter visits your home. Find out what is included with each visit. Have a list of questions prepared to ask, so that your pet’s needs are met.

With cats, once a day is typical; however with dogs, no less than twice a day is needed. We were able to find a dog-sitter in our neighborhood, and she was able to visit 3 times during the day but charged us for 2 visits. Be open to negotiate with your sitter.

Be sure to plan for the care of your pets. Include this in your travel budget, so you are not caught off guard by the cost.

Services Provided

When considering the cost of the pet-sitter, ask about the additional services provided. Is the sitter willing to collect your mail and water your plants? Will they send you pictures of your pets?


We had 2 cats with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). Natalie had a dog that took medication daily for seizures. Both of us have needed a pet-sitter comfortable administering oral medications.

This was an important factor when we were choosing a pet-sitter. We wanted to be sure our sitter was confident with administering medications and caring for high need pets.

Another potential point of concern is if you diaper your pets. Having small dogs with bladders the size of peanuts or intact males, many of us will resort to diapering our babies to prevent them from marking or having the inevitable accident on the floor.

Diapering is a skill and takes practice to get it on correctly, especially when using belly bands on male dogs (case in point - you need to be sure their penis is in the diaper and not straight up rendering the diaper useless).

Much like humans, our pets have their own idiosyncrasies and personalities. The more you communicate with your sitter, the better.


Some examples:

Rex, our Collie-Chow mix, had hip issues and didn’t need to be “walked”, so our pet-sitter’s visits were atypical. She came to our house and watered plants, walked Rex around the house to be sure everything was secure. She and Rex visited with our neighbors.

LuLu, our little Shih Tzu mix, is a runner. She cuddles and will let you carry her around like a human baby; however, we had to remind our pet sitter that she will run away when you least expect it. One look away and she is gone.


Mindy, our Tabby cat, likes to open the front door and let all of her friends free. Our rule with her is if you don’t pull the front door shut completely, she will open it for you. You will then have the joys of trying to catch 3 cats and 2 dogs.

Also, don’t forget to provide the pet sitter with phone numbers such as veterinarian and emergency room.

Reputation and experience


Ask about references and experience. Even a new pet-sitter will be able to provide both. For us, experience with elderly and high maintenance pets is important.

Our pets are family. Ask your pet-sitter about past jobs or experience with working with various breeds. Weigh out your options and plan ahead. The planning for your pet-sitter is a major detail in the planning of your trip.

Don’t leave this to the last minute. Consider this process like a job interview. Prepare questions ahead of time. It is your pet’s needs that are most important.

Do your research. Ask questions.

Here is a list of potential questions to ask when interviewing a pet-sitter:

  • Do you work with all breeds? Some pet sitters might not want to care for larger breeds of dogs. Get this clarification first.

  • Have you taken care of exotic pets?

  • What is your experience with ______________? (snakes, birds, lizards)

  • Do you provide boarding or in-home visits?

  • How will my pet be cared for when boarded?

  • Our pets are allowed on the furniture and sleeps in the bed with us, is this allowed in your home during his/her boarding?

  • How do you discipline “bad” behaviors?

  • Are there other pets being boarded at the same time?

  • What is included with an in-home visit?

  • Will you text me pictures and updates of my pet?

  • Are they bonded and insured?


Take this basic list of questions and tweak it to meet your needs.

This is just the beginning of what you will be inquiring when interviewing a pet-sitter.

Also, don’t negate old-fashioned word of mouth. Ask your neighbor with the cats, who does she hire to care of her animals when she travels. She might even offer to care for your while you are away.

Exotic Pets

What if your pets are not cats or dogs?

How do you find someone to take care of your turtle or snake? What if you have guinea pigs or fish? Anymore, we are seeing people with pigs, chickens and pygmy goats as pets.

Luckily with the world of social media and Google searches, you will be able to find someone to care for your exotic pet. Again, no matter what your pet breed is, you want a pet-sitter who cares for your animal the same as you.


Plan ahead. Make finding the pet-sitter priority on your list when planning your trip. It is harder than you think.

Furthermore, if they are “good”, then they are in high demand and might not be available to care for your pet, so plan early.

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