Packing your bags and taking off for a work trip or vacation across the country (or even out of the country) isn’t so easy when you have a cat who depends on you.
So how do you find a reliable cat sitter to lend a hand the next time you’re traveling?
As a professional cat sitter I’m here to give you the scoop on what to look out for when choosing a cat sitter.
If you’re like us at Lelu and Bobo your kitty companions mean the world to you. And the person you choose to care for them needs to know their stuff. Here’s what you need to know and how you prepare yourself (and your cat) in advance!
Will my cat be ok with a cat sitter?
I can say as a professional cat sitter myself that I (and other cat sitters) wouldn’t go into this line of work if we didn’t love cats! Many of us even have special training, certifications, and experience with cats of all personalities.
I’ve found that even the timidest or most anxious cats tend to do well while being looked after by a cat sitter. Unlike cat boarding facilities, cats who have a pet sitter don’t need to leave the comfort and safety of their house while you’re away.
What’s a fair price for cat sitting?
There’s no one single fair price for cat sitting. Fees cat sitters charge vary from state to state, as well as globally.
Many cat sitters use state or city minimum wage rates as a jumping-off point for what they charge. Familiarize yourself with the minimum wage in the area you live in.
Whether the cat sitter is part of a pet sitting agency, or if they’re independently employed also makes a difference in their asking price. Some commercial pet sitting websites takes as much as 20% of a pet sitter’s entire fee.
The frequency of visits also plays a role, as some cat sitters charge by the hour, while others have flat rates per day.
If your cat has any special needs or health conditions that need extra care that can also cause the price you pay a cat sitter to go up or down.
For example, a healthy, 3-year-old neutered male cat with no underlying illnesses will most likely require fewer visits than a pregnant or nursing cat, or a hyperthyroid senior cat who needs daily medications.
How long should a cat sitter stay per visit?
How long a cat sitter stays per visit depends on your cat. It’s something you and the cat sitter need to discuss.
Some cats do well with two meals a day and a half-hour or so of playtime with each visit.
Some cats are so fearful that they stay hidden while the cat sitter comes to scoop the litter box, give them fresh food and water and tidy up.
Other cats, especially if they have separation anxiety or are very extroverted will need more time with your cat sitter. The breed of your cat also matters. Certain breeds, like Siamese cats, are very intelligent, vocal, and high energy so they need more social interaction.
It’s up to you to go over your kitten or cat’s care routine with the pet sitter you find.
How many times a day should a cat sitter stop by?
For healthy adult cats who don’t need a lot of social interaction, a cat sitter should stop by at least twice a day to feed them.
Kittens, seniors, pregnant and nursing, special needs, and chronically ill cats will need more frequent visits.
But cat sitting is more than just popping open a can of wet food or a bag of kibble, scooping it into a bowl, and calling it a day.
When figuring out how many times a day a cat sitter should stop by, take into consideration:
Mealtimes and water
Discuss how many times a day your cat eats, the amount of food they eat at each meal, and the time of day you prefer the cat sitter feed them.
Other things to address:
- Where do you keep your cat bowls?
- Do you have enough food to last your cat while you’re away?
- Is it okay to give your cat treats?
- Do you have an automatic cat water fountain that needs to be checked every day?
- Or do you have bowls that need to be washed by hand?
- Do you give your cat tap water, filtered, or bottled water?
- How many times a day do you change your cat’s water?
- How often do you want the cat sitter to scoop your cat’s litter box? Once a day? Once every other day?
- How would you like the cat sitter to dispose of your cat’s waste? Do you have garbage bags set out? A dedicated cat litter disposal system? Flushable litter?
- Is the litter you use easy to access in case the cat sitter needs to add more litter?
Messes and accidents
- Does your cat have accidents, does your cat spray?
- Do they suffer from hairballs? Do they often vomit after meals?
- Do they experience diarrhea or loose stool on a weekly basis?
- Are they messy eaters or drinkers who often get food and water everywhere?
- Do they like to beat up your furniture and knock items off of tables and countertops?
These may call for specialized cleaning supplies and more of the cat sitter’s time.
Be upfront about any of these messes or accidents that can happen so your cat sitter will be prepared and know what to do.
Play and socializing
Playtime, physical activities, and socializing are also crucial for your cat’s well-being.
For some cats, this can be as simple as sitting with them and gently petting them for a half-hour a day, twice a day.
More energetic cats thrive with playtime. They may need to chase around wand toys, catnip mice, or laser pointers for an hour or more a day.
Young kittens especially enjoy many playtime visits. Especially if they’re an only cat!
This is a great opportunity for your cat sitter to do some indoor enrichment activities with your cat or kitties.
Puzzle feeders, treat foraging games, playing with a wand toy, and offering cat-safe plants like silver vine, oat grass, and cat grass to nibble on are all enrichment items you can prepare ahead of time for your cat sitter.
How do I choose a professional cat sitter?
One of the best tips for finding a professional cat sitter is to make sure you plan ahead. Our lives can be super crazy but it’s not easy to find someone if you wait until the last minute. (We’ve been there!)
Here are three simple ways you can find a professional cat sitter right now.
The easiest way to find a cat sitter is online. Type “your town, state” + cat sitter into your favorite search engine and see what pops up.
You’ll find small businesses, independent cat sitters, and pet sitting agencies through this method.
You can also seek out cat sitters through professional pet sitters associations and organizations like The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters and Pet Sitters International.
Check your local area
As a cat sitter, I’m a big advocate for choosing someone local rather than go through a big agency.
There are a ton of different apps and websites that help you connect to the people in your area. Facebook groups and Nextdoor are great resources for posting a ”looking for cat sitter” flyer.
I’ve gotten several cat sitting jobs by posting my services and replying to cat sitting ads on Nextdoor and Facebook groups in my town.
Facebook groups are an especially good resource, especially if you’re looking for some breed-specific care! Our own Bobo is an energetic, athletic, and brilliant Siamese who is prone to getting a bit kooky if he doesn’t get plenty of human attention and playtime. We were able to find several experienced cat sitters with Siamese experience through the Austin Siamese Rescue group on Facebook.
Word of mouth is a fantastic way to find a reliable cat sitter for your feline friend too! Asking friends, your vet, and other cat lovers in your community is one of the best ways to get real feedback about a potential sitter.
Interview your potential cat sitter
Setting up an interview with a cat sitter in person or on Zoom is the best way to get a sense of their personality and to see if they’re a good match for your cat. Here are ten questions you can use to find out if your kitten or cat will be in good hands.
10 Questions to ask a professional cat sitter
Not sure where to start when you interview a cat sitter? Here are a few to start you off.
How long have you been cat sitting?
Finding out how long they’ve been cat-sitting will give you a good idea of their experience and comfort level with cats. Have they been cat-sitting for five months? Five years? Fifteen years?
Why do you cat sit?
One of the most important questions you can ask a potential cat sitter is why they cat sit. The answer to this should be because they love cats first. Getting paid should be secondary.
What’s your experience with cats?
Asking about their experience with cats can reveal a lot about them and what they can bring to their time spent cat sitting your feline fur baby. Maybe they’ve been a longtime foster at a cat rescue. Or they work at an animal shelter. Maybe they’re a vet tech. Or a lifelong cat lover who cares a lot about animal welfare.
Do you have references?
Always ask for references. Contacting their references is the best way to get an honest answer about the kind of person your cat sitter is and whether they’ll be a good fit or not.
What services do you offer?
Does your cat’s care routine require night visits? You can see if the pet sitter offers overnight care. You could also ask if they’d be willing to take in your mail while you’re away or do light tidying up around the main areas your kitties hang out in.
What is your procedure for dealing with medical emergencies?
Does your cat have any chronic illnesses or health conditions that the cat sitter needs to be aware of? Do they have experience with medical care? How about handling health or medical emergencies? Do they know where local vet clinics are? Do they have reliable transportation to get to them? Are they able to administer medications to your cat if needed? Be sure to let the cat sitter know where your cat carrier is located in case a trip to the vet is necessary.
Are you insured and bonded?
Do they have pet sitting insurance? Do they have liability coverage? How does it work? Can they show you the paperwork that confirms it?
Do you have a backup sitter?
If anything were to happen that prevents the cat sitter from coming to your home to care for your cat do they have a backup cat sitter they can call to come in? If so, have them share that backup sitter’s contact information with you so you can introduce yourself and your cat to them as well.
Do you have a plan for inclement weather and other emergencies?
Ask your potential cat sitter if they have procedures for any inclement weather, natural disasters, or emergencies. Do they have any plans if a sudden fire breaks out in your home? Or how about if your town is suddenly struck by white-out blizzard conditions, flash floods, hurricanes, or mass power outages?
In the case of travel delays, are you prepared to stay longer than our original agreement?
Is the cat sitter willing to be flexible if unexpected and sudden travel delays pop up? Will they be able to stay for a longer period than you discussed if this happens?
Is there anything in my pet care instructions that you won’t do?
As Brené Brown says, communication and clarity are kindness. It’s also essential for choosing a good cat sitter. Make sure that they understand your instructions and everything you need them to do. Encourage them to ask questions and share any concerns they may have.
Come up with a plan about how often you want your cat sitter to contact you while you’re away. Do you want daily text or email updates? Photos or videos of your cat? A note left behind detailing how the sitting went?
Set up a meet and greet for the sitter and your cat
The best way to see if your cat sitter and cat get along is to set up a meet and greet!
Invite the cat sitter to come into your home to meet and interact with your cat.
Pay attention to your cat’s body language and the way the cat sitter touches them and talks to them.
Is your cat curiously sniffing their shoes and nosing around their purse or tote? Are they already purring and head bunting or rubbing their cheeks on the cat sitter’s hand? Or are they hiding under furniture, standing far off, or growling or hissing?
Does your cat seem open to having a new person in their territory? Or do they feel threatened and insecure?
Alternatives to professional cat sitters
You don’t always need to seek out a professional cat sitter or vet tech to ensure your cat gets the best care.
Ask friends, neighbors, and family
Friends, neighbors, and family, especially if they already know your kitty could also step in as caregivers while you’re away. If you already know them and trust them there’s no reason why they couldn’t!
How much should you pay a friend to cat sit?
How much you pay a friend to cat sit depends on you! You know your friend and your cat best of all. What do you think would be a fair price? Or, are there other ways you could show your friend your thanks? If you often go out for coffee, lunch, movies, or concerts together you could also treat them to a free outing as part of their payment!
Key takeaways on finding a cat sitter
Finding a great cat sitter will give you peace of mind whenever you have to go away and leave your kitty companion behind!
Beyond feeding your kitties, the right cat sitter takes a caring and compassionate approach that also keeps your feline entertained and relaxed while you’re gone. You can take comfort in knowing that a cat lover has your furry friend’s back and will give them everything they need to stay happy and healthy.