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Under what circumstances would you want the pet sitter to call you?

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  • Under what circumstances would you want the pet sitter to call you?

    Being "between jobs" I have been doing some pet sitting. Most of the owners say "feel free to call me" but it's their vacation so of course I don't want to bother them needlessly. On the other hand, there are certain things I'd want to be apprised of, if I were away. It's such a dilemma!

    Do you have any ideas or guidelines? Would you ever call a vet, or take an animal to the vet, without contacting the owner? Would you try to use the same judgment you use on your own animals, or would you be extra cautious? I can see both sides of that one -- I don't want to make mountains out of molehills either.

    Here's what came up at my last pet-sitting job --

    - Temp was uncharacteristically below freezing a couple of nights, and the rabbit lives outside (and not in a snug hutch, though he does have a heat lamp and enclosed beds to go in)
    - Cat getting wet food (just for added calories) would NOT eat it, but ate dry food and drank water fine
    - Could not find the dog brush and I had been asked to brush the very very hairy dog -- it was leaving huge tufts of hair everywhere

    In these situations I watched the bunny for any signs of discomfort, told the kitty to deal with it, and brought a (clean) horse brush over for the dog. I didn't think any of these warranted contact with the owner and she agreed. But I still would like to discuss this here and maybe get some ideas for ground rules, so I'm not always flying by the seat of my pants!

    BTW I can't WAIT to get a full-time job again, I don't have the constitution for pet-sitting... I am too much of a worrier. I'm sure the owners find that a GREAT feature but it stresses me out!
    Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you? You are at your very best when things are worst.

  • #2
    I'd think unless you are dealing with refusal to eat or situations that warant a vet trip, a call is not necessary (depending on the animal, most can go a few days with less than normal amounts of food intake)


    • #3
      I'm a full-time pet sitter, and owner of a pet sitting company with 200+ clients. I would have to say it depends on the individual client and the situation. Some pet parents are more prone to worrying than others. I usually tell my clients to call or email me if they want am update, or if it's not urgent I will send a text message, picture message, or email to let them know how fluffy or fido is doing. If something major happens, like the one time I was housesitting and there was an earthquake, then I will call immediately to let them know that everything was alright (it was, I was more shaken up than the dog!) If I can't find something I will call or text, and likewise, if the pet is ill or injured I will be on the phone trying to reach the owner or their emergency contact on the way to the vet. In my paperwork I have a release form that allows me to take the animal for medical treatment at the owners expense even if I am unable to reach them. Basically, being a pet sitter requires using your good judgement, and realizing that sometimes that's enough, and sometimes it's not enough, and sometimes flying by the seat of your pants. It's the nature of the job. PM me if you have more questions, I would be glad to help.


      • #4
        I've been pet sitting quite a bit and have yet to call an owner on vacation. My rule of thumb is: If the thought of "could I need to call the vet" ever crosses my mind, the owner gets a call.

        Would you ever call a vet, or take an animal to the vet, without contacting the owner?
        If I needed to call or take an animal to the vet, I would DEFINITELY call the owner. If the owner didn't answer, but the animal needed emergency care, I could still take him while trying to contact the owner.

        I also ask the people I sit for to leave local contact numbers and I may contact them if the owner is unreachable and I'm contemplating a vet. I wouldn't want to waste the owners money on something normal that she may have just forgotten to tell me.

        On that note, I always ask the question, "In the awful situation that something horrible happened, do you have an amount you're willing to spend at the vet or does your vet know what you limits on care are?" I hate asking that question, but once I do their eyes often light up because the realize I know what I'm taking about and want to do the best for them and their animals.

        Would you try to use the same judgment you use on your own animals, or would you be extra cautious?
        A little bit of both. I observe them closely and take notes on anything odd. When I leave (if I don't see the owner) I always leave a note telling them how wonderful their animals are, explaining anything weird, and telling them to contact me whenever to follow up.

        I also think it depends on how long they're gone for. If it's 2 or 3 days, I probably won't call them much. If it's 2 weeks and kitty isn't eating on day 2, 3, or 4, I might give them a call (or shoot them an e-mail if possible to avoid interrupting anything) to avoid any major problems later on.

        I also ask if they text. You'd be surprised how many people text these days. I might send something like, "Kitty isn't eating her wet food. She's eating plenty of dry food, drinking, and is otherwise doing well, call me if that's a problem. P.S. All your animals are so much fun be around and I hope your vacation is going great!" That way I'm not interrupting anything or freaking them out, but rather informing them of what's going on and giving them the option to contact me about it.
        Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique


        • #5
          I'd want to be contacted if my animal needed the vet.

          Best thing to do is ask (and get in writing) what the owner wants you to do. It's also helpful if you can find out about any weird habits that the animal has.

          For example, I was looking after my Mum's dog. Now I know that he loves to sleep on his back, and tends to dream a lot, so that didn't worry me. If I hadn't known that, then it would have been a bit worrying.
          Horse Show Names Free name website with over 6200 names. Want to add? PM me!


          • #6
            I pet sit.

            I call each day. You can leave it on the answering machine, cell phone or text. Their choice if they want to read it. ANY thing out of the ordinary, I tell them to call right away.

            It does depend on the customer though. But I think it is good customer service to inform them.


            • #7
              You may want to design a form for clients. It is best to have info such as permission to take the pet to the vet and the amount they authorize for vet bills, in writing, and signed by them. You may also want to know if they want to be called or emailed for every change (e.g., Brandy refused to eat his grain until 1 hour after feeding time last night, but drank a full bucket of water and ate 10lbs of hay). I think the idea of emailing pictures is great if clients have computer access or an iphone.


              • #8
                Originally posted by rmh_rider View Post
                I pet sit.

                I call each day. You can leave it on the answering machine, cell phone or text. Their choice if they want to read it. ANY thing out of the ordinary, I tell them to call right away.

                It does depend on the customer though. But I think it is good customer service to inform them.
                This is what I would recommend - sounds very good for me and my animals !!!!
                Zu Zu Bailey " IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE ! "


                • #9
                  My mom always takes care of my dog and I know that he is in good hands. My mom knows him well and would know when a vet trip is necessary. Heck....I call her when in doubt about something my dog needs. She ran a kennel for years.

                  My horses are self care and I just recently found someone who will be taking care of them during the holidays while I am out of town. I really kind of like the text idea from them. It would make me feel alot better to get a text every day that said "everything is ok" Of course my horses are way more accident prone than my dog so I worry about them more And I always worry about someone else not seeing a problem. I boarded at one barn that had a very different idea of what a vet call should be. I came out to find my old gelding with a huge gash in his chest that I thought should have been stitched up.....and the barn owner said "It's just a flesh wound. He will be fine". By then, it was a little late for stitches So I tend to be a little paranoid


                  • #10
                    When I go away I have my cellphone (and laptop) with me 24 hours a day and my animal carer knows that she can call or text me at any time of day or night in an emergency. She does not call if there is nothing of importance - she's been with me for 5 years so she knows my standards and what I need to know about and what I don't.

                    If she is unsure about how to deal with an injury or whatever, then she takes a photo of injury and emails it to me. Then I make the call as to whether vet should attend or not.

                    She knows all the horses, dogs and cats here very well and knows each and every one of their foibles and oddities so when some of them do what they normally do but which might alarm a stranger, she obviously does not worry about it like a person who does not know the animals.

                    I have so many animals here that I doubt I'd ever be able to get a pet sitter equipped to deal with everything, and even if I could, there's no way I would leave a stranger in charge of the running of this farm in my absence. Way too much responsibility for them.


                    • #11
                      Preparation is the key. As you get more experienced, you will find that while the owners are telling you what they want, you will learn to be thinking ahead and asking,"what if..." questions. Like what if cat doesn't eat, what would you like me to do?" Lots of pets stop eating when mama goes away. my mother has had lots of collies that mourn for her return when she leaves them with us. The question is, what does owner want you to do with the cat, the food, if cat won't eat.

                      You handled the missing hair brush fine, no need to call if you can adequately improvise something harmless like this. Owner probably just forgot to put it out for you in the rush to leave for vacation.

                      Daily updates should be mandatory, not an option for the owner. Tell them this is part of your service and set a way and a time of day they can expect the updates. That way you are setting the boundaries of your services and can sleep at night knowing that you unloaded your day of concerns on the owner and don't have to wonder what they would have wanted to know.
                      ...don't sh** where you eat...


                      • #12
                        Oh with regards to the vet, this is a tough call. ALWAYS call the owner before taking an animal to vet.

                        As an owner, I would be furious with a sitter if they did not contact me first about vetcare. I know my pets best and want to be included in the decisions for vet care.

                        A sitter should ask or owner should make sitter aware of health issues a pet has. And a written directive should be signed before service starts stating what potential vetting is allowed if owner is unreachable. We have a Heroic Measures form for our boarding clients in case they are unreachable. It's a directive on many malladies like surgical colic, major fractures and the like that are true emergencies. It is only put into play if attempts to reach the owner have failed and the animal needs emergency care to sustain quality of life.

                        Preparation is the key...things will always happen that are out of anyone's control but a sitter can do a lot to prove their competence to the owner before the owner leaves town. Thorough questions and proper written forms make for a good working relationship between folks.

                        And for those that may poopoo the leagalize and formality of this approach, I say this. Of course we all want to protect ourselves if something goes wrong. but more importantly, as an owner, I want the most compitant care for my animals. How a person gets the job done can say a lot about their skills. Many pet owners are much more relaxed about their pets but Im not one of them. So I prefer the more prepared and thorough route.
                        ...don't sh** where you eat...


                        • #13
                          As a pet-sitting client, I would be happy if you asked me what I wanted (call daily? Call for small things? Call for the big stuff?).

                          My pet-sitter is awesome. The first few times she worked for us, she called after each visit. After then, I told her she didn't need to call unless something happened. I want to be called if someone is hurt, but I've also left permission for vet work (and given my limits on expenses, and given permission to euthanize if that's in the best interest of the animal).

                          When my mom died a month ago, she didn't call when the horse had an abscess and instead called the vet. I was fine with that as I had other things on my mind and it wasn't something huge. She would have called if it had been something bad.

                          I'm blessed by her. When my mom died, I called her at 7am. She was on a weekend trail ride and came home early to take care of my guys. She did dishes we left int he sink (totally beyond her job), and I told her I didn't know when I was coming back home. She told me to stay in MO as long as I needed.

                          I'm completely blessed with her.
                          Visit us at Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society - www.bluebonnetequine.org

                          Want to get involved in rescue or start your own? Check out How to Start a Horse Rescue - www.howtostartarescue.com


                          • #14
                            This is such a timely thread. I've always had a good friend take care of my animals that knew how anal I was and knew exactly how to take care of them. I holidayed in bliss, knowing the animals would be fine. Unfortunately, we had a falling out and now I'm hiring a pet sitter. I am meeting with her today to go over the animals and their care. I'm just going to be worried sick and since it's her first time caring for my animals, she can call me for anything. I've asked her to text me each day to let me know she's been there. I'm still a wreck.

                            About payment, do I leave the money for her when I leave, meet up with her when I get back, mail her a check, etc? How does that work? I was previously only on the reciprocate system.


                            • #15
                              I pet sit for others and also have had pet sitters work for us. I hate getting calls for little things... that was actually a big factor in my not using one particular sitter again, because not only did she call me 3 times in one weekend for nothing really important, if she couldn't tell an old cut from a new cut, she didn't have the amount of experience I expect someone to have. If someone called me daily to tell me everything was fine I'd tell them not to do that again. Getting away means getting AWAY.

                              When I sit for people I tend to base my willingness to call on where they are and what they're doing there. Cruise in Mexico = call for fire, flood, death, dismemberment. Visiting parents in Florida = call when the oven won't shut off. I tend to call for things that haven't gotten better and can turn into a real mess if they get worse, ie, the oven that wouldn't shut off. The dog who decides she will only eat breakfast in her crate, and not in the usual spot in the kitchen = I won't initiate a call but I'll mention it if they call me.

                              One note to house sitters and those who hire them/us: a call to be sure they got in, the key worked, the alarm went off/on, etc. is a good idea. A friend was really burned by a cat sitter who "forgot" which dates she was supposed to be there, and I"ve had keys that didn't work quite right and really scared me that I wasn't going to be able to get in. As a house sitter, keep those emergency numbers WITH YOU and not just on the kitchen counter, because if you can't get in the house, you can't get to the numbers!

                              As far as payment: your house sitter will appreciate a check waiting on the counter. So as not to jinx your trip, it's best for them not to deposit that check until you've come home! If it's someone you don't know well and you don't feel comfortable with that, you can leave half and mail the second half when you return. Your reluctance to leave payment for services that haven't been provided is matched by your house sitter's reluctance to provide services with no assurance of payment...


                              • #16
                                We pet sit for a lot of the neighbors. They usually leave the money for us or pay when we come by to get the key.


                                • #17
                                  When I pet sat, I had agreed upon stipulations in writing so that there was never any guess work to it.
                                  I would make suggestions for some people on what is most commonly chosen (for contacting, and vet price caps) for the most part this is what people chose:
                                  ~ text message daily updates of critters, or email
                                  ~ phone only if something is at risk of being hurt or sick
                                  ~ phone vet with any abnormal activity, vet decides if it's warranted to come in. Then owner is called. i would also get a price cap clearance on how much treatment to approve if the owner cannot be reached.
                                  chaque pas est fait ensemble


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by betsyk View Post
                                    If someone called me daily to tell me everything was fine I'd tell them not to do that again. Getting away means getting AWAY.
                                    I am the same. I only have 6 days away per year and I really don't want to be bothered with nonsense calls about nothing. That's why I love my animal carer; she only calls in emergencies. If she can't find something or wants to know something, she emails me. She knows I value (and need) this time away. My carer is here pretty much daily throughout the year however she lives on site when I am gone, and I know when she does this she very rarely leaves the farm (which I have told her she can, but she says no, because she is responsible for so many animals and has such a great time that she has no need to leave) so I know that everything is being as carefully looked after as it is when I am there.

                                    As far as payment: your house sitter will appreciate a check waiting on the counter. So as not to jinx your trip, it's best for them not to deposit that check until you've come home!
                                    I pay my lady on my return, right after giving her her gifts from my trip. She then always gives me the whole run-down of what has happened whilst I've been away; as I say, she knows exactly how I handle things anyway and she deals with them in the same competent fashion... and that's why I use her year in, year out; because I know everything will be all present and correct and I can relax and have fun during my time away.


                                    • #19
                                      I pet sit for a few folks (who are pretty much all personal friends) and let them know that for me, "no news is good news" - I don't call unless there's an emergency. I do, however, welcome calls from them - and at least one of my clients/friends does call and check in at least every other day - they're VERY attached to their dog, and really miss him when they go away. Other folks don't call at all - one job lasted about three weeks, and I don't think I heard from them at all until they got back!

                                      As far as vet emergencies - everybody I sit for has to leave me with their vet's phone number(s) and most call their vet in advance or give me a letter (dated for the current trip) that gives me the ability to authorize services in case of emergency. And then, they have to trust my judgment, and that of their vet. If I did have to take somebody to the vet (or call the vet out), I will definitely call to let the owners know what's going on, but I'm not going to wait on them to get back to me (if they're on a cruise and have limited phone/email access, for example) in a real emergency.

                                      As far as payment goes - most folks I sit for leave a check or cash on the kitchen counter when they leave, but I don't deposit it until the job is finished! There are a few folks who pay me in person on their return when I give them their keys back. Either way is fine with me, because I don't generally sit for "strangers".


                                      • #20
                                        I'd like a call if our barn-sitter saw or noticed the following: 1. Anything that would make her think "I need to call the vet". 2. Anything that would make her think "something is wrong with one of these animals" that is more than a scrape or an owie. 3. Something is not working in the barn that can't be dealt with or done without (waterer, fence, leaking pipe, etc.) until we get home. 4. She needs something that I forgot to make available (warmer blanket, medication, etc.) I've had the same barn-sitter for almost 3 years, and at first I did get a few calls (Gwen's EPM symptoms were weird, I think Bonnie had a loose shoe once, a torn blanket, the fence charger is flashing, etc.) but she knows my horses, my barn and my routine so well now that she just knows how to deal with things. All in all, I'd rather get a call than not get a call, though, you know? Kate always sends an email after her last visit for the week or weekend, and lets me know "all's well" and whether there were any little things. Usually I get that email as I'm traveling home and it makes me feel good knowing that I'm not coming home to any surprises! (PS, sorry in advance if this is all one big, unformatted blob of a paragraph--my browser is not letting me put in spaces between paragraphs for some reason!)
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