I have to get this off my chest, to the pet sitters and to the people who use cat sitters or dog sitters.
Maybe I want to also find out if others feel the same way.
Perhaps I want feedback.
Hopefully this will spark a conversation that will bring more value to pet sitting services and the people who need the canine and feline service community.
Let me frame this first by stating the pet industry is exploding and has no intention of cooling off anytime soon!
For years we have seen a burst in the pet industry of products, including cat food, cat toys and pet services like grooming, cat sitting and dog training. More and more pet professionals are popping up left and right offering a vast number of choices for cat and dog lovers. The rise in pet ownership continues so we can safely assume the market for the dog and cat industry will rise as well!
More and more people are using pet sitters to help out while they are away from home. Some dog owners need a walker in the middle of the day while they spend longer hours at the office while others who travel for business could have a cat sitter come in while they are traveling to tend to Fluffy. That is where I fit into the story, a traveling cat owner. It might seem trite to some, but as a traveling cat owner a good pet sitter is so important, most important to me when I am out of town.
Hiring A Professional Cat Sitter
Hiring a professional cat sitter takes that is actually professional is going to take a little work. It is a cat owner’s responsibility to ask the right questions to determine if this person is capable and willing to be a great pet sitter. I put together this checklist that you print out for your next cat sitter interview or use to make your own. It is best to take notes, keep a tablet or journal with all the information in one location that you can take on your trip. You will probably not need all the information, but imagine if you didn’t have it and something did happen. You might not be able to find the sitter in a timely matter. Gathering all the information for your records will give you peace of mind on your trip. It also helps to set the standard for what your expectations are.
I hope it helps you find your forever cat nanny!
|QUESTIONS TO ASK||INFORMATION TO GET|
|How long have you been cat sitting?||All contact information: full name, mobile phone, email, address|
|What do you do if my cat has an emergency/accident?||Insurance information (if insured)|
|Do you have back-up if you have an emergency?||Emergency contact information|
|Can I meet your back-up?||Back-up sitter information|
|Are you bonded and insured?||References (at least 3)|
|Will you stay the full time, even if you finish feeding etc?||Website/social media presence (connect on IG or Facebook)|
|Do you have pets, cats?|
It took me a year to find my best cat sitter who I adore, and so does my cat! We have been enjoying her services for several years but now she is enrolled in school and her classes have cut down her availability tremendously. I am devastated. And I am back to searching for the perfect pet sitter.
Interestingly enough, in commiserating with other pet owners including dog people, I have found we all value something that is very important. One key factor that is tough to earn and so very easy to lose.
Ready to know what it is?
Here it is:
Trust is more important to us then your pet service fees, your experience and even your fancy websites for us to schedule our pet appointments. Trust is not so easy to obtain and super easy to lose. Trust takes time and you shouldn’t try to cheat in getting it (with say fake testimonials) but there are things a pet sitter can do to expedite this process and gain trust immediately. Here is what my cat sitter did that made me feel and continue feeling relaxed and at ease when I traveled, knowing she had all the cat responsibilities under control. These exact techniques can be applied to dog owners too!
The Five Things Cat Sitters Can Do To Gain Trust From New Customers Immediately
Meet and Greet
This is so important. As my cat sitter, I am going to want to meet you in person. I want you to come to my home, show you around and also get a sense of your vibe (and you mine). This is probably the most obvious trust gaining technique for a new pet sitter and it is also pretty common. Every pet sitter I have hired insisted on a meet and greet prior to me leaving town. They came to my home and took a tour of all the important areas like the litter box room, cat food cupboards and location of all emergency contacts. Bravo pet sitters! I would say most of you are knocking it out of the park with this one. But let’s dive deeper into that meet and greet, let’s talk about how you show up.
Have a sincere interest in my pet and me. Needing to know where the supplies are kept is not an interest. Ask questions like “what toys does your kitty cat like best?” Ask if he has certain treats you can give him. Smile a lot, make me think this is the most exciting thing you are doing all day!
Show a sincere interest in my favorite feline!
Please at least inquire about my cat when you come for the meet and greet. If my kitty cat is hiding, ask where his favorite hiding spots are so you know to check in on him when you come for your visits. You can even bring your list of questions on a clipboard so you don’t forget to ask and take notes (so I am totally blown away by the care you will obviously take when I am away from home!)
- Where is your pet’s favorite hiding places?
- Does your cat (dog) like to be picked up?
- Is your cat (dog) a lap pet?
- Where does your cat want to be petted?
- Does he have a favorite toy?
- Can I feed him snacks?
- Is he afraid of loud noises? (like thunder)
These are in addition to the standard questions like, where are the supplies, can I take your pet to the vet in the event of an emergency, where are the contact numbers for emergency situations etc.
Be A Pet Owner
Yes it is true. We trust you quicker if you have your own pets especially if you have cats (for me as a cat owner). That being said, the cat owner I adore was not a cat owner when she started sitting for Finnegan. She and her husband had a dog, but not a cat. She used to tell me my cat was her favorite and he made her want to adopt one. Guess what? They did end up adopting a kitty cat, and he is a tuxedo too! That makes my heart melt that perhaps my little tuxedo guy had something to do with her adopting a cat too!
So being a pet owner is most definitely preferred, but if you can totally nail the other items this one can be overlooked. My adorable cat will of course charm you into getting your own in no time.
Have Real Testimonials
Testimonials on your website are great but ideally I heard about your awesomeness through a friend. As a business development professional myself I would say, never be afraid to remind your customers to brag about you. Perhaps you can leave a note after your visits or have a tag line on your business card that literally asks them to tell their friends about you!
In addition to word of mouth and websites, I think social media is so under used by the pet services community. The pet community naturally gravitates to each other on Instagram, Facebook and even Twitter. Use these outlets to sprinkle your testimonials throughout and even post photos of your current furry clients! (with permission of course)
I saved the trait in a cat sitter that gets me quickly feeling comfortable and loyal to our relationship and telling the world I have the best cat sitter for last.
You want to know what it is?
The Number One Quality Of A Cat Sitter To Gain And Keep My Trust.
Text me pictures. With a Note. In Real time.
For me as a cat owner who travels, this is by far the most important thing any pet sitter can do to gain and keep my trust really fast.
Text me pictures. With a Note. In Real time.
So many pet sitters leave hand written notes for the owners which I guess is a nice touch when we get home, but I want to know in real time how things are going.
Ideally a text message as soon as you arrive, a text with a photo of my kitty cat, and a text when you leave. Why three text messages? You are letting me know what time you arrived, that my cat is okay and having a nice time with you, and that you stayed the entire time. This is so very powerful. The sitter I adore did this every single visit. It takes the weight of the world off my shoulders when I was traveling. Don’t worry, I did not monopolize her time by texting her questions and going back and forth. The most I would send back was a quick message letting her know how much I appreciated her!
Does this seem too much?
Too high maintenance?
Don’t worry, there is good news!
Conquer the above immediately upon our working together and you can expect a cat owner customer who loves to tip you, leave you gifts for your birthday and holidays and sings your praise to all my friends and family. I’ll even post testimonials on MY social media platforms!
Yes, it might seem like a lot to add all of these things into the standard expectations of a cat sitter such as suit up, show up and follow up but as Zig Ziglar said “There are no traffic jams on the extra mile.”
Lisa Illman is the inventor of an outdoor cat enclosure line and founder here at Kritter Kommunity. Lisa and her product the Kritter Kondo have been featured in Cat Fancy, the Chicago Tribune, Chestnut Hill West, Good Morning America and most recently Steve Harvey’s Funderdome. You can follow Kritter Kommunity on Facebook and Twitter @KritterKondo.