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What to look for in a cat sitter

Based out of Dallas, Texas, Mary McCoy is a writer and social worker for disenfranchised women and children. She's a single mom, lover of Texas barbecue, and a die-hard fan of yoga

Your cat's keeper

Don't rely on your goofy neighbor to care for your most valuable possession in your absence. Here's how to pick a top-notch cat sitter when you travel out of town for business or leisure.
Cat in a basket | Sheknows.com
1

Generous visitation

As you discuss your plans with a candidate, she should offer to visit your kitty at least one or two times a day. If the candidate offers to visit every other day, this is an unacceptable arrangement.

2

Written contracts

Does the candidate put her services into writing, including expected fees? Nothing is worse than being surprised by a bill or unacceptable services at the end of a vacation.

3

A vet on-call

What does the candidate do for pets in the event of an emergency? She should be able to articulate exactly what she does if something goes wrong, including the name and number of an emergency veterinary service.

4

Insured and bonded

A qualified pet sitter will carry liability insurance that covers care, control and custody of your pet in the event something goes wrong. You should also consider hiring a bonded pet sitter, which will cover you from losses if something goes missing from your house in your absence.

5

Open communication

Your sitter should provide you with contact information so you can reach her in your absence, and she should have your phone number to call in an emergency. Your contract will also need to include a line about how your sitter will ensure you have, indeed, arrived back home on schedule.

6

References

Your potential cat sitter should have a list of happy customers available upon request. Go ahead and call them to hear what they think about the candidate. In the very least, the references will put your mind at ease about giving a stranger access to your home and kitty.

7

Grooming services and other perks

While not necessary, a cat sitter who provides grooming services in your absence is a definite bonus. Feel free to ask the candidate about the perks that come with hiring her, like grooming and extra playtime for your cat.

8

Training and certifications

Pet sitting has come a long way since the days of hiring the teenager next door. National associations now offer continuing education and certifications for pet sitters, so go ahead and ask your potential hire about any training that sets her apart from the field of candidates.

Tell us:

When did you know your cat sitter was "the one"?

Not sure how to find such a well-qualified pet sitter? The Humane Society of the United States recommends that you contact the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters or Pet Sitters International for referrals to local providers. If you strike out on those websites, call your veterinarian for additional referrals.

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Photo credit: Miho Aikawa/Photodisc/Getty Images
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