6 min read

How to Prepare Your Pets and Home for a Pet Sitter


Written by Emily Bayne

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 02/06/2023, edited: 12/02/2023

You've finalized your travel plans, booked a local pet sitter, and packed your bags — now what? Read on for everything you need to know about preparing your fur-babies (and your home!) for a pet sitter.

How to prepare your pets for a pet sitting service

How can you make sure your animal companions are comfy while you're away? Here are Wag!'s top tips for preparing your dogs, cats, and other pets for an overnight sitting service.

Make a bio for each of your fur-babies 

Before the sitter arrives, create a list of your pets' preferences, quirks, and needs. Don’t forget to mention that Daisy needs help up the stairs and that Max refuses to use the doggy door. Will your pet sitter have a "hairy" Houdini on their hands? Mention that too!

Documenting any good, bad, or indifferent qualities will help make your sitter's job easier. Not to mention it'll keep your pets calm and cozy in your absence.

Provide info on your pets' daily routines

Create an hourly schedule with feeding and medication times, typical potty break times, and when your pets typically go to sleep. Encouraging your sitter to maintain your pets' regular schedules will help your fur-babies feel more comfortable while you're away.

Let your sitter know the potential consequences of deviating from their usual routine, too. Does your pup need to go potty as soon as their paws hit the floor? Does your woofer really start woofing if they don't have a walk by noon? Does your feline get feisty when they're fed after their usual breakfast time? Discussing these things will ensure your sitter is prepared for whatever your pets may throw at them!

pet sitter sitting on a white carpet floor posing next to a black and white collie dog

Post a list of the house rules

Your fur-babies might try to get away with things that they know not to do when you're around, so jot down any rules you expect your pets to follow. No pets allowed on the bed? No treats after 8 PM? Your sitter needs to know these things — not just to keep your house in order, but also to avoid confusing your pets.

Socialize, socialize, socialize 

If this is your first pet sitting service, socialize your pets (cats included!) with as many humans as possible before the big day. Having a well-socialized (or even moderately socialized) pet will lessen the stress on your fur-baby and the sitter, too.

Related: Why Socialization is So Important for Dogs

Provide handling and care instructions for caged or aquatic pets

If your pet sitter is caring for a small mammal or reptile instead of a dog or cat, be sure to include detailed care and handling instructions. While you'll want to choose a pet sitter who's experienced in caring for these animals, be clear about your pets' needs — even things you might think are common sense.

Your pet care plan should include instructions for:

  • Feeding
  • Handling
  • Socialization
  • Exercise/play
  • Maintaining light, heat, and humidity levels in your pet's enclosure

Be mindful of weather conditions

If your pet sitter is watching your dog, they'll need to venture outside at some point to take Sparky for a spin around the block. Here are a few things you should do to ensure your sitter is prepared come rain, shine, or snow:

  • Let your pet sitter know where to find your pet's booties, sweaters, ponchos, and other rainy-day gear.
  • Avoid asking your sitter to walk your pet(s) in extreme temperatures and weather conditions.
  • Tell your sitter what kinds of indoor games and activities your pet likes to play in case of inclement weather.

Keep goodbyes short and sweet

Don't make a scene or have long, drawn-out goodbyes with your pets, since emotional goodbyes often intensify separation anxiety, especially for dogs. Give the same farewell as you would when leaving to run errands.

pet sitter and dog owner standing in a living room petting a golden retriever dog

How to help your pet sitter feel at home

Now that you've got your pets prepped for their adventure with their new BFF, here are a few ways you can help your sitter feel relaxed and welcome during their stay.

Show the sitter around

Before you head out, give your sitter the grand tour of your home. Be sure to specify off-limits rooms and areas. You'll also want to let them know about any special considerations for items or appliances they may need to use, including your:

  • Mailbox
  • Door locks
  • Thermostat
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Towels and bed linens
  • TVs and game consoles
  • Showers, bathtubs, and toilets
  • Cameras and security systems
  • Garbage, recycling, and composting bins
  • Microwave, oven, coffee maker, and other kitchen appliances

Make your pets' supplies easy to find

Have your pets' food, leashes, treats, medication, special toys, and other essential items in a specific and easy-to-find location. For small dogs, the counter might be the right place, but you'll need to get more creative with big dogs, climbers, or cats.

Always keep potentially dangerous or toxic items, including medication, out of your pets' reach.

tortoiseshell cat standing next to a yellow mop bucket watching a person mop a hardwood floor

Tidy up before you leave

Your pet sitter is your guest, so show them the same respect you'd want to receive when spending the night in someone else's home. Before you leave, take out the trash and ensure any rooms or areas your sitter will access are nice and tidy.

While your sitter should clean up after themselves and your pets, it's not fair to expect them to clean up after you. If you do expect them to do any additional cleaning, be sure to let them know (which leads to our next tip).

Discuss cleaning and housekeeping responsibilities

If your sitter is staying for several days, discuss your expectations with them regarding housekeeping. For example, if you want them to wash, dry, and fold any towels or bed sheets they've used, be sure to disclose that and show them how to work your washing machine and dryer.

Try to keep your sitter's cleaning tasks to a minimum. They'll have their paws full caring for your animals, so do your best to help make their job as easy as you can. And if you do ask your sitter to go above and beyond on cleaning tasks, don't forget to tip in kind!

Related: How Much Should I Tip My Pet Caregiver?

List emergency contacts

Make a list of phone numbers and addresses for important contacts for your sitter in case of an emergency. Be sure to include contact info for:

  • your primary vet
  • the nearest emergency vet clinic
  • your landlord (if you're a renter)
  • nearby family or friends

Don't forget to include alternative forms of contact for yourself too. It may be helpful to make a few copies of the list for the sitter to take with them on errands or when taking Archie to appointments.

tabby and white outdoor cat with orange eyes walking through the grass

Take extra precautions for outdoor cats

If you let your cat roam outside, let your sitter know beforehand. Show them any entrance and exit points your cat typically uses, and tell your sitter where they typically go and what times they usually return. If you'd prefer that your sitter doesn't let your cat out, let them know that too.

Here are a few more ways you can keep your outdoor cat safe during a pet sitting service:

  • Consider investing in a GPS collar. Many GPS collars include apps that show your cat's location in real time. This can help your pet sitter locate your cat quickly and retrieve them if necessary.

  • Have your cat microchipped before the service. A microchip can help ensure your pet's safe return if they give your sitter the slip. While microchips don't have GPS, the chip will show your  address and contact info when scanned. Be sure to keep your contact info up to date with the microchip registry database.

  • Provide toys and activities if you don't want your sitter letting your cat outside. Outdoor cats who are kept indoors might get a bit grumpy about the sudden change in routine. If your sitter won't be letting your cat out while you're away, provide "pawlenty" of games, activities, and toys your cat can play with to keep them mentally and physically stimulated.

Prep the yard, too

Some pet parents spend hours or days preparing the inside of their home but completely forget about their yard. Before heading off, here are a few things you should check:

  • Make sure any gaps in the fence are mended or blocked off.
  • Put away any sharp garden tools or toxic substances.
  • Fill in any holes your pets have dug.
  • Ensure your yard is treated for fleas, ticks, and other parasites.

Searching for local pet sitting services? Try Wag!

Choosing a sitter you can trust is paramount. This person will be practically living in your home while caring for your animals, so it's essential to choose someone who's responsible and nurturing. Carefully screen prospective pet sitters, and check references, too.

Download the Wag! app to find a dependable pet sitter near you!

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