Part of enjoying a great, stress-free vacation is knowing that everything is taken care of at home. The pets and plants that depend on you can be absolutely fine while you are off seeing the sights; it just takes a little extra preparation. As with most things, the easiest way to ensure success and reduce worry is with some research, so I compiled this list of reader-tested tips and tricks all with one goal in mind — coming home from your holiday to happy pets and plants…
FINDING A RELIABLE PET SITTER:
Talk to your friends who have pets- they may have already gone through this search, and found someone they like. You may even be surprised to find out that one of them *does* pet sitting. Another good option is to talk to the staff at your vet clinic- I've moved a lot, and have had a lot of success going this route. As a bonus, these folks will usually be brutally honest about any organization that they think is sub-par for their own pets... - Kealoha
I second the suggestion of asking at your vet clinic. Often, the assistants/vet techs there are looking for an extra source of income and will gladly take on some side work. If you have a reputable pet rescue/adoption/advocacy program in your area, you can ask them as well. I got a wonderful cat sitter from Kitten Rescue in LA. - londoncalling518
We have two rambunctious dogs and for a long time it was a real dilemma. We boarded the once or twice but didn't feel good about that-it's certainly not ideal. We had family look after them a few times and while we were appreciative, we never felt entirely comfortable with this either for various reasons. But we made friends with some kind neighbors who also have pets. And they have two young children. So now we just "book" with the neighbors in advance and swap favors. They house and dog-sit for us, we do the same for them, and I babysit here and there for them too, or pick up their kids from school occasionally. It works like a dream and we're really fortunate.
I realize this isn't easy to set-up, but if you happen to have an animal loving neighbor--take over a batch of cookies or a bottle of wine and have a "business" meeting with them about pet-sitting and bartering. It might be the beginning of a very fortuitous relationship. Chances are there's a pet-owner in your neighborhood who needs a pet-sitter too. Good luck! - L1bby
I use either housecarers.com, mindmyhouse.com or even the couchsurfing.org website to find a free house/cat sitter when I travel for longer periods. I've never had any problems with any of the sitters (though last time I had bad luck with people backing out after agreeing to sit). Couch surfing offers the advantage of previous references you can read through to get some idea of the person's character...it's very clear very quickly if they are flakes, partiers, etc. In all scenarios, the sitter gets to travel without the expense of lodging, and I get someone who appreciates having a place to stay, and who will love my kitties while I'm gone. So far it has worked very well for all parties. nice. - lisa13
I wanted to give a few tips. I used to co-own a pet sitting business a couple of years ago. A professional sitter should be able to provide excellent references. Ask around. We used to have animal hospitals refer clients to us all the time.
When talking to your sitter, be very specific about what you want. The goal of a pet sitter is to keep life as routine as possible for your pets. Your sitter should ask very specific questions. “Does your dog have separation anxiety? Or how often do you change the litterbox?” If staying in your home, “Does your toilet run? Or does your house make strange noises?”
If going with professionals, verify that they are insured and bonded. However, don’t depend on this too much - the only requirement is forking out the $50 - $200 fees. It is a safety net for you, just in case someone decides to steal your jewelry.
The consultation should be free. You should feel completely comfortable with your sitter. I used to provide my clients with a packet of forms - client info, pet info, preparation checklist for them, daily activity list for me, services agreement and a vet services with right to bill form. I also requested a separate alarm code for my business.
All of this is very lengthy in the beginning, but it works great and helps you build a strong relationship with someone that you trust with your home and your pets. -clumsymelissa
KEEPING PLANTS HEALTHY:
When I go out of town I construct a little biosphere on my living room floor, near window for indirect sunlight. First I put a shower curtain folded in half on the floor (from the 99 cent store). Then I put my watered potted plants on the shower curtain along with several large mixing bowls full of water. At the corners I put my plant stands (empty - just serving as structural support). Then I drape a clear shower curtain (again 99 cent store) over the whole thing, tucking the ends under the plant stands but leaving some untucked "vents." This works well for a week away. I have also used it for a two-week trip but the plants were droopy though still alive when I got home - they perked up in a day. Just don't set it up in a really sunny spot or they could fry. - Szig
Corral all your plants in your bathtub & fill the tub with an inch of water. Especially if they're in clay pots, they'll suck up the water while you're gone. -Abby
My mom always puts her finicky plants in a seal-able clear plastic bag after a good watering, and leaves them out of bright direct sunlight. They will usually be good as new when she gets back from 2 weeks away. - Zemquat
But the BEST method, of course, is to leave a bottle of wine out on the counter next to written watering directions and have a friend stop by while you are away. - Maxwell
As always, we're looking for good intel from everyone — if you have good tips, tricks, ideas and suggestions on the topic, please share in the comments!
Image: Bacon by Wes & Kayla Schawrz/Wes, Kayla & Bacon's Brookline Remix