Hiring a pet sitter for a cat with asthma required a careful and comprehensive approach. Know what to ask and look for when selecting a caregiver for your own kitty.

Karen was looking forward to her first vacation in years. The problem was, her cat Phoebe had just been diagnosed with feline asthma. Phoebe was in need of twice daily medication administered with a puffer. Family members had previously provided care and companionship for Phoebe, but now Karen needed someone adept at giving the cat her puffer, and to know how to recognize any changes in respiration.

Her veterinarian suggested Karen hire a professional pet sitter to come to her home. That way, Phoebe could remain where she felt most secure and happy and Karen’s home would have a lived-in look.

Initial misgivings

Karen was nervous of allowing a stranger access to her home. She was also unsure if a sitter could provide Phoebe with the care she needed. Her vet recommended a business that specialized in providing care for cats with health needs, and who had a long-standing proven relationship with the clinic. The sitters provided quality visits; they didn’t run in and out but spent time with the animals, offering companionship and affection. The company was registered and fully insured.

Karen agreed this was the best solution. A call to the pet sitting business put her at ease. The director of care had in-depth knowledge of feline health and told Karen that Phoebe’s assigned caregiver, Wendy, would be a retired veterinary technician who loved cats and understood their physical and emotional needs. Wendy’s background in veterinary medicine meant she could manage Phoebe’s medication regime and also recognize any of the subtle “red flags” cats show when they are ailing. She could capably manage an emergency and ensure Phoebe’s prompt care in case she became sick.

Getting to know you

Reassured, Karen arranged a date for Wendy to meet her and Phoebe at home and go over all the particulars. Here’s what happened during that meeting.

  • Karen was impressed by Wendy’s calm, non-invasive manner. She acknowledged Phoebe but didn’t force her to interact with her. Instead, she sat quietly chatting with Karen so Phoebe would feel comfortable in her presence. Within a very short time, Phoebe had jumped on the couch and settled next to her new friend.
  • Wendy provided Karen with a copy of the business insurance certificate and police background check, and asked her to sign a service contract that outlined the company’s policies and responsibilities to their clients.
  • She showed a genuine interest in Phoebe’s needs. She took notes on all her particulars, including her feeding regime, any food sensitivities or allergies, and if she suffered from anxiety or depression when Karen went away. She asked for a complete health history and even wrote down Phoebe’s likes and dislikes, including if she enjoyed being brushed, her favorite toys and places to sleep and how she preferred to receive affection.
  • Wendy asked Karen for Phoebe’s veterinarian and contact information while she was away. She also asked for a contact who could legally act on Wendy’s behalf if she was not reachable and a decision on Phoebe’s well being was required.
  • Wendy asked for a tour of Karen’s home. She wanted to know where the main water shutoff valve and fuse box were located. She also wanted to know who to call if a maintenance issue arose. She assured Karen that her mail would be collected, flyers and papers removed from her doors, garbage put out for collection and her plants watered weekly.
  • Karen was encouraged to ask questions and express any concerns. Wendy also suggested she give Phoebe her puffer, thereby demonstrating her competence. It was as important to Wendy as to Karen that she and Phoebe could work well together and that the cat wouldn’t be too averse to a stranger handling her.

Reputable sitters book up quickly and far in advance, especially during peak vacation periods.

Peace of mind During Karen’s vacation, she received email reports every other day from Wendy. Midway through her absence, the sitter reported a slight shift in Phoebe’s respiration and took her to the veterinarian. Thanks to her keen observation, it was found Phoebe’s asthma medication was in need of adjustment.

Wendy’s dedication to Phoebe allowed Karen to relax and enjoy her holiday without worry. Best of all, she returned home to a contented, healthy, happy Phoebe.

Choosing a caregiver for your kitty:

  • Give yourself ample time to find the right person to care for your cat. Reputable sitters book up quickly and far in advance, especially during peak vacation periods.
  • A recommendation from a friend, co-worker or veterinarian is a great way to find a reputable sitter. Veterinarians can often provide inside information about these companies.
  • Never agree to hire a sitter who doesn’t insist on an initial meeting. Pre-service meetings are of absolute importance. They provide you and your cat a chance to screen the sitter and establish a relationship. The sitter also needs that opportunity to gather information, confirm that she and your cat are a good match and that she can manage his care.
  • If your cat requires medication or special handling, insist on demonstrated competence.
  • Always ask for references, proof of business liability insurance, and a criminal background check. Hire a mature adult who is properly trained and has a reliable vehicle. Beware of companies that adopt a relaxed hiring protocol and attitude. Chances are their staff has the same relaxed work ethic.
  • Review the service contract and clarify any policies you don’t understand.
  • Membership with a pet sitting association isn’t a guarantee the company or individual is ethical or qualified. Many gold standard sitters don’t belong to an association. Rely on references, your own screening methods (ask a lot of questions – a professional will encourage questions), how your cat and the sitter interact, and your own gut instinct.
  • Don’t hesitate to say if your cat can be anxious, fearful or aggressive. The more the sitter knows about him, the better she can ensure the right approach and care.