Pet Sitting Routine
ON THE JOB
Neatness is always important, especially if the customer’s home is un-kept… It helps to imagine that your mother-in-law is coming to inspect the job you are doing. Our expectation of how you leave the house and a customer’s property is very, very high. Accidents, cat box maintenance, and clean eating bowls and areas are the responsibilities of the pet sitter.
Equally vital is reliability. If you agreed to water certain plants or call the customer after a certain visit, do it. If you agreed not to walk Fido in the rose garden, don’t do it. Make those notes in the PetSitConnect.
Feed the pets in accordance with their feeding instructions. Do not change or alter their feeding routine. If you feel strongly that a pet is not receiving the adequate feeding amount or the food is not safe, contact the office right away. Do not take a responsibility upon yourself to change the pets’ diet.
If the supply of food runs out during the assignment, go to a store and buy the same kind. Leave the receipt out to the customer and email the office with the amount and date of the pickup trip so it’s added to your schedule and you get paid for it. You will also need to add the amount to your Timesheet so you get reimbursed for the expense.
Whenever a bowl is empty or whenever you dump out extra food, wash the bowl with soap and hot water before using it again. Do not let any bowls sit in the sink soaking (you may want to soak them at the beginning of the visit and not wash them until you are ready to leave, but we do not want any dirty pet dishes sitting in the sink).
Wash out all the empty pet food cans and the sink so that the cans don’t stink up the house while sitting in the trash.
We will always wipe food preparation area and the area around food to make sure it is clean after each feeding.
Rule of thumb: Neatness counts. When a client returns home, it should appear as though you were never there.
Refresh water daily even if the pets have not had a drop. Always be sure to wipe any slime out of the water bowl before refilling. If water bowl is empty when you arrive, take an extra bowl from the customer’s cabinet and fill it so that the pet has plenty of water. Dehydration is a big problem for pets in the summertime. We have never had a client become angry that we used their human dishes for their pets. On the contrary, they perceive it as extra care and attention towards their pets.
If necessary, wipe the water area periodically to make sure it is clean and neat.
Keep in mind that many clients with cats keep several water bowls throughout the house. Make sure to always ask about those and note them in the customer’s file. It is very common that customers leave additional water bowls in the bathroom sinks or kitchen sinks.
We will scoop the litter daily. Even if you see that there isn’t much of a mess, scoop it anyway. If a customer would return home early and see that the litter wasn’t scooped that day, he/she may assume that you never came… If a customer requests your changing the litter, do it. Most of the times though you’ll need to just scoop it. Make sure to add more fresh litter as you scoop the old one out.
Always sweep around the litter box when you are done. Never leave old litter in the inside trash can, no matter how well you close the bag. If a customer lives in a house, take it out to the garage. If a customer lives in an apartment, throw it away in a dumpster. Never leave it sitting outside of the customer’s apartment door either – many apartment complexes may fine them for it.
If you are leaving it outside of the customer’s house or apartment, make sure it is a trash pickup day – otherwise, the client may be fined.
Litter boxes are often in bathrooms or laundry rooms. Make sure you note their location in the system if it is somewhere not ordinary. Extra litter is usually stored either next to it or in the garage or laundry room.
It is recommended that you carry your own litter scoop. Sometimes it may be hard to find the customer’s scoop, and it could be easier to just use your own instead of spending 45 minutes looking for one.
If you need to change litter:
Take a large plastic garbage bag and fit it around the litter tray, turn over the tray, beat several times lightly on back to dislodge wet litter stuck to the bottom, remove the tray, fasten bag. Clean out the box with soap and water, and some Lysol. If you have to dump litter box into a trash can in the garage, make sure you don’t spill any. If you do, sweep around.
People who put newspapers on the bottoms of their litter boxes should be discouraged from doing so. It soaks up urine and stinks. Avoid this whenever possible. Plastic litter box liners can be a challenge. The plastic is thin, tears easily and a pain to pull apart from itself in the installation process. It is much easier to clean out the litter pan, wipe dry with paper towels, and spray with a shot of Lysol.
Some customers are inconsiderate enough to leave you a full litter box on your first day. No matter what though, it gets cleaned every day – that’s the best way to exceed customer’s expectations and get repeat business, needless to say, the cats will be happier and will make less mess overall…
The electric litter boxes MUST be cleaned out daily or they may jam. They should also be checked if the power has gone off.
10-15 minutes is usually adequate, but if you have told a customer that you will provide a longer walk, then provide one. Chances are the client has told neighbors – and the neighbors always report back if we are not fulfilling our responsibilities. If the animals haven’t pooped in 10-15 minutes, they probably won’t go this time. It helps to find out where the dog is usually walked since many are extremely territorial and some are openly neurotic about their “spots”. Your goal is to have the dog go to the bathroom and get a good exercise. If you need to throw them a ball before leaving, do it – anything that will occupy a bored mind of a pet so they sleep well after you leave. But of course, follow the customer’s instructions closely – some dogs may not be allowed a vigorous exercise or long walk…
CAUTION: Always, when you have the leash on and are standing by the door ready to go outside, give the leash a good solid tug to make sure it is secure. Check the collar too, and if necessary, tighten it. Guard against escapes by passing your hand through the loop of the end of the leash and grasping the leash below the loop. This avoids accidentally dropping the leash or having it pulled out of your hand.
ALWAYS WALK DOGS ON A LEASH
No matter how well trained or cooperative they are in the interview, no matter how many assurances the owner gives, sooner or later walking one off lead will cause a problem – anything from a male taking off because there is a bitch in heat around the corner (the smell carries up to a mile) to a pup getting run over when he decides to chase a squirrel across the street.
Avoid other people and animals while you are walking a client’s dog. If you see another dog – even if it is being leash walked, cross to the other side of the street or change directions to avoid the possibility of a confrontation between the animals. Just because the other dog is on a leash doesn’t mean the owner has control of it!
Do not let other people (especially children) approach or pet a client’s dog no matter how friendly the dog is. The dog may bite, snap, scratch, jump up on or knock someone over.
Clean up all solid waste immediately using an inverted plastic bag and close it securely. Place solid waste in an outside trash receptacle if in a public area or place it in the owner’s outside trash can. Do not leave cat or dog fecal material in the owner’s interior trash cans!
BACKYARDS: Always go outside with the dog if you are letting them out in the backyard.
This prevents potential escapes from underneath the fence or over it, and also protects the animals from insect bites, etc. Obviously, this will also save you a problem explaining to your client how Buster ate the neighbor’s cat while you were watching him in the backyard. Always remember to check the door to the backyard before you shut it behind you – make sure it is not locked. Check it by turning the OUTSIDE doorknob.
HOW TO GIVE A DOG A PILL:
Have him sit or heel, or if he is uncooperative, straddle him with your legs. Grab his upper jaw behind the two large canine teeth and lift to vertical, keeping your fingers tightly clamped on the upper jaw with some of the dog’s gum and lips between your fingers and his teeth. If he bites down, he’ll get himself. When his tongue comes out, pop the pill into the back of his tongue, close the lower jaw, and stroke his throat until he swallows. If the dog is really belligerent, search the refrigerator for some inexpensive cheese or a pat of butter and wrap the pill in that.
Also, many pills can be crushed with the bottom of the bowl with a spoon and mixed into canned food, especially if the dog has a healthy appetite. Before crushing pills make sure to call the customer’s vet to double check that the pill will retain potency.
HOW TO PILL A CAT:
This is much more difficult in most cases. Try the gentle, calm approach. Pet and play with the cat, then set the cat on the counter or table on a fluffy towel, or on the floor between your legs. Using minimal restraint, place your left hand on top of the cat’s head, grasp jaws with thumb and forefinger, and raise the head until nose points at the ceiling. As cat’s mouth drops open, use right hand to drop a pill in the back of the cat’s throat – a quick poke with your finger or a ballpoint pen, and the pill is down. We do recommend that you carry pill poppers with you at all times just in case if the cat is especially stubborn – those can be your lifesavers changing pilling time from 15 minutes to 15 seconds!
But if the cat is not cooperating with you, you may try a different approach. First, catch him. If necessary, grab him by the scruff of the neck, treating the unsociable beast like a sack of potatoes and watching out for the back claws. Hold him tightly between your knees and calves while you kneel on the floor. Make sure you trap his front legs securely or your hands will suffer. Grab the top of his jaw and proceed like with a dog, but make sure to trap some gum and lips between teeth and your fingers. It is usually necessary to push pill well down the cat’s throat to prevent it from being spat out.
With single cats with a good appetite, it is always easier to crush the pill and mix it with canned food. With more than one cat or with a cat and a dog, pills must be given to ensure that the right animal gets the medicine. In desperate situations, try separating the one who needs medicine from the others so long as he has access to the litter box, food, and water, and try crushing the pill into his food.
If you are unable to give the pill to a cat, call his vet to ask how important it is for the cat to get his medicine daily. If the customer is gone for a long time and you are absolutely unable to give the medicine, you may want to consider boarding the cat at the vet’s. After discussing the situation with the vet, call The managers to inform them of the situation, and then call the customer to explain what you are planning to do.
All animals must be seen on each visit to make sure they are healthy and that they have not gotten into some difficulty. For example, cats can get trapped in small spaces, puppies can get their heads stuck in dog food cans, etc. Be careful not to open and close the doors of the house without checking the whereabouts of the pets. As you walk around the customer’s house set up mental cues so you remember whether the doors were open or shut. Leave them the way you find them. Seek out cats under the beds and in the closets – a flashlight may help. Don’t pull them out, just make sure they are healthy.
DO NOT LEAVE THE HOUSE UNTIL YOU HAVE SEEN ALL THE PETS.
It is recommended that you wash your hands after each visit.
Cats have a habit of throwing up. Once is generally nothing to worry about. This is true for the dogs too. They are merely getting rid of something that didn’t agree with their stomachs. Be aware of the animals’ stools. Diarrhea is an alert signal in dogs and cats the same as in humans. Any change from the ordinary should be noticed. If it happens once, do not worry about it. If a pet has diarrhea two visits in a row, this may be a sign of an illness.
It is a good idea to check with the vet first or with one of the emergency clinics if it is outside of office hours. Always wait for office hours unless the situation is truly life-threatening. Tell the vet who you are, who their customer is, what the animal’s symptoms are, and ask for his or her recommendation. Most customers dote on their animals like other people dote on their children. Use your judgment.
If you see a change in the pet’s behavior in addition to recurring diarrhea, notify the customer right away. You always want to talk to the customer before you take the pet to a vet, but if the customer is unreachable and you are not sure about what to do, call our emergency numbers if you are unable to get a hold of anyone right away.
The following conditions indicate that medical care is obtained:
- Any symptom indicating lack of coordination or balance
- Any type of bleeding, including blood in urine or feces
- A swollen or bloated abdomen (prevalent in large dogs)
- Difficulty breathing
- Any type of burn
- Excessive coughing or sneezing
- Any sign of having swallowed a foreign object, or choking or gagging
- Apparent weakness or collapse
- Dental problems, including loose teeth, discoloration of gums or mouth odors
- Unusual hiding or depression
- Diarrhea extending more than one day
- Ear problems, including foreign bodies or head shaking, soreness, discharge or odor.
- Any type of eye injury, including a clouding or the eye
- Broken bones or apparent fractures
- Any lump or growth under the skin
- Sudden inability to move the legs or paralysis
- Excessive panting for an unusually long period of time
- Apparent pain usually indicated by yelping, crying, trembling or being sensitive to the touch
- Poisoning from household pesticides, medications, plants or other toxic materials
- Loss of consciousness or shock
- Swelling of the abdomen, leg, joint or mouth
- Being hit by a car, falling, attack by another animal resulting in trauma
- Severe straining or inability to urinate, blood in the urine, excessive urination
- Violent or continuous vomiting, or vomiting lasting over a 24-hour period
- Unusual discharge
- A significant increase or decrease in water consumption
- Any significant weight loss
BITES AND SCRATCHES TO HUMANS
The transmission of rabies from animals to humans is the main cause of concern when an animal bites or scratches a person. Anytime there is a break in the skin from either a bite or scratch, the wound should be washed immediately with soap and water. Seek additional medical treatment if needed and report the incident to the appropriate local animal control department or health department so the pet can be quarantined as required by law. Immediately notify the office of the incident.
It is also recommended that people who work with animals stay current on tetanus shots. There is bacteria in animal’s saliva that can be transmitted to humans through wounds that can cause illness in humans if the tetanus shot isn’t kept up-to-date.
If a pet bites or scratches anyone other than you, notify the office immediately. If the animal bites a child, personally notify the child’s parents and advise them what steps will be taken.
MAIL, NEWSPAPERS, LIGHTS
Pick newspapers up each time when you come. This is also proof that you did what you were supposed to do. If there is a mailbox key, ask the customer to leave it for you. Lights should be changed or not in accordance with the clients’ instructions. UPS and other delivery cards should be signed and left out – they don’t care who signs.
It’s usually easier to do this on the way into the home. Leave mail and newspapers on a living room table, kitchen counter, or dining room table, unless another location is specified by the owner. Never place the unopened mail in front of a window or other place visible from the outside of the home as it may indicate an absent homeowner to unscrupulous eyes. Bring in packages (UPS, FedEx, etc.) and leave them in the same general area with the mail and newspapers.
As a courtesy, remove rubber bands and plastic covers from newspapers and lay the paper out flat. Dispose of the plastic wrapper or rubber bands so pets cannot get hold of them. Some pet sitters “recycle” the plastic bags as containers for feces disposal or for makeshift plastic “gloves”.
Make sure that the area looks neat like you took your time to lay it out, not threw it down when running by. You want to create an impression that you were very thorough throughout the pet sit, whether it was caring for pets or home.
ENTRY AND EXIT
You know the key works because you already tried it out. Always assume that a cat is crouched and ready to barge out of the door. Unlock all locks but keep the door closed. Remove keys.
Open the door swiftly only as wide as necessary to get in. As the door opens, swing your foot into the opening with enough force to knock the cat out of the way. If despite this effort a cat does get to the door opening, mash it against the door with your foot. Most likely it will retreat. Better a slightly bruised cat than a lost cat. Always expect a cat to escape, even if you took care of it many times in the past. Shut the door quickly and proceed. Lock yourself in if you feel more comfortable. This also prevents doors from blowing open and animal escaping. When entering through a garage door, close the garage door after you have entered and before entering the house.
LOOK AROUND. IF ANYTHING LOOKS AMISS – IF THE TELEVISION IS GONE OR THE PLACE HAVE BEEN TRASHED – GET OUT IMMEDIATELY AND CALL THE POLICE. DO EXACTLY THE SAME THING IF YOU NOTICE ANYTHING WRONG FROM THE OUTSIDE BEFORE YOU WALK IN. YOUR SAFETY IS PARAMOUNT. DON’T BE HEROIC. THE POLICE LOVE TO COME TO FALSE ALARMS, SO DON’T BE TIMID ABOUT CALLING. ALWAYS CALL THE MANAGERS IF YOU SUSPECT A BREAK-IN.
On the way out, watch for escapes again. Lock the door and check it by trying to get in. Train yourself to remember you locked the door with some mental snapshot of your locking the door. Also make sure that all the doors to the backyard have been locked too, as those are easy to overlook.
Make sure you note the alarm information in the client’s file in PetSitConnect, and pay the special attention to it when entering the customer’s home. If you triggered the alarm, the security company will probably call the house. Make sure you answer the phone and tell them the password. Also, call or text the client immediately to let them know that you’ve set off the alarm. Some clients get charged if the police are dispatched for false alarms so you want to tell them right away that it’s you and not a burglar!
Rule of thumb: Assume that all alarm systems record your time of entry and exit, and don’t rush through your visit.
Stick by whatever you agreed to. If you said that you would come in the morning, come in the morning. Try to be fairly consistent by coming at approximately the same time every day. But don’t always arrive at a precise time sharp. Let clients know that a one hour window is realistic.
One of the security aspects of the service is our random arrival time. For twice a day dogs, you will rarely have to clean up messes if you stick to twelve-hour between the visits schedule. With three-times a day dogs, we’ll come at 6-7 am, 12-3 pm, and 8-9 pm.
Clean up any messes left by pets. If it was an occasional accident, we will clean it up. If a pet keeps having accidents each visit, you will have to think about how to prevent a recurrence of the problem by locking the dog up in the kitchen, moving the litter box to a tile floored area, etc.
You are not a kennel boy. Take reasonable action to make your work easier: solve problems. You may or may not want to replace things in their normal positions before the customer returns home. If you don’t return things, leave a detailed note for the customer about what you did. If messes on carpet continue, call The managers to request an adjustment to the pet sitting schedule. We may want to add one or more visits to the existing schedule – you can discuss this with the managers.
Rule of thumb: All surprises result in customer dissatisfaction. We will always talk to the customer when changing the schedule.
We strongly recommend that all sitter lock their cars when they are in a customer’s home. Take your cell phone with you. Lock yourself in a customer’s home.
Rule of thumb: Create and use a mental checklist for the end of each visit. Water, food, doors locked, alarm set, etc. This will save many errors. Get into the habit.
When a client is gone for 5 days or more, check the plants to see if they need watering. It is always better to underwater than overwater. But make sure you do water. Dead plants have ruined many great customer relationships.
All plants in pots need to be watered daily in summer.
TREAT EVERY VISIT AS IF IT WAS THE LAST ONE – the client may come home early and unannounced. Leave the report card on your first visit and mark off your visits as you come each day.
Here is where you make your best impression. Sweep with a broom or vacuum the eating area and again around the litter box. Clean placemats for food dishes thoroughly. Check the entire house (except for where the doors were shut) for cat barf, hairballs, dog poop, chewed plants, etc.
Clean up wherever necessary and take out the garbage either to the garage or on the curb (if it is a garbage pick up day). But you are not a maid. Vacuuming cat hair all over the house is beyond the call of duty, and we won’t clean dog slobbers on glass patio doors.
ALWAYS leave a pink Report Card for the customer with a positive note on it. Telling them that Fido was sooooo lonesome will not lead to repeat business. Start your note with “Welcome home …! It has been a sincere joy to take care of …!” Make your note upbeat, humorous, and fun. Show the customer that you loved their pets and are looking forward to seeing them again.
Animals that escape may either bold and flee the area, or just hang around outside of the house.
If an animal escapes, the following steps should be taken:
- Attempt to catch the animal by walking up to it, but do not chase it.
- Try using food, a toy or another of the client’s pets to coax the animal back into the house or a confined area.
- Make every reasonable attempt to catch or confine the pet, especially if the owner lives in a high traffic area.
- Stay at the house as long as possible to wait for the animal to return.
- Leave a business card with neighbors and ask them to call us at any time of the day or night if they see the pet.
- If the animal does not return, check back frequently (every few hours). Leave water out for the pet but no food (you want them to get hungry and come to you for food). If the animal has not returned within 24 hours, call in a report to the local animal shelters and humane societies. Also, contact all area veterinarian offices about the missing pet. Pets can travel a long way if they are lost or have been picked up by someone. Follow up with daily checks to each of the places asking if there has been any sign of the lost pet.
This is a professional service, not a friendly visit. Never bring a friend, relative, spouse, child, or another animal in with you. Our liability insurance and bonding cover only an employee of the company. Should a customer file a claim against you, you are protected by the company’s insurance and bonding, however, your companion is not. You are exposing yourself and your friend or family member coming with you to any claims from the customer, and they are not protected by the company’s insurance. Many animals unused to children or strangers will bite and scratch without any provocation. While you are covered by the contract that a customer pays for all medical bills associated with your injuries by their pet, they are not going to pay for your friend or family member. Bringing other people with you is not only unprofessional but also dangerous in many aspects. The only exceptions are when you are taking another pet sitter who is already an employee of the company for training purposes.
Each and every pet sitting assignment is evaluated by the client. Pet sitters are evaluated based on the following criteria:
- Were all pet and home-related instructions left behind by you followed?
- Were your home and the area around your pet’s eating and drinking space clean and neat (including litter box if applicable)?
- Were your mail and newspapers stacked neatly?
- Was a detailed Report Card left for your review?
Remember: if a client answered “Yes” to these 4 questions, you will always be ranked “Outstanding” or “Above Average”.
To ensure the above criteria is met, please follow these guidelines:
- Listen to the customer and document all the instructions in detail. That way, when your Substitute is doing pet sits for you, you are not being called and your client is still happy and doesn’t go away from us.
- We won’t touch people messes but will clean all pet-related messes thoroughly. Use soap for dishes, sweeping around the pet areas, and always leave food preparation area clean. Do not leave dirty litter in indoor trashcans, and always rinse wet food cans so they don’t smell in the kitchen trash.
- Always stack up newspapers and mail neatly – it takes less than a minute but creates a great image of you and your service.
- ALWAYS use the report cards provided by the company.
Mental Pet Sitting Check Sheet
- Come in, disable alarm (if necessary)
- Let the dogs outside right away (backyard or on the leash)
- Let the dogs pee and poop
- Come back, let the dogs drink water
- Feed the dogs (if necessary)
- If the dogs didn’t poop, walk them again
- Refresh water
- Wash the feeding bowl
- Sweep and wipe the feeding area with a wet paper towel
- Check the house for accidents
- Scoop litter box
- Sweep around the litter box
- Place all the trash in the garage
- Check mail
- Check plants in pots outside for watering
- Play with pets, give them treats if allowed
- Write note
- Make sure the back doors are locked
- Secure animals in crates if necessary
- Leave, set the alarm
- Check the door one more time to make sure it’s locked