I was surprised and so happy that in the 12hrs after my cat-sitting posting went ‘live’ I got about 6 applications! Single people, couples, some traveling in Canada at the time, some retired and living not far from me, some willing to come to my home from England and the US. I’ve since learned that for those offering to pet-sit, there is a daily ‘e-mail blast’ that they can subscribe to that shows all new listings. Smart.
The next part was a little overwhelming for me and I’m not sure I can tell you why. I read each application e-mail carefully, looked at each of the potential pet-sitters profiles, read what others have said in their reviews of candidates’ pet-sits, looked at their ‘verification level’ (basic, mid or advanced in terms of security check), and their level of cat-experience.
One couple who applied were exceedingly experienced and from the local area as well. They were a retired professional couple who had many international long and short duration pet-sits. In fact, as part of their letter to me, they provided a link to a Toronto Star article which was written about them and their pet sitting. With their immense experience and my lack of experience, I thought this would be a perfect fit. I contacted them using the in-site messaging system, and we discussed the cat-sit. I was suddenly much more comfortable – they seemed amazing and very trustworthy. They asked if I had photos of the home.
Good photos are integral to your profile. People react to images – like in adopting out kittens, selling your home, or posting a dating profile. The necessity of having photos for success in securing the right people was apparent to me and I ran around the house taking photos of rooms the pet-sitters would use. It was an overcast day and frankly, everything would have looked nicer in the sun, but I didn’t have time to obsess since my profile was up for 18hrs without any images. Though the site tells you to add many photos to make your profile interesting and engaging, I was only able to upload 6… no matter how I tried or reduced the size of the images I was using. It turns out that their system only allows 6 at this time.
I also uploaded photos of Nuala, Shadow and Cooper with short descriptions of each – there’s a photo section for your pets.
My potential cat-sitters were delighted to see the photos and agreed to the pet sit. I was relieved, excited and happy – until a day later when they cancelled; needing to be elsewhere because of an illness of a friend. This was understandable, but it does highlight a potential challenge with this system. Sitters might cancel. You need a back-up if things don’t work out. Imagine if this happened last-minute!
Luckily, I’d had 4 excellent applications (I had 12 in total – and I ‘shut off’ my posting after 2 days so I wouldn’t get more). In a matter of hours, I chose a couple who I had a great feeling about. We messaged back and forth and had a face-time chat from their pet-sit in England. They are semi-retired as he can work from home anywhere in the world. They were warm, engaging, knowledgeable and funny – able to answer all my questions. We ‘clicked’ and we agreed that they’d come and pet-sit for me.
I want to highlight that I found it helpful to:
- Schedule and have a face-time or skype conversation – a real conversation will have much more depth and give you an idea if this is the right fit for you. I am ridiculously inept with this – I never use video calls. My first was to my pet sitters. I muddled through – they were forgiving. If I can do this, you can too.
- Make a list of all the questions I had for the pet-sitters – so I wouldn’t forget them when we were talking. Read the company online material on how to organize pet-sits.
- Make a list of the ‘truths’ about us that I’d want them to know – things that might put someone off. I was very upfront about Shadow’s nervous stomach and the fact that she throws up 2-3 times a week and that they would only need to wipe up – that I’d wash the floor before and after the pet-sit. That they shouldn’t worry about this. That Nuala is litter-sensitive and would try to pee standing up (and get some outside the box) if she had to go more than 24hrs without the litter being cleaned… you get the idea.
- Be up-front about house rules. One person would have friends come and visit her in our home (but not stay overnight) – this came out in the video call. That just wasn’t a good fit for me – not that there’s anything wrong with it. Other simple things – I was clear – no shoes in our home and absolutely no smoking of any kind. Again, you get the idea.
This whole process was more detailed and personalized than interviews I’ve done with local pet-sitting services before hiring them. Frankly, putting in significant thought and consideration into your ‘interview’ process pays dividends throughout the pet-sit. Ultimately, you are responsible for who will be coming into your home as your ‘guest’. Most are doing this with care and good intentions – but you need to be sure and comfortable that it’s a good match. It’s always possible that there are some in it for selfish-only reasons; less concerned about the pets and unable to manage the house responsibilities – a reality of human nature. In a sense, both sides are taking a leap of faith so make sure you look carefully before you leap.
Like anything, there can be negatives:
- Time investment to get this all set up and organized;
- Some breakage from regular use of household items;
- For security reasons you should lock away valuables;
- Your dates or your location may not draw enough pet-sitter attention (your profile and pictures become more important);
- Departure timing/ flights times need to be clearly discussed/managed. Plan to have sitters arrive early and give yourself a sufficient buffer (perhaps they need to come hours or a day early);
- Utility (and internet) costs might be higher than your normal usage.
The next step was offering the cat-sit to this couple through the site and having them accept the dates. This is the on-site confirmation of the agreement. I’d spent hours making the suggested ‘Welcome Guide’ for the sitters… everything from emergency contacts, to vet info, to house info. When someone ‘accepts’ your offer of the pet-sit, you simply click to send this guide to them. You only need create it once… because it is saved on your profile for future use.
This is already too long, so let me skip forward. The couple arrived at the time we’d agreed and were kinder, more responsible, more wonderful than I could have hoped for. It immediately felt like I knew them and could trust them. I gave them a tour of our home and cats and felt good about leaving them in charge.
We went away for 2 weeks – and had updates regularly from our pet-sitters. They are amazing people who left my home in immaculate order, spoiled my kitties so much that they were too-pampered, and who were more trust-worthy than anyone I have ever had to look after my cats. My first experience was an amazing one. I would have these people back in a heart-beat.
We’d also planned months ago for another week away – and I’d planned to have a neighbour come for a quick visit each day. Instead, I posted this week on the site once I had the membership – and invited one of the 4 great couples who had applied to the first post to apply for this one instead. They were able to come for this week – so we met via face-time, made plans, and they booked their flight from England to visit our home and area. Guess what? They too were great.
It will never be easy for me to leave my home and pets in someone’s care honestly. That is the downside of being a private person and homebody. However, I’m glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and tried this new paradigm of pet sitting – and this particular company – TrustedHousesitters. This is a good fit for me, for us, and for our cats who have been very happy with this. Well, perhaps Cooper would rather we never leave; he still hides from everyone new (for days on end) but that is a story for another day!
Here’s the info again in case you are curious: https://www.trustedhousesitters.com/su/WxumAgrh
This link above is my ‘personal referral’ and what that means is that if you sign up, you’ll get 20% off the price I paid to join. Or use this code at check-out for the same results: RAF218163. And, I’ll get 2 free months of service on their site. When you join, it’s for a year of using the site – as many pet sits as you want. I didn’t have a referral, so I paid full price (poor me). They are not paying me to recommend them or any such thing – 0 kickbacks and just my honest opinion. Though if they decide to give me extended free membership, I’d take it.
Got questions? I don’t mind answering questions about this service or it’s structure. You will get honest answers – from someone who has been a member for 2 months and had 2 pet-sits in her home (3 weeks of sitting total).