Pet Care

Pet care information for all types of pets.

Pet Sitter Safety

Pet Sitter safety is a very important issue and should be at the forefront of a pet sitter’s plan. The nature of the business requires sitters to enter strangers’ homes. Steps should be taken to assure your safety and the safety of your employees.

First and foremost, listen to your gut instincts. When speaking to a potential client on the telephone, take care to pick up on cues that might send up red flags. If the caller seems strange, rude, or offensive in any way, it’s best to turn the person down. Also, if the person lives in an area that is considered unsafe, it may be best to turn them down or require visits ONLY during daylight hours.

silhouette photo of person holding door knob
Photo by George Becker on

When going on an initial visit/interview and you have any suspicions whatsoever, it’s a good idea to carry a cellphone, and maybe bring a friend or employee along. A cellphone should be with you at all times, whether on an interview or a regular visit.

Stay alert and aware during the initial interview. Be aware of your surroundings, and use common sense. If something doesn’t feel right, or if the person seems threatening or weird, make up an excuse to end the interview as soon as possible and leave.

Also important is to pay attention to the pets that you will be caring for. No matter how nice and likable the owner is, sitting for a very aggressive dog (or another animal that can cause major harm) may not be the best idea. If the animal has a history of aggressiveness, or the owner has problems controlling the animal, it may be best to suggest a kennel. If you feel a trial run is in order to make sure, schedule a “trial visit” when the owner is away from the house. If the animal is very aggressive without the owner present, it’s best to turn the client down. It’s impossible to care for an animal that won’t allow you to enter the house, and it does no one any good if you are bitten or mauled.

Make sure the owners let you know everyone who has a key to the house, and if anyone will be visiting the house while you are. There is nothing more frightening than walking into an “empty” house and coming face to face with a total stranger! When on visits, do a “walk-around” on the property and in the house. Notice any differences. Was the gate open on your last visit? Did you open a window? Was the light on before? If there are any signs of a break-in, DON’T ENTER THE HOUSE! Leave and call the police immediately, and have them check the house. If there was indeed a break-in, you should contact the homeowners immediately and let them know.

Remember that your safety is first and foremost, and never take any chances. React calmly and professionally, follow your instincts, and enjoy pet sitting!

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Horse Sitting Basics

When most people think of pet sitting, the first animals that come to mind are dogs and cats. But horse sitting is also a much needed service. Many horse owners travel rarely or never, because they can’t find people who are able to put in the time and work to care for their horses. If you have expertise in horse care, and live in a horse-friendly area, you might want to consider adding horse sitting to your pet care business services.

Horses require specialized care, as they need to eat at certain times of the day, and a certain amount of food to stay healthy. Feedings should be scheduled at the horse’s regular feeding times, and the amount and types of feed vary from horse to horse, so keep detailed instructions for each. Also ask about what and how many treats can be given. Horses love eating yummy snacks like carrots and apples, but too many can lead to an upset stomach.

Fresh, clean water is also very important. It should be available at all times both in the stall and in the turnout area/pasture. In the winter, freezing can be a real pain, so ask the owner about water heaters.

Brushing and hoof picking may also be a daily chore, so make sure you ask where the brushes, halters, lead lines, picks, and other items are located. Have the owner show you how to halter, tie, brush, and pick the hooves, and try it yourself, as some horses can be a bit tricky.

The horses may need to be handled to be turned out to graze or stretch their legs, but riding and longeing is usually not required. If more involved care is requested, you may want to adjust pricing for this, as it will take more time.

Stall cleaning is one of the less glamourous parts of the job, and is a bit more involved than cleaning a little kitty litter box. For shorter sits of a few days to a week, you probably won’t have to do a full stall cleaning. Just scooping up some “road apples” and the wet bedding and replacing it with fresh, dry bedding is sufficient. Longer sits will require a full stall cleaning, which can take a lot of time for multiple stalls.

Knowing the signs of injury and illness is very important with any animal. In horses, immediate care for many problems is essential. Any changes in behaviour, eating, moving, swelling, breathing, etc. should be given a serious second look. Have emergency care items and 24 hour veterinary telephone numbers handy.

When meeting with the owner, be sure to ask lots of questions and keep detailed records. Also, have some horse care books handy, especially ones for recognizing and treating horse illnesses and injuries. Two great books to have handy are A-Z of Horse Diseases & Health Problems, by Tim Hawcroft. (ISBN# 0-87605-884-5) and Horse Owner’s Veterinary Handbook, by James M. Giffin & Tom Gore. (ISBN# 0-87605-606-0)

If you feel confident that you can handle all the above and love horses, then horse sitting may be for you!

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Keeping Less Common Critters

Dog and cat ownership by far make up the largest groups for pets owned by U.S. households. Their numbers in 2012 ranked 36.5%  and 30.4%, respectively.  Fish, birds and horses trail behind, but are still popular pets.  But what about the rest? For those who are thinking of adding one of the more exotic or different pet, there are many to choose from for all types of households. There are many factors that should be considered before adding any pet to your family.

Pink Toe Tarantula
Pink Toe Tarantula

One of the most important things to consider is proper housing. This can range from a simple enclosure for a tarantula or mouse to a large and elaborate enclosure for a monitor lizard or large livestock.  Remember, that baby Savannah Monitor, Green Iguana or Burmese Python that started off happy in a 20 gallon aquarium will grow to a large animal which will eventually require a very large enclosure. “A reptile will only grow as large as its enclosure” is a HUGE myth, and entirely untrue. They will outgrow their small tank, and they will need a lot more space. Make sure you can provide this when the time comes.

Another thing to consider is environment. Some exotics live in very temperate climates with specific humidity requirements. A cold and dry house might make keeping the proper humidity and temps quite a challenge. Make sure you will be able to meet those requirements in your pet’s enclosure no matter the temperatures of your home. Also remember this could be an added expense that you might not have considered. If you don’t want to have to worry about higher electric bills, look into pets that are already adapted to the type of environment that doesn’t need many extras and can easily be emulated in your home environment.

Bantam Dominique Chicken
Bantam Chicken

Feeding is another big consideration. If you are squeamish about feeding animals to other animals, a carnivore like a snake or monitor is probably not the pet for you. If you don’t like bugs, then you might think twice about getting that cute leopard gecko, who loves to eat them. There are quite a few exotics that are largely vegetarian, like many lizards and tortoises. Pets like rodents, rabbits, chickens, goats and pot-bellied pigs are also happy to eat pellets, hay, and veggies also. (Note: although chickens are happy to eat chicken feed, they are by no means vegetarians, and having a well-rounded diet that includes insects and other proteins will help to keep them healthy and happy.)

Commitment is a biggie also. Some insect pets will live just a few months, and many tortoises will most likely outlive you with proper care. Make sure you have the means and desire to stick it out to the end. A pet is a commitment to the end of its natural life, and not just a fad, tossed aside or moved along on a whim. A lot of animals end up in bad situations because the owner got sick of them or got in over their head.

Another important consideration is medical care. It is a good idea to find out what veterinarians in your area treat exotics or farm animals and get to know your vet. There may come a time when you need veterinary care for your pet, and many regular dog and cat vets don’t have the desire or expertise to see your reptile, rodent or livestock animal.

Ball Python
Ball Python

Most importantly, before getting any animal… research, research, research! Find out all you can about the pet you are interested in getting before you get one. There are many great online forums full of knowledgeable owners and breeders online, and always check multiple sources, because there is a lot of misinformation online, also. Check Amazon   for recommended books on your pet of choice, and read as much as you can. That way you can make an informed decision if that pet is right for you and if you can meet all the requirements to give that animal a long and healthy life.

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