Anatomy of a Pet Sitting Visit - Part 3
I've always said that there is very little sitting in pet sitting, and that is true.
A lot of things have to be done during a pet sitting visit. While pet sitters are giving loving care to each pet they are visiting and taking care of anything else the client has asked of them, they must also be mindful of the time so they can get everything done and get to the next client on their list in a timely fashion.
So, here we are up to Part 3 of the Anatomy of a Pet Sitting Visit, and now we are getting into the heart of it all.
After a pet sitter knows that all is well outside and that the interior of their client's home is secure and safe for the pets, it is time to move on to the meat of the visit - direct care of the pets.
A good pet sitter puts her heart into whatever she does. The three main things that pets want from you is your attention, nutrition, and to play and/or go out for a walk and a piddle break if the pet(s) is a dog. What happens during "Part 3" depends on the type of pets in the home.
Whenever I cared for a dog, the first order of business was getting him/her out for a piddle break and then back in for food, and then for a walk. This is where paying attention to behavioral cues is important because sometimes the dog will want to eat first and then go out. The more you know the dog and his/her routine the more able you will be to meet their specific needs. This information is gathered at the Meet and Greet. I always tried to keep the same routine that the dog was used to when their owners weren't away, so I won't give any definites here - as each situation is a little different.
Typically, in a house of cats, the first thing I'd do after the in/out safety check is meal prep and serving. A sitter should observe how much the pet is eating. If a pet who usually eats, is eating less or not at all, this could be a sign of concern. A sitter should note if there was any food still in the food bowl since their last visit. Some cats are higher-maintenance or have special needs or sometimes there are a variety of cats in the home with different dietary needs, so all of this gets taken care of. Many times the cats try to "help" or are rubbing on the sitter's legs and meowing as their meal is being prepped. This is part of the fun!
Once the cats are eating, the sitter can get the litter boxes taken care of, and prepare any medications that must be given (unless meds have to be given before meals). I discovered that in homes with multiple cats there always seemed to be a "supervisor" cat who would follow me and supervise the cleaning of the litter boxes and sometimes would demonstrate how to use them either right before I cleaned them or right after the box was cleaned, which made me have to scoop it a second time!
Most of the time I found that cats will want to eat before playing, but if the cats graze on dry food throughout the day they may not want to eat while the sitter is there, but rather would want to play and a get as much fun, attention, and cuddles as possible during the time the sitter is at their home. That is fine. As mentioned above, just be observant when you arrive at the next visit as to how much they've eaten since then.
Not all cats like to play so time can be spent brushing the cat, cuddling and petting the cat, giving some treats, and talking. Sometimes cats like to be sung to - I found this was especially true while the food was getting prepped. It seemed to add to their excitement about eating. I found this out by accident while doing a pet visit at one house, and then continued it throughout my other morning stops, and it was well-received by most cats - and I don't even have a good singing voice! I had a few clients whose pets would meow along with me as I sang. It was so cute!
For the rare cat who likes to hide or is timid or in a bad mood, I would sit as close to the cat as he/she would tolerate, and talk to the cat and try to "make friends". This would usually work eventually. I only had two cats in my almost 16 years of pet sitting that would not befriend me. One was a feral cat that would act like he wanted to be my friend (he was a 30 pounder!) but then would show his teeth and growl like a mountain lion, and another was a cat who hated everybody but her owner. This cat didn't even like the husband, just the wife! But usually, in time, sometimes a lot of time, most cats with attitudes or fears can be befriended so at least there would be some positive interaction between cat and pet sitter during a visit. This has been my experience anyway.
If the house consisted of caged pets like hamsters, gerbils, rabbits, or birds, then I'd usually take care of the cage cleaning first and then replace the food in the cage at the end. Socializing with the pets as these duties were carried out. If the house consisted of just a dog(s), we'd go out for a good walk.
In a house with a mix of indoor and outdoor pets, I'd take care of the indoor pets first and then get to the outdoor pets ( like chickens, rabbits in hutches, fish in a pond, filling bird feeders).
At the end of this part of a pet visit, I'd give a mental double-check that all was completed: food, water, medications, playtime, dog walk, litter box/cage cleaning. I'd make sure that anything that needed to be put away (certain toys, food bags) was put away, and that cage doors were securely closed, and everyone looked content and healthy. Sometimes owners would ask for indoor plants to be watered and I'd usually try to do that when the cats were eating, or after the dog walk just before Part 4 started.
Once all this was done, I'd move on to Part 4 of a pet sitting visit, and that will be "coming soon" so stay tuned!