What is a pet sitting "Extra-Concern" Visit all about?
Updated: Aug 5
A Good Idea for Pet Sitters to Consider
"Maybe something's wrong. Maybe something's not wrong. Maybe something is starting to be wrong."
These are thoughts that occasionally flow through pet sitters' minds when they sense that a problem might be brewing with a pet, or with a client's home. A pet sitter, if truly a "professional", must be aware of many variables during the course of pet sitting and must be in "prevention mode" at all times. Better to prevent a problem then have to go into crisis mode.
Here are a few examples to help get this lesson rolling:
1. One example of a brewing problem could be that at a morning pet visit the sitter notices that a cat who usually runs to her food bowl to eat everything doesn't show any interest in eating. Is it just an "off day" or an "off moment" for the cat, or is the cat not feeling well? Coupled with that, the cat doesn't want to play and ignores the sitter, when usually the cat is interactive and lovey-dovey. The cat, however, does not reject being petted or held. At the end of the pet visit, the sitter remains worried although there are no definitive signs that the cat is seriously ill, something might be starting. The sitter isn't scheduled to return until suppertime. She decides to do an Extra-concern visit about 2 hours later to check on the cat.
2. Another example: A sitter is doing her first visit in a house with five cats and it is a suppertime visit. It has been a hot day and there is no airconditioning or fans in the home and the owner, due to an alarm system, wants the windows closed between pet visits. When the sitter walks in, she notices that the home is incredibly warm - perhaps too warm for the health of the pets if they have to deal with the temperature for more than a day or so. During the visit, the sitter opens the windows to let in some fresh air and puts out a few extra bowls of water. Just before she leaves and closes the windows and sets the alarm, she makes sure the house is an okay temperature and the cats are fine for the overnight. The weather forecast is for another scorcher or two and even with putting out extra water bowls and opening windows while at the house, the sitter is concerned that the in-between times, from 6:30 AM when she leaves the client's house to about 6:30 PM when she returns for the evening pet visit, will be too much for the cats. She decides to do an Extra-concern in the middle of the day and even feels that a call to the client is in order.
3. A final example: A sitter walks into a home for her first visit with a new dog client. The dog loved the sitter at the Meet and Greet, but now that the owner is gone, the dog is acting fearful of the sitter and refuses to go out for his afternoon walk and piddle. The dog is barking and cowering, not letting the sitter get too close no matter what she does. The sitter is trying all her tricks of the trade, but nothing seems to work. The owner left at noon. It is now 4 pm and the sitter isn't scheduled for another visit until just before bedtime at 9 pm. Another five hours without a walk and piddle break isn't good, so she decides an Extra-concern visit at 6 PM is needed.
When a pet sitter encounters any of the above situations, she must decide what is the best course of action. Her next scheduled pet sitting visit is for several hours later. Each of these scenarios doesn't necessarily mean there is an immediate emergency situation, but clearly there is a concern. Each situation could turn into an emergency by the next scheduled visit if there is a real problem developing. The pet sitter believes another visit in between scheduled visits is warranted, but the client did not book an in-between visit with the sitter.
These were a few dilemmas I encountered in my pet sitting business. What I ended up doing was creating something I called an "Extra-concern visit". This was usually a quick pop-in visit that I'd do between scheduled visits if I was truly worried about a pet. I would do a check of the pet's health and deal with anything that needed to be dealt with before leaving, and I'd do this for free. No extra charge to the client. To me, this was good service and if I truly cared about each pet like I said I did - as if they were my own - then I was going to go the extra mile for that pet.
I would describe what an Extra-concern visit was during the Meet and Greet and let the client know that if I did pop in at an unscheduled time due to a need with the home or a pet, I'd leave a quick note in my log why I was there, and I'd tell them it was for the good of the pet/home and also for my peace of mind that I was possibly preventing a problem, and that I'd contact them (if they wanted contact) if more action was required.
I would also tell the client that if this extra-concern visit did result in a problem - such as a trip to the vet (after contacting the owner), ora call to a service person regarding the house, and if a vet visit resulted in the vet prescribing medication or care that required me to come in addition to the pre-scheduled visits, then I would need to charge for a regular pet visit. Everybody was fine with that.
In all my many years of pet sitting, I've only needed to do maybe 10 extra-concern visits, but they were worth it. They were worth it for the well-being of the pets in my care, for the peace of mind of the client, for my own peace of mind, and in most instances, did prevent a problem.
As far as the above true scenarios are concerned, this is how they were handled within the framework of an Extra-concern visit:
Regarding the cat who seemed under the weather in example one - the cat ended up having an infection that required medication and the vet was very glad I didn't wait until later in the day or the next morning to deal with it. Meds were given at the remaining morning and evening visits so no additional visits had to be scheduled. Of course, the owner was notified prior to taking the cat to the vet.
Regarding the hot weather and hot house situation - I ended up having to contact the owner because the weather was going to continue being hot, so each day she added a mid-day visit (after the free initial extra-concern visit) at the regular pet sitting rate. During that visit, and each visit thereafter, the windows were opened to cool down the house, I brought a couple of fans from my own home to provide cooling all day, and the owner let me open the basement door so that cats could go down to a cooler atmosphere if they wanted, and I kept putting out extra water bowls. I believe that week it got up to 101 degrees each day with humidity on top of it. The owner was very appreciative. If the owner had refused to add extra mid-day visits at the regular rate, I still would have done subsequent extra-concern visits for free because I couldn't bear it if the cats got sick under my watch.
Regarding the situation of the dog being afraid of going out for a piddle with me - I ended up returning two hours later and instead of just a quick stop, I had to spend more time with the dog until he was comfortable enough to let me take him outside. After that initial bump in the road, the visits went well and we were fast friends. In this situation, because I was there longer than a quick stop, the owner decided to pay me my regular visit fee, although I did not ask for that. She was grateful that I took the time and attention for her dog.
So, in short, Extra-concern visits (which were named that only because I couldn't think of a better term), are worth it. They are worth doing for free for the welfare of all involved. Like I said, over my many years of pet sitting I did maybe 10 Extra-concern visits, but they were worth the time and energy. Some of the other Extra-concern visits revolved around checking on pets and clients' homes after a severe storm ripped through the are, a check that the heating system was working, checking on a few pets with severe anxiety issues, and checking on a few parrots that exhibited concerning behaviors at the morning visit.
I would encourage other pet sitters to add these types of visits to their services if they don't already do so. Sometimes a brief ten minute stop is all that is needed to make sure things are fine, and sometimes they turn into something more, but it is all par for the course when it comes to pet care and being a professional pet sitter.