Your pet is one of the family. That being said, sometimes when you take a trip, you need to leave said member of family at home, for whatever the practical reasons may be. This is a reality that most of us don’t like facing, but hiring a pet sitter can really take away the stress of leaving a beloved pet behind, even if it is just for a few days. Aside from choosing the right person to do the job, leaving a set of written instructions is also vital if you are to have a successful pet sitting experience. So what exactly do you need to pull together an effective set of guidelines to looking after your pet?
Don’t just brain dump
If you want someone to effectively and efficiently follow your instructions, then you definitely should not dump an incoherent stream of consciousness onto a page. Long-winded yet indecipherable notes achieve nothing other than confusing the person who is meant to be following them. Worse, it may actually render your notes useless, or in a worst-case scenario, unread. After all, who wants to actually take the time and effort to go through something that is difficult, time-consuming, and ultimately, incorrectly decided as unnecessary, to read?
So what should you do? Structure your notes in a logical way, using clear headings and bullet points. Underline or highlight anything of vital importance, and summarize the main points accordingly. Make your notes detailed, but also easily accessible, meaning that if a sitter is looking for a singular piece of information, it is easy to locate and identify.
Dietary requirements are key
When it comes to diet, you cannot be too detailed.
This is not just about what your pet eats, but how often, at what times specifically, and what should they definitely not eat. If a little bit of flexibility is allowed, then set the parameters. In fact, really you should have fully stocked up on what your pet will require, and measurements should be noted too, so really what is left is a schedule of feeding times, and a list of items that absolutely shouldn’t be eaten.
Make it clear where important physical items can be found
The problem with putting down into words anything that is familiar is that it is often difficult to articulate what you know so well to another person. And so it is when detailing where things can be found. If at all possible, include everything in a pack that is presented to the sitter on arrival, but if it cannot be done this way, use clear, simple language, and utilize maps and diagrams. A simple diagram of the house (and we are not talking about using computer software here) can be really helpful to someone who is unfamiliar with their surroundings, and definitely avoid long, wordy directions for something that is, ultimately, pointless. Visual aids will complement a long, wordy text, which really should be avoided.
Include all relevant emergency details clearly
The last thing you want to think about is the possibility of something going wrong, but you must. Have a very clear set of instructions of what to do in the case of emergency. This can be a medical emergency, in which case you must provide vet and insurance details clearly, or in the case where your pet goes AWOL for any reason. If the latter instance occurs, what are the steps that the sitter should follow? Who should be contacted? How can you be contacted? And avoid, at all costs, any language that may infer a sense of guilt or ineptitude on the sitter. Things happen, so plan for it, and make it clear the steps that should be followed in a calm and structured manner.
Include normal habits and idiosyncrasies
This is your pet: someone that you know and love oh so well. To another person, however, your pet will be somewhat of a mystery. For that reason, try to include (succinctly) all major details of what would be called your pet’s normal behavior, and include any idiosyncrasies which may act to confuse or even alarm the sitter. As much information as you can provide on what would be a normal routine and reaction to different events would be of major use to someone who is not familiar with the day-to-day workings of your pet.
The golden rule is to never assume anything. All pets are different, and even if the sitter is familiar with your breed of dog, say, it still does not follow that your dog’s habits and behavior traits are the same as to what the sitter is familiar. Instruct what normal behavior is, and this will lead to peace of mind for all concerned.
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