Cutting Pet Care Visits to Cut Costs

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travel budget with petsIn today’s economy we are all trying to pinch our pennies and cut on costs where possible. Being able to go on a vacation or trip is now a luxury to be able to afford. Not only do you have the cost of transport, but food, lodging, and oh yeah pet care! It’s not unusual for pet owners to forget to factor their pets into their trip planning budget. Sadly though that part of the budget often get cut short.

Some pet owners decide to opt for the minimal amount of visits possible be made by a pet care provider to save money. Arranging for what their pet can just get by on while they are away. But by trying to save money they are increasing the risk factor of something happening to their pet. Even if they hire the best pet sitter in the world it does not decrease the likelihood of an incident happening.

Speaking as a pet sitter, the #1 WORST nightmare for us is something happening to a beloved pet while in our care! Weather it be a pet getting sick, hurt, needing to go to the vet or passing away. #2 Finding a pet has made a big mess or caused damage to something. Making most of the visit spent cleaning up or fixing something rather than paying attention to the pet. We do this because we LOVE animals, & LOVE caring for them. It is heartbreaking and disheartening for us when something unexpected goes wrong with a pet in our care. We are responsible for making sure they are well cared for, happy & healthy while their owner is away. Its a HUGE weight on our shoulders that gets even heavier when something goes wrong.

As the saying goes “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” meaning, it is better to try prevent or stop something bad from happening than it is to have to deal with it after it has already happened. As a responsible pet owner you are already taking the action of hiring a pet care provider instead of leaving them home alone to fend for themselves. Because if you didn’t hire a pet care provider your pet would starve, run out of water, eliminate everywhere, and possible cause destruction to the home. But now you have to take it to the next level of when you are home how often do you provide the necessary care for your pet? Why would your pet get or deserve anything less while you are away?

Lets look at examples of different types of pets, the level of care involved, whats acceptable, recommend, not acceptable & why.

Spilled dog food bowls Dogs – On average people hire pet sitter/dog walkers to let their dog out 3-4 times a day. Morning, lunch time, evening and/or late at bedtime. Even with this many visits dogs can get themselves into trouble. Dogs can get into garbage & eat things they are not supposed to. I’ve run across many a counter surfing dog looking for treats.

Some people hire pet care providers to let their dog out or walk them twice a day – morning & night. Twice a day is fine as long as the dog is not going more than 12 hours between visits. Dogs generally get fed once or twice a day, Water can be refilled, and attention & play time given. In a real life example of a pet owner who hired me to come twice a day for their dog. They figured he got fed and needed medication twice a day. He had a doggy door to a fenced in area so he could go out whenever he wanted. dog left aloneThis would seem like an ideal situation right? It did to me until I did a night visit about 5-6pm as requested, and returned the following morning at 8am. As I pulled up in the driveway that morning the dog greeted me at my car! He had jumped the fence to the enclosure. Everything turned out okay but 2 very bad scenarios could have happened in this situation. #1 He could have run off & not stuck around the house. #2 He could have froze to death because we had temperatures drop overnight into the single digits with high winds. ANYTHING can happen, so why take the risk? In this situation the dog had just jumped it recently , wasn’t cold & luckily hadn’t run off. But the rest of the weekend his owner & I were both a nervous wreck hoping he wouldn’t do it again. Thank goodness he didn’t after I lectured him! 😉

Some dog owners want a visit once a day. This for whatever the reason may be is NOT acceptable! Once a day visits to me isn’t even conceivable for a dog! #1 Look at the doggy door scenario that I just described that happened. But without a doggy door how would you like to have to hold it for 24 hours!? To allow or make a dog eliminate inside is just cruel & not to mention disgusting! That is unless it is litter box trained but I have yet to come across a dog that is yet in my career. What if they run out of food or water?

cats left aloneCats – I have 3 of them myself & the great thing about cats is how independent they are. They can be left alone for longer periods of time because they don’t have to go outside to eliminate. Prior to my cat Kizzy being diagnosed with kidney problems I thought nothing of leaving them alone for 2-3 days while I went away to pet sit. They had the IDEAL conditions – SELF CLEANING Litter boxes, Self Feeder & waterers. Ideally without medical or behavioral conditions, cats can be left alone with visits once every other day. This time frame doesn’t allow the litterboxes to become too dirty, and water & food can be replenished. You can monitor if food is being eaten & water drank, signs of illness etc. A cat not eating can go down hill very quickly! I once had a request for cat visits once a week. Being told they would leave out a 1 gallon bucket of dry cat food & a 5 gallon bucket of water for the cats to drink out of. I declined the job. How would you like to be left a bucket of food, a bucket of water and left to fend for yourself for a week? While your owner is away on a trip or vacation? ANYTHING can happen! I had a client who originally hired me watch their dogs & was told don’t worry about their cats. They would be fine with plenty of food & water. I had them show me where their stuff was “just in case”. After 2 days I decided to check in on the cats to find their food & water dishes to be empty! Good thing I did or they would have starved to death! I now regularly check on both the dog & cats in the house.

Birds, reptiles & small animals – Some people believe these are low maintenance pets that can be left for longer periods of time alone. This is not the case at all! They need a minimum of once a day visits. All of them eliminate in their enclosures, and can spread it outside of their enclosure. Some small animals like ferrets and rabbits can be trained to use a litter box, but they don’t always hit it, make it, or use it. Then they can step in it which isn’t sanitary.Birds are notorious for wasting in their own water. That’s not healthy or sanitary for them to be drinking out of. Reptiles, and some small animals like rabbits, and guinea pigs need fresh fruits & veggies daily. Some reptiles require a heat lamp, which causes their water to evaporate quicker. Small animals can easily finish & empty their water bottles on a daily basis. I’ve seen several instances where or home improvement companies come into the home to work while the owners are away. They move the pets cages out of the way into a drafty cold area or by an open window or door.

You just never know what can happen while you are away, Food bowls/water bowls can get knocked over, a pet can get injured, a pet can escape an enclosure. By expanding the time between pet care visits you are increasing the risk of something happening to your beloved pet. Then who’s liable? As a pet sitter this is heartbreaking for us when something happens to a pet. Why put that burden & blame on us? A good pet sitter may choose to decline a pet care assignment where visits are too infrequent and/or suggest more visits be made. I know I have declined jobs for this reason. I don’t want to be THOUGHT responsible should something happen to a pet in my care. I also don’t morally believe it is in the pets best interest.

Shannon loving on SallyIf you can’t afford to provide adequate regular pet care visits while you are away then you can’t afford to travel. The cost of good pet care is part of a travel budget. Either you stay home, save money to provide the proper care for your pet yourself, or you pay the cost of somebody doing the same in your absence. When you are traveling away from home, you want to be comfortable & enjoy yourself. Shouldn’t you pet? If you are staying in a 4-5 star hotel why should you pet get 1 star pet care?

ALL pets need love & attention! The more love & attention they get in my book the better! After all that’s why I’m in this business!

About the Author: Shannon's Pet-Sitting