In part one of our “Pet Sitting Meet-and-Greet” article you met the family and kept an eye out for anything unusual about the house or its surroundings. Now it’s time to have a closer look at the animals, your schedule, and if there are any hidden surprises…”Oh yes, did we mention we also have llama?”

The Animals at the Pet Sitting Meet-and-Greet

Dogs in particular will be over-excited for the most part during your visit. Some are timid, some will bark when you arrive and relax once the family member allows you in. But DO pay attention to how the animal reacts to your presence when no one is looking. Do you feel unsafe around him? Your intuition might be picking up on an underlying problem. And don’t underestimate the small dog! Quite often they’re the ones more likely to bite. (See “You’ve Arrived…at Your First Dog Sit,” and “First Pet Sits with a Nervous Dog.”)

Cats usually tell you how they feel straight away. You put your hand down for them to sniff…and if they bat it away or give you a warning bite in front of the client…make a note to yourself to protect your fingers during the pet sit! (See “Cat Sitting Visits” and “You’ve Arrived! What’s Next Pet Sitter…Cats”)

Springing the Extra Pets on You

During the initial phone call, you might have quoted a price based on the one or two dogs they told you about. Sometimes, though, you’ll arrive at the meet-and-greet to find an additional two cats, an aquarium, and a hamster to be looked after during the family’s week-long vacation.

How many more animals are you willing to take on for free? This is your call entirely. We generally accept up to two cats for the same price as the dog. If the client is looking for lots of litter maintenance or other tasks, you should be ready to bump up the price a little. Explain you work on a time basis and that you can look after the additional animals but either the dog walk will be equally reduced in length or you can suggest a small surcharge for the extra 15 minutes.

On the Farm

Once in a while at the meet-and-greet – especially if you live in a rural area, you will be asked to “keep an eye on” unusual pets or hobby-farm animals if the clients go away for a night or two. These could include chickens, pigs, goats, horses or any number of other animals. For most pet insurance companies, these non-domestic animals are not included in your pet sitting coverage and additionally, unless you have experience with farm animals, you are not physically or educationally prepared to look after them no matter how willing you are.

I tend to decline these jobs entirely. Some clients will at this point try to make do and give the outdoor animals more food to get them through the night – but this doesn’t help you if one is hurt or a fight breaks out or a coyote gets into the yard. Unless the client can give you the phone number of the person they take-on to watch over these animals – you will feel on edge worrying anyway. Walk away from these assignments if ALL the animals on the property are not being cared for.

Your Schedule

During the meeting you’ll also discuss the length of time you’ll be at the client’s home each visit and the time ranges you work under. For example, if they ask for a 7:30 breakfast and noon lunch visit, you would explain you’ll get there as close to that time as possible, but you have a window of time you work within for the four busy rush times. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner, bed). Most people aren’t trying to be selfish, they just forget you’ve got other pre-booked dogs on your schedule with similar time requirements.

We do our best to get to puppies and older dogs for the times they need us – and we also get an idea of the client’s departure and arrival times when scheduling the visit. But to be fair to you too…you have to keep your driving time and distances in mind also.

The pet sitting meet-and-greet visit itself should also be scheduled with the animal in mind. Make it close enough to the pet sitting dates that the pup or cat will remember you well, but not so close that if something comes up you’ll be in danger of not getting it done before the family has to leave. Within two weeks is usually good.

Wrapping-up the Pet Sitting Meet-and-Greet

At the end of the meeting, if all goes well, you can discuss the exchange of keys and set up the first pet sit. If the clients are not ready yet or are undecided – they’ll tell you they haven’t got a key at the moment or they don’t have a date set to go away but they’ll keep you in mind. (Don’t worry…sometimes they don’t have a key because it never crossed their mind that you’d need one right away!)

On the other hand, if you or the sitter you’ve assigned feels uncomfortable, but you can’t quite tell the client to their face that their house or animal gives you the heebie-jeebies…tell them you’ll come back for the key closer to the date and decline with a phone call the next day. Look for an excuse that doesn’t leave the door open to another call in the future! You can cite the distance being too far, the animals “surprisingly” causing an allergy (which can be true even if you normally aren’t allergic to cats, dogs, or birds), or staff having declined for personal reasons.

The people and animals you meet at the meet-and-greets can often be the start of relationships that span many years. So you want to get started on the right foot and feel good about your safety and comfort as well as the conditions for the animals. The pet sitting meet-and-greet is one of the only times you’ll see the clients in person – making this meeting an important part of your business. Enjoy them…families with animals, especially those who think of a sitter before a boarding kennel, are almost always warm and lovely people.

Until next time,

Have fun out there!