Finding Qualified Guinea Pig Sitters
Finding pet care for your dog or cat is as easy as turning on a light. However, for guinea pig owners (or exotic pets in general) unless it’s family or close friends, a week-long [cruise] vacation can seem impossible. This was my experience:
When I made the reservations for our family vacation this year, I began interviewing pet sitters as I have 6 guinea pigs and 2 elderly dogs that required in-home care while I was away. I allowed 6 months to find the right person to stay in my home while caring for my pets.
After interviewing 3 companies, I made my choice, checked references, verified insurance and bond information; I felt confident in my choice. Upon hiring her, I provided the owner of the company with basic information on guinea pig care as she had told me that she wasn’t entirely familiar with them. Three weeks before my departure date, I contacted my pet/house sitter to set a ‘walk through’ date.
I did everything a responsible pet owner would do: Provided a detailed feeding schedule, contacts to call if she wasn’t sure about piggy behavior, set up meals with labels. Each pair’s cage had a photo of each pig and a little bit about their personality.
I wish that I could tell you that I had a relaxing enjoyable vacation; I cannot as it was worse than being caught in the hurricane in Jamaica (and I had no guinea pigs then). What I can share with you are the mistakes that I made so that you don’t make them yourself.
First – do not hire someone even if they tell you that they are willing to learn about guinea pig care. If they aren’t familiar with guinea pigs, then this person is not the right one.
Second – begin your interview process with your exotics vet as he or she usually has contacts for pet care that you can interview.
Third – give a family member or trusted friend the authority to step in to relieve the pet sitter of their duties should they be aware that the care is not what you contracted.
If you’ve signed the contract and during the ‘walk through’ feel that this is not the right person, fire them immediately. I realize this will not be a popular decision with the rest of your family; it is what I should have done and I regret not following my instincts.
In the end my pets were properly cared for because my oldest daughter came to check on things while I was away and she knows about piggy care. Once she realized that the person who was hired had no clue, she came every day until I returned. I had not given her the authority to fire the pet/house sitter.
Since this disastrous trip, I have found pet care provided by people who actually own guinea pigs and am beginning to develop a list of contacts so that when the next vacation is scheduled, I will be better prepared.
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