There are only so many times you can ask family, friends and neighbors to pop in and feed your kitty or pooch, especially if you have more than one pet. Even if you thank them with tickets to the movies or a large batch of homemade cupcakes (we’ve already tried this last one). In some instances it may make better sense to board your pet, especially if they’re happy going off to a kennel or cattery and love spending time with other dogs or cats. But if they don’t seem to enjoy it – if you’ve tried it and they’ve lost weight during your absence, for instance – hiring a pet sitter is a good alternative. We suggest you start your search for a qualified professional by asking other pet parents for recommendations. You can also go to the National Association of Pet Sitters’ website, which has a member directory you can use to locate pet sitters in your area. Next, you’ll want to meet with one or more pet sitters to discuss their experience and get several references. What you’re really looking for though is someone you feel you can trust with your beloved pet. Does this person seem like a real animal lover? Do they have pets of their own? Is your pet happy around them? Do they engage with your pet while you’re talking? Make sure you’re both in sync on pet sitting duties. Will they pet and play with your kitty or pooch? Take your dog for a walk? Clean the litter box? Give your pet her medication? Provide you with a daily update, either via email, text or a phone call? Will they take your pet to your vet in a medical emergency? When you’ve selected a pet sitter both you and your pet love (or at least like a lot), we recommend putting their duties in writing, together with the agreed fee. (Judge Judy always said to get it in writing. Figured it wasn’t such a bad idea here, either) And before you leave on your trip, go over your pet’s schedule and show your sitter where everything is. By everything, we don’t just mean the wet and dry food and bowls and any medication. We also mean your pet’s collar and leash, favorite toys, sleeping areas, and everything else that your pet needs to get through the day and night and stay happy. And don’t forget to have a pet cleaner handy, such as one of the stain and odor removers from Simple Solution (there’s a variety to choose from) just in case your pet has an “accident” while you’re away. Cleaning up any messes should be on the list of pet sitter duties too.