Animal companions are an excellent addition to any home. After all, a loving nudge from a pet dog or cat (or bird or rat!) can boost a dismal mood, and adding an animal to a household can prove beneficial to humans of any age.
Cathleen Connell, a University of Michigan professor, detailed how pets can benefit seniors’ lives in a recent podcast:
“Many people benefit from being able to care for others,” Connell said. “And there are always plenty of pets that need a good home. There’s this wonderful set of opportunities and synergy between pets and older people.”
However, we know senior pet ownership does come with some concerns. As an adult child or friend, your main worry may be: What if mom or dad loses some of their mobility? How can my aunt continue to care for their pet if I’m unable to help?
A simple solution to this potential problem is to hire a part-time in-home pet caregiver.
Who are pet caregivers, and what do they do?
Pet caregivers provide a range of services to pets where they live, and care can occur when the owner is at home or away. Pet care can be supplemental (the pet caregiver walks Henry, the chihuahua, mid-day three days a week) or consistent (the pet caregiver comes Monday through Friday at 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to feed and play with Cordelia, the cat).
Where you can find pet caregivers
1. Ask your vet
The animal’s veterinarian is the first stop for all questions you may have about a pet’s health and well-being, and the vet will likely have a list of local pet care services they trust and recommend.
2. Go online
If the vet doesn’t have recommendations, take your search online. An online search (you can find multiple results by typing “Pet Caregiving + [your city]” in a search engine) will typically yield many results. Other online sources to consider are:
Pet caregiver credentials
You may think anyone who has owned a pet could easily take care of an animal. However, just because a person has general pet handling experience does not mean they know how to care for animals they’ve never met safely.
Care.com recommends some common credentials animal service providers should have, including:
- Pet caregiver certification through an organization (the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, Pet Sitters International, etc.)
- General liability insurance
“When looking for a pet caregiver, you would ideally find someone who has plenty of experience in the industry and lots of good reviews from loyal customers,” said Dr. Linda Simon, veterinary surgeon and veterinary consultant for FiveBarks. “Look for someone who gets repeat business and has a dedicated fan base. Of course, you also want to work with someone who is naturally compassionate and caring towards your pet. It can be a good idea to have the person come round to your home or garden or to go on a walk with you on the first day.”
And Carrie Nydick Finch, deputy director of programs and strategy at Paws NY, also noted that experience with pet CPR, giving medications, and Fear Free training are important credentials to consider.
There’s no shame in getting extra help
Dr. Simon stressed that finding someone to help provide extra care and stimulation for pet dogs and cats is beneficial for the entire household.
“Our pets need constant mental and physical stimulation, and sometimes we can’t be the ones to provide this,” she said. “Rather than feeling guilty for our pet or risking them becoming bored and destructive, look into having someone come spend time with them.”
Remember that caregivers can not only provide extra play time for your pets but also take them on walks, provide training or even just give them a little extra attention.
“You’ll be amazed at the difference pet caregivers can make … taking the pressure off you and allowing you to focus on other aspects of your life,” Simon said. “Not only will you benefit, your pet will, too.”