I can't speak for all cat-sitters but with my cat-sitting service, it all starts with an in-home interview. The interview gives a prospective client an opportunity to assess the cat-sitter while the cat-sitter has the opportunity to describe the extent and cost of the service.
Personally, I do not charge for this visit in our town. Outside of our town limits there is a small charge to cover the gas.
The interview should last between 20 and 30 minutes in the cat owners' home. ( I do not take cats to care for into my own home. My service is to care for cats in their own home, not mine. The reason I do this is because I truly do believe that cats are happiest left at home in their own environment while their owners travel. ) I always want to meet the cat/cats during this time so they are a little familiar with me when I return to care for them. It is nice for the owner to see whether or not the cat will be accepting of the sitter. Nine times out of ten, the cat is very curious and welcoming and that sets the mood. If the cat is stand-offish, the owner can then inform the sitter of ways to bring the cat around whether it be with treats or toys or just letting it be to decide on it's own when to approach. Once the initial introduction is done, it is then time to move on to discussing the care of the cat. References from existing clients is always important to have for the owner. Being 'insured and bonded' will also show your professionalism. I always bring with me a contract or introductory form which provides the client with a written description of my services, charges and includes a section asking the owner to fill in in case of an emergency with their cat. This part of the form should also be signed by the owner. During the first interview, this form is filled in and it is then that I am able to find out about any medical problems, feeding instructions and other details.
During the first interview, I find that many behavioral problems with the cat may come to the surface. This is the time to discuss this and possibly offer some advise through my experience with cats over the years.
At the end of the interview, the house-key should be given to the cat-sitter and all instructions for the house should be gone over. This can include lights, opening and closing of curtains, mail brought in and whether there is to be a radio left on for the cat. I always think that is a good idea so the house is not completely quiet when the cat is on it's own.
If you are about to hire a cat-sitter, be sure that they are willing to work 7 days a week. A good pet-sitter should feel that she/he is on duty 24/7 while you travel. They also need to be flexible if you are delayed from your trip. The cats in my care are no different than my own and I have the same time and concern for their well-being.
If you are looking for a cat-sitter in your area, please go to your local vet clinics & pet stores to find out if any of their clients or customers are registered with them as a professional cat-sitter. I have my business cards in all the clinics and our local pet store. The staff at the store know me well and recommend me highly. My vet also sends clients my way.
There may also be a Pet Sitters International in your area. These are professional pet-sitters that are licensed and bonded. Check your local phone book or their website.
I hope this information will help you to find that reliable & loving cat-sitter you require. And if anyone is thinking of becoming a cat-sitter but is not 100% sure, offer to care for friends and family members cats first and see if it is something you really love and can commit yourself to 24/7. Once you know for sure then start up your business. I guarantee you will love it and never look back. I have never thought of this as work because ...
I love what I do.