New Client FAQ

 

Do I need to meet with you before service?

Yes, an initial consultation is required before your first service can be provided.  This consultation usually runs between 1-2 hours, and will give us time to go through all the required paperwork as well as tour your home and schedule your service.    This first consultation is free.  Consultations for services later on are available but are not required.  Subsequent consultations & key pickups/drop offs will be charged at our regular visit rates.

Please be sure to call far enough in advance to schedule your consultation.  Happy At Home does book up periodically, and will not always have time to schedule in last minute consultations or service.  Also, although we have an excellent track record of obtaining and retaining clients, you'll want to meet with us be sure we are a "good fit" for your home in plenty of time before service starts.

Are your rates per pet?

No, all rates are by time only and almost all tasks are included.  However, you will be required to provide enough time for us to complete all tasks requested as well as unexpected tasks like accident clean-up, general clean-up, necessary contact, etc.   We will strive to get everything done in the time you request for your first service (with our approval), but any extra time needed will be changed to you and must be paid within 14 days of bill receipt (or additional late fees will be applied).

As of 3 years of being in business, we have only had to charge for added on visit time less than 5 times and always for 15 minutes or less.  Experience has given us a good ability to estimate in advance, barring significant unexpected catastrophes!

Do you provide overnights or stay in the home?

We do offer overnights and hourly/daily care, and actually most new clients initially ask for this service.  However, overnights cost more.  As a result, every client that asked for an overnight decided to try 2-4 visits during the daytime instead and found that it worked out great for their home.  Most dogs and cats actually prefer not having a non-family member staying overnight or during the daytime in their home while they sleep.  And after 20-45 minutes with a pet sitter, they are done playing and getting attention, and are ready to go back to a nap until the next visit.

We also find that many pets that are "accident prone" actually have fewer accidents once they realize that their pet sitter is coming on a schedule.  It takes about 2 days for some dogs to get into a "routine".  In the meantime, we are happy to cleanup accidents, put out newspaper or plastic, or do more frequent visits.

How many times do you visit, and what time?

Our regular hours are from 8:00am - 10:00pm.  You will be scheduling 2 hour time slots within this time for your visits.  Most people choose 30 minute visits, about every 4-8 hours.  If you would like to schedule time starting  before 8:00am or after 10:00pm, an additional fee of $3 extra per visit will be added to the invoice.

Please schedule us to come frequently enough that we will not be cleanup up unnecessary accidents.  If you do not, accidents may be changed extra.  We understand that some pets will have accidents despite frequent scheduling - the extra fee does not apply to these pets.

Why is pet sitting so expensive?

Many people are new to the pet sitting experience, and when they think of a pet sitter they may automatically compare us to baby-sitters or teenage house sitters.  There is an enormous difference between professional pet sitters, and having friends, family, or teenagers watch your home.  In fact, more than 3/4 of our clients have minor to major horror stories of previous non-professional pet sitting experiences.   Keep reading to find out more.

We pride ourselves in offering some of the lowest pet sitting rates in the Southeast Wisconsin area.  Being founder and an active participant of the Professional Pet Sitter Association of Wisconsin, we have the ability to actively monitor competitors rates in order to make sure our rates stay reasonable.  Plus, you will receive all the benefits of knowing a professional is caring for your home.

What can I expect from a NON-professional sitter?  (Or "Should I just get a friend to watch them?")

  • In reported experiences, it's normal for young sitters to come for approximately 3 days at most.  At that point they get bored with the pet and just don't "feel like" coming any more -and they don't tell anyone, they just try to cover up the fact.  So the pet goes uncared-possibly for days.

  • In reported experiences, it's normal for all adult friends & family to schedule consistent visits to your home, but then to find out they are "unable to make it" at the last minute.  Or, they cannot make their scheduled times, so they will only come as they think they can (maybe just in the morning today).  More visits get missed the longer the vacation period lasts.

  • Most non-professionals will be initially excited about the opportunity to sit for your home.  And usually they will have a genuine love for your pet.  However, they are probably not used to the "quirks" that your pet may have (that you or your professional pet sitter probably doesn't even notice!) and often the initial enthusiasm will turn to frustration that the pet will not "behave" they way they expected.  Once the enthusiasm has diminished, the pet may receive less affection.

  • The cat will probably get out.   Usually because the door is opened to take the trash out, or to quick get something outside.  Especially if there are dogs that need to be taken outside.  Even beginning professional pet sitters need the experience of a couple of unbelievably crafty cats escaping before they truly have that ever vigilant eye and special walk through the door and shut it tight technique that prevents all possible escapes.

  • One task will get missed.  Especially if you leave a to-do list (somehow people think they need to think LESS if they have a list).   Most tasks will be completed diligently, but the one task will be consistently forgotten.  Often it's cleaning the litter boxes.  The second most common is filling water.  Watering plants, getting mail, and locking doors are also easy to forget.

  • Non-professional help is there to help you out.  So they will do the minimum possible to complete their duties.  Accidents & hairballs may be missed, and the house may not be quite as tidy as when you left.

  • Lastly, non-professional help may not be versed in what to do in case of emergencies or medical situations.

What can I expect from a professional sitter?

  • Scheduled care.  NO SHORTCUTS.   We are there when we are scheduled to be there.  In the rare emergency case that we have problems making it to your home in the 2 hour or 1 day span you select, we will use a backup plan to care for your pets.  Part of the backup plan may be to split a visit into 2 evenly spaced visits, to have an emergency backup sitter cover the sit, or to call you or your emergency contact to reschedule.  If  your pet is inconvenienced in any way we refund your money or give you a partial credit.  And of course we clean up all accidents for free, and spend extra time with any pet that has been distressed.

  • You are welcome to call at any time to add tasks, check up on your pet, and to verify upcoming service dates and times.  We carry a cell phone, and return most calls the same day (usually between 7-8 pm).

  • We use detailed notes to properly and consistently care for your home.   It is important that you fill out all paperwork in a detailed manner, because we attempt to follow your written notes carefully at every visit.

  • We leave a detailed log of how things went and any problems we came across.   We may also leave answers to your questions, and ideas or tips for better caring for your pet (things you may not have thought of - NOT judgments - we know you know your pet best!).

  • Little extras to make your home comfortable to come home to.   Like sweeping up after an excessively shedding cat.  Cleaning up litter tracks.  Brushings outside.  Toenail clippings, ear cleanings, hairball checks, mail sorting, garbage taking-out, temperature monitoring.  All these and more are included in service.

  • We are insured, including optional coverage for "mysterious disappearance or breakage".   We also are extra careful to secure your home, to not overexcite your pet inside (in a way that it causes damage to your home or itself).   We don't bring along company or visitors, except other professional, insured sitters.

  • We are Red Cross First Aid & CPR certified, Red Cross First Aid & CPR Trainer certified, and Equine Management certified.  Our vehicles contain a first aid kit, area vet numbers, and 4 pet first aid & health manuals.  We are experienced with many different types of animals, large and small.

  • Our pet sitters will never hit, kick, or abuse your pet. If we feel your pet is a "danger" and may attack us (so far this hasn't happened ever), we'll carry our pepper spray just in case - but we will not use jumping up or aggressiveness or anything else as an excuse to abuse any animal.   We do use generally accepted training techniques to dissuade pulling on leashes, jumping up, biting, and other unwanted behavior.   We are happy to follow any alternate techniques & training items you provide, as long as they don't harm the pet.

  • No worries.  You deserve a worry-free time away!

  • Our enthusiasm is contagious.  We love this job.  Even on our "worst" days, we work hard to be enthusiastic and comforting to your pet.  And usually they return the favor.

Can I trust having a stranger in my home?

No!  At Happy At Home Pet Sitters, we strive to be honest, reliable, trustworthy, and careful.  But we know that having a stranger come into your home for the first time is nerve-racking, as it should be!   To put your mind at ease, we welcome you to ask us lots of questions at the initial consultation.  Also, we do not hire regular employees at this time.  All independent contractors that we infrequently contract with are thoroughly introduced to your information, are insured, have a great reputation, are a member of PPAW, and are personally known by the owner of Happy At Home.  We trust them to come into our home for our own pet care needs.

We welcome you to call any of our previous clients as references, and will provide a list upon request.  Feel free to ask other sitters or area vets about us!   We would like to build a trusting relationship with you.  Most clients do feel completely at ease after the first or second service, and recommend us to others with enthusiasm.

We also recommend that you do not allow other services or people into your home during vacations.  Pets often sneak off to areas they should not be when others enter the house.  All visitors should leave a note of their visit, and where the pets were last seen.  All visitors should schedule visits in advance, or leave a note on the front door or mailbox when they arrive.  We will call the police if we see unexpected visitors.

Will you care for Snakes?  Horses?  Goats?

Yes!  We have experience with many animals, personal and professional.  And we take fastidious notes on all your pets, so even unusual pets that we have not previously cared for will get the best care possible.  Bugs are ok also, however spiders may take some persuasion...

Do you care for any animals that tried to bite you?

Happy At Home Pet Sitters will often take on pets that that other sitters have rejected.  We will not put ourselves in a dangerous situation, where we might get mauled, attacked, or harmed.  But we have lots of experience with more aggressive pets, and we know how to best work with nippy dogs, terrified cats, defensive dogs, and protective pups.  We are also very patient, and find it often just takes some time and space to get desired behaviors.

We currently have clients with biting dogs, and a few attack-cats.  We have not been bit by an aggressive cat, bird, horse, or dog that wasn't too elderly & senile to feel the nip.

Do I have to pay now?

Deposit in full is due prior to service.  For your first service, you will pay at the initial consultation.  The refund schedule is listed on the FORMS page and on the LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS document.

What will you do with our pets?

Walk, play, ignore, pet, brush, clip nails, turn out, clean up - whatever you specify.  We will not take a pet out unleashed unless/until we feel comfortable that the pet will not wander/run out of the designated area.  A leash and collar must be provided for every dog.

What will you do with my keys?

Keys are normally picked up during the initial consultation.  We prefer to receive 2 fully tested keys, one of which we like to write a code on with permanent ink.  If only one key is provided, we will make a copy if we have the time.  The second key is kept in a safe location in case a key is broken or fails to work.

After your sit your keys will be stored in our safe until your next reservation.  Key storage is free.  If you would like your key returned at the end of your first service, please leave a note with the date and time of the last sit and a reminder to leave the key and how to exit (can the door be locked with the key in the house?) in plain sight.  Any future key pickups will be charged at key pickup/dropoff rate plus any travel fees.

Keys can also be dropped off to you after your service period.  You will need to call and schedule a time to do this transfer, and it will be charged at key pickup/dropoff rate plus any travel fees.  If you would like to pick up your key, this can be scheduled also with an extra charge.  Your key can also be mailed for a fee in a padded envelop, wrapped in cardboard.

How did you get into this business?  Did you think of this idea all by yourself?

Happy At Home Pet Sitters was started by Dan & Kelley Young after Kelley left her job computer programming because of chronic repetitive stress injuries from sitting and using the computer.  We have always loved pets, and when we decided to start a new business this seemed to be the perfect fit.  The hours, tasks, and variety seemed to fit perfectly with our lifestyles.  And it gave us more time with our own pets, which is just perfect.

The pet sitting idea came from searching for small business & kennel information.  Pet Sitting is a popular business, and there is much information about it out on the internet.  We investigated thoroughly before diving in, and remain a member of various message boards, information groups, and professional organizations.  We also worked toward 4 certifications in the field, and continuously educate ourselves on various pet care topics.   We also founded,  financed, host, and webmaster the Professional Pet Sitters Association of Wisconsin group in order to meet and learn from area sitters.

Are you hiring?  How do I start my own business & get forms? Click HERE for link to startup kit

We have decided to keep Happy At Home Pet Sitters as a husband and wife team only, so we are not hiring at this time.  But we are happy to encourage interested people to consider starting their own pet sitting business.

After years of helping many people get started by answering repeat questions on message boards and giving information to area sitters we decided to gather all of our information up into a Pet Sitting Kit.  Because most pet sitters start up on a very small budget, and because we truly want to give each pet sitter access to the tools that will help them run a high quality business, we have priced this kit at under $30.  We also think it is important to view items before purchasing, so we have linked samples to the most important forms from the page listed above.

Pet sitting is a great profession.  The hours are long, and sporadic.  The income is low, and the work can be hard.  But the job itself is very rewarding.  If you would like more information on becoming a pet sitter, I recommend joining the AboutPetSitting board on Yahoo.  Also join www.petwi.com or your local state network, and purchase some pet sitting books from Ebay and Amazon.com.  Most pet sitters go out of business the first year - and thorough preparation & proper investing is the key to starting a successful new career.