Pet Sitter Education Month

Pet Sitter Education Month Tips & Best Practices from Cornell Feline Health Center

I saw this list from the Cornell Feline Health Center on my Facebook feed, and I DO ALL THESE THINGS!!!!!

1. New clients have a thorough registration meeting with me to go over all of their information. It generally lasts an hour. We go over the pet’s routine, where supplies and pet areas are, emergency contacts, and, if needed, the client demonstrates their preferred techniques for administering medication, food preparation, etc.

2. We go over the emergency medical plan, including veterinarian information. I also collect contact info for emergency contacts for the pets and the home. I encourage clients to leave cat carriers out, or to have them accessible to me (NOT in the basement storage locker).

3. I am bonded and insured with pet sitters insurance. This is business liability insurance.

4. Many common houseplants are toxic to cats. Tulips, lilies, poinsettias, etc. Sometimes, even the pollen of certain plants are toxic, even if the cat doesn’t chew on them. Sometimes a plant is so toxic that a cat will need to be rushed to the emergency veterinarian for immediate treatment if they eat it.

A good resource to consult is:

5. I maintain training in pet first aid & CPR. Generally, these certificates are valid for two years, but I prefer to refresh my training every year. I am also a Certified Professional Pet Sitter (CPPS) through two major professional pet sitters associations, Pet Sitters International and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, and I am a Fear Free Certified Professional (FFCP). I love contuing education and I enjoy attending educational webinars and conferences whenever possible.

6. I have a car and primarily drive to all my visits. This also means that I am able to quickly transport pets for urgent medical care.

7. As part of the registration process, I ask if cats are microchipped. Microchipping cats, even indoor-only cats, is a great way of helping them to return home if they ever get lost. Cat collars are mostly designed to easily break away, to prevent injury and entanglement, which makes microchipping a more reliable means of retrieving and identifying an owned cat that gets lost.

A common issue I see amongst cat owners is that they neglect to update their contact info with the microchip company after they relocate. Their phone numbers, address, and email address might change, which needs to be updated in their file. It’s usually free and easy to do so, and is extremely important.

I also ask if the cat is licensed. Montreal requires that cats be licensed, and the permit is renewed each year.

Info on cat permits:

New all-inclusive Guinea pig boarding packages

Exciting news!

Now Guinea pig boarders have the option of selecting an all-inclusive package for their stay. Enjoy the convenience of bringing just your Guinea pig(s) for boarding.

I have just ordered two brand new MidWest Guinea Pig Habitats, as well as accessories and several sets of high-quality GuineaDad fleece. Boarders can choose between fleece or paper bedding.

Small extra fee for young Guinea pig food and/or alfalfa hay.

Details available here.

pet first aid certificate

Pet First Aid & CPR renewed

pet first aid certificate

Pro Pet Hero: Online Cat and Dog First Aid Course

I am pleased to announce completing the Pro Pet Hero: Online Cat and Dog First Aid Certification. This certificate is valid for two years.

Having last completed pet first aid and CPR training in 2018 (twice – I wanted to make sure the information “stuck”), I had intended to renew my pet first aid training at the 2020 Pet Sitters World Educational Conference and Expo in St. Louis, MO, USA this year. That conference has since been canceled due to the pandemic, so I opted for an online course.

Kindly note that pet first aid is in no way a replacement for veterinary care. It’s more like pre-vet care, which will help you to identify common issues and transport the pet safely to the veterinarian where they can receive payment.

Clients often tell me that they would rather we “wait and see” instead of allowing me to act immediately by taking ill or injured pets to the veterinarian while the owner is away. This is simply not a realistic plan of action. It’s often difficult to get in touch with clients immediately, many of whom are traveling in different time zones and spending their days wrapped up in meetings and fun vacation activities, meaning that a pet might be left to suffer all day without treatment simply because I am supposed to wait to hear back from the client with instructions before taking the pet to the veterinarian. Or, since I am only seeing the pet once or twice per day, the pet could become seriously worse during the “wait and see” period. Meaning that I have the horrible duty of  watching the animal in my care suffer without being permitted to get them medical attention.

Clients must authorize me to bring their pets in my care to the veterinarian when necessary. This is one of the issues that is discussed during the registration.

I understand that pet medical bills can be a significant expense, which is often the primary reason behind pet owner hesitation to bring their sick pets to a veterinarian for treatment. As a highly trained and experienced professional pet sitter (that’s Certified Professional Pet Sitter, trained in pet first aid and CPR, thank you), my clients must trust me to be able to use my knowledge and experience to act accordingly in the best interests of their pets. I don’t get kickbacks from veterinarians, nor do I suggest seeking medical care lightly. It’s important to have a clear plan in place so that there is no confusion or hesitation in the event of an emergency.

From the website:

This course teaches first aid techniques to address the most common emergencies that can occur with small and large dogs as well as cats. This course will train you to notice abnormalities and detect early warning signs in pets. You will also learn essential pre-vet care and life saving techniques for those times when immediate action can make all the difference. The course is developed and taught by Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Bobbi Conner, a specialist in small animal emergency & critical care.

I got Cat and Dog First Aid and CPR certified at

Video: Grooming tool kit for pet visits and boarders

I’m exploring posting videos about my pet care services and about pet care for animals that I care for. Here’s my first YouTube video, which goes over what is inside my grooming tool kit, some recommendations for grooming tools for cat, rabbit, and guinea pig owners, and a short grooming demo with one of my Guinea pig boarders, the charming Noisette.

Proper grooming is important for all pets, and so I include it for all of my clients if there is time. I can use my tools, which I clean and disinfect after each client, or the client’s own tools. I discuss such tools as the Furminator, deshedding rakes, HairBuster, slicker brushes, nail trimmers, styptic powder, etc.

I don’t consider myself to be a professional groomer. It’s on my to-do list to further explore formal cat grooming education, to further enrich my pet care skill set, but I just don’t have the funding for it yet. I do offer limited grooming services for my clients, which basically include brushing fur and trimming nails. I can visit regularly, or just during shedding season, or just as a once-off. It’s actually a great way to get to know me in person as a pet sitter, when you are choosing who to hire to care for your animals. That way, you will see how I behave with your animals, and what sort of care they will receive when you are away.

I do not cut fur, and if your cat is heavily matted, I encourage you to take them to a certified master cat groomer rather than attempt to cut out the matted fur yourself. Cat skin is very thin, and attempting to cut out mats can result in an emergency trip to a veterinarian.

This is only the second video I’ve every posted (check out my Facebook page to see my first Facebook live… which ended up being filmed sideways!).

Comments are strongly encouraged! I’d also love to hear what you want to see in future videos or blog posts.

New logo and winter holidays


I am thrilled to unleash the logo I’ve been working on getting for nearly a year. Looking forward to passing out my sleek new business cards – after the winter holiday craziness is over!


The winter holidays, which for me is roughly December through mid-January, is the busiest time of the year. Many people go away and return at the same time. I start receiving reservation requests for this time period in August. It is never too early to make a Christmas-New Year pet sitting reservation.

I am fully booked, and due to high volume, will respond to messages slower.

I am really hoping it won’t be as bitterly cold and miserable weather-wise as it was last year, when there were a couple weeks of -25°C weather and snow as far as the eye could see. I also no longer have the luxury of an indoor parking spot, and have already had one of those mornings where your neighbours swoop in to help you chip out the ice under your spinning tires while your child is watching from inside the slowly heating car. Montrealers are awesome – everyone knows how it is, and the spontaneous generosity of spirit always astounds me.

“It’s my fault,” I said, as we hacked away at the ice, realizing I should have cleared the slush from the tires the previous day before it froze into solid ice overnight.

“It’s winter,” my neighbour corrected. Yes. It. Is. One of my ice scrapers has already been obliterated.

Generally, I survive pet sitting in winter by always keeping 2 things with me in the car: an insulated water bottle to prevent my water from freezing while I make my pet visit rounds, and a big Stanley vacuum bottle of hot sweetened milky tea that I sip from in between each stop. I don’t drive long enough in between stops to warm up the car at all, and my feet and hands are always cold. That thermos is amazing at keeping liquids hot all day, and holds the equivalent of three large mugs of tea. Maybe I’ll do hot chocolate one day to mix it up. If you put in a cinnamon stick, the continuous heat of the vacuum bottle will infuse the hot chocolate with a warm, rich spicy flavour to help beat out the chill.

A typical cat visit

A lot of my new clients, particularly if they’ve never before hired a professional pet sitter, want to know what happens during a cat visit, what is included. They wonder what makes my rates higher than the kid next door who does pet sitting for neighbours on their summer break, or that other person they found on Kijiji. They wonder why I have such excellent online reviews, what makes my clients so happy about my service. Well, here’s what I do!

I drive to nearly all of my pet visits, even if they are within walking distance of my home. This is because I’m often coming from or going to another cat visit. If I’ve been given a parking spot in a garage, permission to park in the driveway, or a guaranteed parking spot in front of the client’s home, this means that I will have more time with the cat than if I had to park blocks away. I’m often told “there’s always parking off-street,” but let me tell you… this is not always the case! Whether paid or unpaid parking, there have been times when I’ve driven around and around the same small area for AN HOUR looking for parking (Little Italy, Griffintown, and Downtown have been the most parking-unfriendly so far. Even parts of the Plateau and Mile End are problematic, as it’s mostly residential parking via permits. I have gotten many, many expensive parking tickets, despite my best efforts to find appropriate parking).

Clients should have made other arrangements to have snow removed from their driveways/stairways/ entrance-ways. It is not safe for me to walk through snow and/or ice up and down stairs while carrying my big heavy bags. I offer snow removal of stairs and entrance-ways (NOT driveways) as one of my extra services, but I strongly encourage clients to make other arrangements, as I charge based on the time is takes me to do it. I would surely develop blisters on my hands and a bad back from shoveling snow at all of my cat visits each day!

I collect mail. I carefully enter the home, ensuring the cat doesn’t make a dash for freedom. I remove my shoes and coat. If the cat is super friendly, I spend a few moments greeting them before going about my chores. Or I try find hiding cats, to make sure they are ok. I take pictures throughout the visit, so the client can see how their pets are doing. I love taking pet pictures.

I try to be as efficient as possible, so I can get all the chores done quickly and effectively and maximize my time with the cats.

Usually, I start off washing the food and water bowls and food areas and putting out fresh food and water. I clean water fountains at least every other day, or every day as-needed. This means I unplug them, take them completely apart, wash with soapy water, rinse well, and put them back together again with fresh water. I check the state of the filter – water fountain carbon filters need to be replaced every 1-4 weeks. I rinse cans and ready them for recycling.

I do a quick walk-through of the home to check for vomit or litter box accidents, and spot clean them according to the client’s instructions. Some cats have fun with toilet paper and paper towels, which also need to be tidied.

I scoop litter boxes and sweep around the litter box areas. I track what’s in the litter box – yes, I count the pee clumps and the poops as I scoop. This is an important way of determining if something is wrong with the cat’s health. For example, if I see that a litter box has been walked around in, but hasn’t been used in 24-hours, it might suggest that the cat is trying to pee, but can’t.  A cat that has trouble peeing – in pain, takes a long time to pee, can’t pee – needs close monitoring and urgent medical attention for potential urinary tract blockage or infection. This is one of the many reasons why I must visit at least once per day. If I walk in to an overflowing litter box, or only see the cat every other day, I might not be able to notice a problem and won’t be able to act quickly.

I can include a litter box wash (empty old litter, clean with vinegar or whatever product the client wants, refill with new litter) with each 7 days of pet sitting, but can wash them more frequently for an extra fee. If I have to wash out the litter box on the first day of the pet siting reservation, the litter box wash fee will be applied.

If instructed to do so, I water plants and alternate lights and drapes to make it seem like someone is home.

With the time remaining, and depending on cat temperament and the client’s wishes, I brush the cat, trim claws, play with the cat, and snuggle and pet the cat. I can use the client’s tools and toys, or my own (I carefully clean and disinfect my grooming tools with a special cat-safe disinfectant after each client, and I don’t share toys between clients. Once your cat has played with it, it’s theirs). If the cat is shy and hiding, I sit close to the cat and softly talk or sing to them.

Some clients have their hearts set on my basic visit, which is 20-30 minutes, expecting me to spent most of the time sitting on the couch, petting their cat. I have a couple clients with simple set-ups that exist like that, but generally, a 20-30 minute visit does not give me time to interact with the cat at all. There are set-ups where, on the first day I realize that it is actually a 45-60 minute job. Most pet owners do not do all of the chores – feeding, refreshing water, scooping litter box, water plants, etc. – at the same time in one chunk of time, so it can be difficult to estimate how long it takes to complete them all while taking pictures and notes. Maybe you’ll feed them in the morning as you put together your own breakfast, then take care of the water later when you think about it, and only scoop the litter box if you smell something funny. Maybe you have an extensive urban jungle that takes 15 minutes or more to water. Perhaps your cats are mischievous hooligans, with a new mess to clean every day. And yes, time spent going outside to collect the mail or take out the trash is included in my time.

Clients sometimes generously suggest I relax on the sofa and watch a movie with their cat. I’m happy to do this for your cat… if paid accordingly for my time. Currently, I charge per 15 minutes beyond a 60-minute visit. As a full-time self-employed solo pet sitter, a working mom with a family to come home to, and a shy introvert, I don’t have any interest in spending unpaid time in your home, even if you have the fluffiest, most awesome cats ever. I’d rather finish my workday, so I can get back to my home, my sanctum sanctorum.

I have a very narrow focus of attention when I’m at a cat visit – the cat. Clients sometimes leave me informative notes throughout their home (“this is the internet password,” “here’s some catnip”), but I might not see them unless they are placed somewhere obvious, like on the counter or with the cat food (a quick text or email is better for such notes, or to point me where to look for the notes). When I do my walk-through of your home, I’m specifically looking for cat messes, not post-its, which, unless they have my name in big, bold letters, I will assume are for someone else. I’m not going to go through your drawers and cupboards unless I need something like a fork for the cat food, or if I can’t find the paper towels. I don’t want to invade my clients’ privacy, it’s stressful for me to go through clients’ things when I’m not sure where things I need are, and it takes away time I could use for other things, like taking care of your cat. For the most part, I know where all the supplies I need are, as we go over all of that during the free consultation.

Before I leave, I send a report of what happened during the visit to the client, with pictures. I send reports via email, text, or WhatsApp. For premium visits and upwards, if I am given WiFi access, I also send a brief video if requested.

As I am packing up to leave, I change my socks. When I do this at the free consultation, in front of clients who are meeting me for the first time, I often get flustered at being so nerdy, but I do it, anyway. Good hygeine and cleanliness is important to me, both for myself and for the well-being of my clients. I do my best to ensure that I am respectful of my client’s property and that I am not introducing outside dirt into the home. You’d be amazed at what the bottoms of my socks look like at the end of each cat visit, even in the most immaculate homes.

The visit timer stops once I exit the home, or once the visit tasks are complete, including taking trash to outside bins.

Rachel Reisner's certified in Pet CPR and First Aid

Certified… in Pet CPR and First Aid!


April is the American Red Cross Pet First Aid Awareness month.

Using that segue, I’m pleased to announce that I have just completed Pet Health Academy’s Pet CPR and First Aid Certification Course. I am now trained in pet first aid and CPR. The certificate is valid for 2 years.

Even so, I have also registered to take Denise Fleck‘s Pet First Aid, CPR & CPCR course at the Pet Sitters World Conference and Expo I will attend in September. It will be a good refresher (as she says, practice makes PURRfect), with hands-on models.

A number of years ago, I took a 2-day (human) first aid and CPR course, and frankly, despite the intensity of the course, I recall very little of it aside from learning to yell: “someone call 911! You, get the defibrillator!” and doing rapid chest compressions on a mannequin that left me sweaty and exhausted after 30 seconds. This experience has taught me that it’s important to keep such knowledge and skills current, and also to retake courses like these every so often, as trends and techniques are updated and improved.

Pet CPR and first aid is not a substitute for veterinary care. However, as Cara Armour, founder of Pet Health Academy, points out, you cannot call 911 for a pet emergency and have paramedics respond to your door. Pet CPR and first aid training can help a person stay calm and be proactive in a pet emergency situation.


Giving me keys to your home

Keys, glorious keys. As I provide in-home cat visits, I carry a huge, heavy key ring of client keys. The weight of the keys is not just physical; it’s the weight of trust that my clients have in me to allow me access to their pets and their homes while they are away. I take this trust and responsibility very seriously.



I normally receive client keys at the free consultation meeting, along with a non-refundable deposit that is credited back to the client’s upcoming pet sitting balance.

I can also return at a later date to collect keys, if the client hadn’t gotten copies made yet, or wants to go over their cat’s routine again, however as I charge new clients for each additional pre-service visit, normally clients give me keys at the free consultation. Currently, I don’t charge for key return and subsequent key pick ups or key returns, or for picking up new keys if a current client’s locks are changed or if a current client moves within my service area.


Key issues I avoid

Some apartment buildings restrict the number of keys each tenant can have, so it’s not always possible to have a spare set of keys. Aside from that, it is a good idea for clients to have a spare set of keys to give me, and even just to have around for themselves. It is stressful coordinating  if I have the client’s only set of keys. I never want the client to be locked out of their own home! Maybe the client is running late, or I am running late (traffic, unpredictability of animals, etc.), and it’s always tricky coordinating the exchange and someone is left waiting for the other person.

I’m sometimes asked to pick up and return keys at concierge desks or from a friend/neighbour, but I’ve just had bad luck with this arrangement. Either the front desk is unmanned for a long time – shift change? lunch? just… no one? – or the building office is only open one or two days per week for a couple of hours. This wastes my time and creates stress because I’m never sure if I’ll actually get the keys so I can get to the cat, or be able to return the keys to the appropriate person.

Some clients ask me to leave their keys under the front mat, in the mail box, or on the kitchen table/counter. No, I do not do this.

A) Someone could see me put your keys under the mat or in the mail box, and once I leave, retrieve them and enter your home.

B) Once I hide them and leave, who do you think has accountability for those keys? I followed your instructions… but if you cannot find the keys, how would you feel and what would you do about it?

C) If I leave your keys inside your home and lock the door behind me, should you be delayed for whatever reason (weather, canceled/missed flights, illness, last-minute change of plans) and need me to return the next day, I won’t be able to get in to care for your cat.

Therefore, I must deliver keys in person.

A number of my clients offer to drop off and pick up their keys at my home, thinking this will be easier for me. It’s not. I appreciate the thoughtful consideration, though! I am not, as I think some clients think, sitting on my couch all day watching Netflix with my cats. My business is full-time, seven days per week, and I do not have time to wait at home when I have a full day of cat visits to do. Places to go, cats to see! Also, I cannot disrupt my family by welcoming visitors early in the morning when we’re getting ready for the day or late in the evening when we’re trying to have family time or get ready for bed.  This is why I offer complimentary key pick up and drop off.


Leave your keys with me

Logistically, it is more convenient to leave keys on file with me, and I encourage all of my clients to do this if they plan on using my service again. It’s great for:

  • last-minute/emergency/unexpected travel
  • if you ever get locked out
  • saves time and trouble of continuously scheduling key pick ups and drop offs.

My operating hours are 6:30am-7:30am and 10am-3:30pm daily, which may be difficult to coordinate a good meeting time for some people (working professionals tend to meet me at the 6:30am or 7am or on the weekend). I understand, though, when some clients prefer to have their keys returned after each pet sit. My client’s comfort and safety is very important to me.

The keys

My favourite keys are the vanity keys. Not only do they bring a smile to my face (my favourite has Elvis emblazoned on it), but they are easy to locate on my massive key ring when I’m trying to unlock an outside door in Montreal’s frosty -25 degree Celsius winter weather. My keys are all carefully labeled with no address information, however I am very grateful for those extra few seconds saved by a flashy, gaudy vanity key.

My second favourite keys are the big, heavy Medeco keys, as I have never had problems unlocking and locking those locks. A lot of buildings have old locks with thin keys that are probably copies of copies of copies. I once broke one of those thin keys in my own apartment door years ago – it had to be pried out with needle-nose pliers, and I needed to get yet another thin copy made which also didn’t work very well. One reason I insist on testing keys once I receive them is that a lot of older locks are tricky to unlock and lock. Some have to be jiggled a bit, some you pull the door in as you twist. There could be multiple locks on the door, but the client only wants me to use specific ones. When I am entrusted with caring for a cat, and with aiding in the security of the home, it is essential that I am able to unlock the door to get in and to lock the door once I leave.

No key chains

I use my own key rings and labels. I prefer to leave the client’s own key chains with the client, as I don’t want a precious, sentimental souvenir or gift to get damaged and potentially broken or lost as I carry it around. Plastic easily breaks, metal and other materials can get scratched and scuffed and some key chain charms are large and heavy.

Key security

I am protective of my client keys, and never leave them unattended. Where I go, they go. At my daughter’s gymnastics class, I’ve got a huge key ring stuffed in my pants pocket, as I do not leave them in gym lockers. I don’t leave them unattended in the car, either. Should my car get stolen or broken into, or my bag stolen out of a gym locker, my client keys will be safe with me.