There will probably be a time in your bird’s life when he needs temporary care in your absence. We hope that’s because you plan a wonderful vacation, or have an opportunity to visit far-off relatives. But in other scenarios, a person can be hospitalized or be called away to care for an ill friend or family member. It is a good idea to have a plan in place for a pet sitter. When you have a pet sitter, provide the information he or she needs to take wonderful care of your companion bird.
Write down your departure and return dates and times, with approximate times; dates you expect the pet sitter to visit.
This seems obvious, but this basic information is often omitted on instructions, and can be a source of misunderstanding. For example, if you are traveling October 18-21, will you have cleaned the cage and left food that first day? Are you home early the 21st, or is that also a day your bird needs care because you will be arriving home late in the evening.
Provide your contact information like your cell phone and email address. It’s nice to also include at least the name of your hotel/campground or the phone number of the friend or family member you are visiting.
Also include the name of your friends or family who know your birds, in case the sitter has questions about your bird’s care.
And always include the name of your veterinarian. It’s nice to let the vet know that you’ll be gone and who will be caring for your birds. Leave a signed permission slip for the pet sitter to take your bird in to the vet, and let the vet know if there are any restrictions, monetarily or because of a known illness, on the care a bird should receive.
Set up your bird’s environment so that it can be cared for without opening the cage. Yes, your ideal pet sitter will have a loving relationship with your bird and be able to handle it. Realistically, there will be times your pet sitter will not be comfortable letting a bird out of the cage.
Be detailed on the amount and types of veggies or fruit treats to feed your bird. If you’re gone for an extended amount of time, leave money so that your pet sitter can purchase fresh produce.
Write down the brand of food you get and what size or flavor as well as where you obtain food. Not all pet stores carry all brands, and a pet sitter may not know to ask at the veterinarian’s office for your food. Of course, you’ll leave enough food for the amount of time you plan to be gone, but it’s always wise to prepare for the unexpected.
Water – Let your pet sitter know if you fill water bowls or bottles with tap water, bottled water or filtered water. Stress that water should be changed daily and that bowls should be cleaned so that slime doesn’t develop on them.
If you mist or shower your bird regularly, let the pet sitter know. Many pet sitters who don’t take care of birds regularly will not be familiar with this aspect of bird care. To a dog or cat sitter, that water bottle is for discipline.
Make sure you let your pet sitter know where you keep cage-cleaning supplies. Include what bird-friendly cleaner you use to clean up messes and how often you expect the cage to be cleaned. Leave a trashcan accessible, with plenty of paper or cage litter and extra garbage bags, and a note about when outside trash pickup can be expected.
Let your pet sitter know where your vacuum is located and how to use it. That’s one instruction frequently omitted, in my experience. That, and the location of extra paper towels!
Not all pet sitters will be comfortable with handling a bird. Not all companion birds are easy to handle. Give your pet sitter instructions on interacting with your bird while your bird is in the cage. Include what music your bird likes, what treats are well received and what words your bird responds to. Good social time for a bird doesn’t have to include touching, and a pet sitter may not be able to offer a bird the same types of interactions you could give yourself.
Where to Find a Pet Sitter
In most communities there are people who pet sit for a living. The best way to find one is through a reference from a bird-owning friend, from a veterinarian or bird-store owner. Often vet techs also pet sit to supplement their income. If there is a bird club in your area, they probably list bird pet sitters.
A friend who gets along with your bird can make a good pet sitter, if you think he or she will be reliable. Sometimes, especially in an emergency, a friend, neighbor or family member may be called on to take care of your bird.
A pet sitter who comes to your home will also water your plants, take in your mail and newspapers. They will make a home look lived in by opening and closing blinds or windows and turning on lights in different areas of the house.
Not everyone is comfortable leaving the key to the home with a pet sitter. Other options include boarding your bird at a bird boarding facility, a local pet store or an avian veterinary office, which typically requires a certificate of health from your avian veterinarian beforehand. Some pet sitters will take birds into their homes. Be sure to check out the cleanliness of the facility and the willingness of staff to answer your questions when you visit.