**a post from the mom
After a certain "incident" this spring involving Chanel, I got to thinking about plans in place for when I am out of town and the pet sitter is caring for the cats. I reached out to the owner of the pet sitting service that I use and asked her some questions about how they handle different situations. They just recently updated their policies and I updated all the cat info online with them as well.
Q: Do you have emergency plans in place for clients?
We do have emergency plans in place for all clients including vet release/permission to treat forms, emergency contact information for each client, a section in our handbook and training manuals on how to handle various situations which include contacting myself or Jandi (her assistant) immediately. We also have various training classes in addition to the hands-on training and pet first aid classes each sitter takes upon being hired.
Q: How often do you review emergency plans?
As for how often we review those plans with clients, it is on an individual basis mostly. We do ask that clients make sure all information in the system is updated for all pets before traveling which is in our policies signed upon becoming a new client as well as asking for updates when we know a pet has a medical condition that we have already cared for. We do have our software set to where a client isn't able to schedule services if certain things in the pet info section has been left blank and I am able to filter accounts by things such as not having a current signed policy by client, not having a vet listed for a pet along with various other filters.
Q: How do you handle emergency situations?
Any emergency situation is really a case by case basis. In 12 years, there have thankfully only been 4 situations where we have needed to get a pet into one of the emergency hospitals immediately and we have had a couple of times where a sitter noticed a health issue that hadn't been caught yet including two cases of cancer where the pet got treatment and lived several years after.
Our policy is for the sitter to contact the office first unless it is an absolute emergent situation where we have them contact us on the way to MedVet or OSU. We have a couple of vet techs as sitters who have also helped determine the severity of something, including Lynn, who worked for MedVet for 16 years. We do try to reach the client before any decisions are made and if we know they will be unreachable/out of the country, we ask that they leave a signed release just to be on the safe side. Unfortunately both OSU and MedVet have policies now where they require speaking directly to the owners over the phone for permission to treat but most vets still accept a written release. We do suggest to all clients who will be traveling that they contact their vet ahead of time to leave permission. All of this is something we go over on a yearly basis to make sure we stay as informed as possible on changes from others. We do have a spot where clients can pre-approve emergency treatment up to a certain dollar amount if they are not able to be reached. We have clients who have written anything from zero to unlimited. I always prefer to talk to a client not only for permission but to let them know what is going on, what steps we are taking and anything else we need to know.
Q: Have you ever encountered anything strange?
You would be surprised at some situations we have walked into without being told ahead of time or being told after they have already left. The one that stands out the most is a clients’ new kitten who was several months old actually *ingested* part of a foam bathmat before they left town. They did take the kitty to their vet before they left that day but I did not learn about it until they had already gone. Their vet thought the kitty would be ok and it didn't seem like there was any blockage but there was. We ended up going to check on him shortly after learning about it and thank goodness we did. He was not shut up in a room as he was supposed to be and did have a blockage. It took Shiloh close to an hour to find him and he would not have survived the night without emergency care. This is also one of the reasons we don't accept every other day visits- so many things can happen in a short amount of time. Cats are especially adept at hiding illness until it's bad- very much a worry all of us have on our minds often.
Q: What is your policy for client contact?
Sitters are never supposed to handle an emergency without contacting myself or Jandi. If anything is out of the norm, even something simple like runny poo for more than one visit, they are to contact us. We want to be proactive vs reactive!! I would rather have 10 calls a day just being paranoid than not be informed and something happen. Our #1 priority is the health and safety of the pets in our care and we can't do that effectively without communication. This is why we have a FB group as well as a group text chat in addition to our phones and email.~~~~~~~~~~
I feel pretty lucky to be using this business. Ingrid (the owner) fosters so she understands that my house can some days be a little bit of chaos and that I don't own your "typical" house cats. There was an incident where a sitter went to my place and found that a foster kitten had passed away unexpectedly. Ingrid called and we went over the next steps and they were great.
What she did express in her email to me was that she had no idea about the incident with Chanel and Bissell. Apparently the sitter broke their protocol (he is no longer with them as he took another job) and he never contacted her. Fortunately I was on my way home and it wasn't very serious at the time so there wasn't anything to be done, but she was glad she found out and advised me that this would be brought up in their next meeting.
The best advice we can give you - find a service that you trust. Have conversations with them about how your household runs, what to expect, your expectations of them, and any changes that come up over time. Know what their policies are for everything that might come up while you are gone. Make sure they have contact information and pet information - I actually have a sheet in one of my cabinets with cat names, descriptions, microchip numbers, last rabies date and my phone number and vet information.