A Day In The Life Of A Pet Sitter
Pet Sitting: For Me, It's A Labor Of Love
It's 9 a.m., and I'm ready to leave for work. I've gathered together the keys to 10 houses, printed my itinerary and told my own cats I'll see them in a few hours. Oh, and I have that special bag of treats for Tubbs because he loves them, and they'll keep him from speeding out the door as I'm going in.
It's been more than 30 years since I began my pet sitting service, and I still love every minute of it. I love going to work in jeans, I love not having to deal with office politics, and most of all, I love spending my workdays with cats. Today, I'll see Tubbs and 12 more of my favorite friends.
If you love animals and don't mind working seven days a week, including major holidays, being a pet sitter is a great business with many rewards. Be prepared to work hard though, because caring for cats who are home alone isn't as easy as it sounds.
A Day In The Life Of A Pet Sitter
Scoop, Feed, Cuddle, Scoop, Feed, Cuddle...
My first stop today is Zoe's house. We go outside for a little while, and she nibbles grass while I sip coffee. Then I'm off to see Tubbs and Luna. I open the door just far enough to reach inside and scatter treats on the floor. While Tubbs and Luna are chasing the treats, I manage to let myself before they realize the door is open. Then Tubbs and I sit at the sliding door and watch the birds. I tell him his people will let him out the moment they get home... in three days. Tubbs rubs against my face and tries to talk me into opening the door now. I don't.
At Spike's and Kesha's house, Kesha is nowhere to be found. After searching every nook and cranny of their three-story house, I finally discover her sleeping on a box in a dark corner of a huge walk-closet. She enjoys being brushed for a few minutes but won't come out of the closet. My workday ends back at Zoe's house, where we lie on the floor together and watch the evening news while she nibbles my hair. By then, I've scooped 15 litter boxes and opened 13 cans of food. I've played with a beautiful black kitten with bright green eyes until both of us were exhausted. And I've used more treats to distract a cat who only wants to attack the human intruder as she walks by get to his litter box. I love cats who make me earn their friendship, and someday he and I will be close friends.
Friends For Life
Cats Never Forget People And Games They Love
Some pet sitting cats and I don’t see each other for years. But they never forget me, and they never forget the things we like to do together. Ginger and Cinnamon know I’m supposed to put catnip on a little throw rug in the family room, and if I forget they remind me. Gizmo sits by the door and waits for me to go out with her after she’s finished eating. And Bullwinkle always looks forward to chasing a wand toy through the kitchen and around the diningroom table.
Cats are creatures of habit, and I think it’s important to follow the same routine with my pet sitting cats day after day and year after year. They need to know what to expect.
Is Pet Sitting For You?
If You Love Animals, It Could Be The 'Purrfect' Career
Starting a pet sitting service is easy. The up front expenses are minimal, and there are no educational or licensing requirements. But growing and sustaining the business can be difficult, especially if you're working alone. Running a successful pet sitting service takes more than a love of animals. You also need business savvy, flexibility, and good organizational and people skills.
Speaking from years of experience, here's some advice for beginning pet sitters.
Protect yourself. Invest in pet sitting insurance, and have your clients sign a contract and a letter authorizing you to get emergency veterinary care for their animals when they're out of town.
Limit your service area. Unless you're in a rural area, you should be able to find enough clients to have a successful business within a 15 minute drive of your home. Having a small service area will minimize the time you spend driving and the amount of gas you use to get from job to job. Plan an itinerary and make a route for yourself each day, too. Finding the shortest route from house to house will also save time and gas.
Keep your business simple. Pet sitters can work very long hours. Streamline your business practices so it will be easy to stay on top of things, even when you're very tired.
Think about your pricing. You need to earn enough money to pay your bills, keep a roof over your head and set some money aside for the slow times when you don't have much work. Pet sitting tends to be a feast or famine business. Decide how much you need to earn per hour, add in some extra money for gas, and charge accordingly. People are willing to pay well for a great pet sitter.
Request payment at the start of service. Few pet sitting services generate enough cash flow for the owners to wait for checks to arrive in the mail. And the first invoice people are going to forget to pay is the pet sitter's. Being a bill collector is no fun.
Never take shortcuts. The animals in your care depend on you to do your best every day, even when you're tired or just not in the mood.
Be neat. The day you decide to not throw out the empty cat food cans or take out the used litter is the day your client will decide to come home early.
Check and recheck your calendar to make sure the dates for each job are correct. I ask clients to email their dates to me so I have them in writing. It's a good idea to confirm dates a few days before your clients leave town.
Have a backup plan. Life happens. Pet sitters get sick or are involved in automobile accidents. Make sure someone knows how your business runs - how your keys are labeled, where to find you calendar and clients' addresses - in case you are unable to visit your pet sitting animals. It's also a good idea to make a bad weather plan with each of your clients. I ask my clients to leave a key with a neighbor who could walk to their house if we got a lot of snow or ice. Most are willing to do that.
Ask clients to leave you written instructions and follow them exactly. Be especially careful about giving the animals a different brand of food, feeding more or less than they usually get, walking dogs off leash and letting indoor/outdoor cats out when they're supposed to stay in. All of those good intentions could backfire.
Become a specialist. If you're going to pet sit for cats, learn everything you can about them, including their healthcare, body language and emotional needs. Birds also have special needs. People like to know their pets are being cared for by an expert, and you'll be more comfortable pet sitting for animals you know about and understand.
Know your limitations. If you don't know how to handle big dogs or aggressive dogs, don't pet sit for them. You're not only endangering yourself, you're endangering the dogs!
Take only the number of jobs you can do well. It's tempting to take every job you're offered. But when you're exhausted or rushing from place to place, it's easy to make mistakes. Think about how many visits, including drive time, you can do well, and don't take on any more. My limit is 14, but I care only for cats. If I had to walk dogs, my limit would be lower.
Learn how to recognize medical emergencies.
The Most Important Thing About Being A Pet Sitter
Respect your clients' property and privacy, and love their animals. If you treat their homes and animals the way you would want a pet sitter to treat yours, you'll be a success.
How Do You Start A Pet Sitting Service? - These Books Provide Start-Up Advice And Guidance For Beginners
A Few Words For Clients
Here Are Some Suggestions For Choosing A Great Cat Sitter
You love your animals, and you want them to have the best care while you're out of town. This is the way I'd choose a great cat sitter.
Ask for references and check them. You want to know whether the person is reliable and honest. But also ask what kind of mood the cats are in when the people come home. Do they seem calm or stressed? Do they meet their people at the door or are they hiding? Is the house at least as neat as it was when they left?
Find out if the same person will be making all the visits. Some pet sitting companies send several different people. Depending on how friendly and flexible your cat is, this arrangement could be very stressful.
Ask if you'll be able to meet the person who will be caring for your cats before she begins pet sitting for them.
If you cat needs medication, ask the sitter to do a trial visit to make sure she'll be able to medicate the cat. Have her come when you're going to be out of the house for a few hours. You should offer to pay for this!
Ask if you can call or write to the sitter to find out how your cats are doing.
Confirm your dates with the sitter a few days before you leave.
Make sure your cat sitter has your cell phone number or another way of contacting you in an emergency.
Leave written instructions for the pet sitter. It's easy to forget things when you're visiting several families of cats on the same day.