Pet sitters look after people’s animals while they are away from home and they do it in the owners’ homes.
They visit the house a couple of times a day, typically for between 30 minutes to an hour at a time (the owner and sitter can decide on time and length depending on their pet’s needs).
They ensure that the animals are fed, given water or any medication they require and they also clean up litter or cages and play with the animals.
Some dog sitting and cat sitting services also offer extras such as walking and grooming.
In most cases, pet sitters only visit during the day but owners may arrange for minders to be house sitters as well through sites like Trusted Housesitters. This is if they don’t want their pets or home left unoccupied (see our article on house sitting here).
Pet sitters usually charge per pet, per hour but weekly rates or discounts for multiple pets can be put in place. Rates tend to range from around £6 per visit up to £15.
So this means that you could make between £12 and £30 a day for a couple of visits to one house.
If you did three or four homes you could make up to £120 a day.
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Many owners don’t like putting their animals in kennels for a long time – it’s like leaving your children in a hotel or a school while you go on holiday. Very often the pets are unhappy and feel unloved.
Not only that but doggy daycare is expensive. Basic kennels can cost at least £50 a day, sometimes adding up to more than the cost of your own holiday!
This is why a lot of owners prefer to leave their animals with other families. It’s more friendly and usually cheaper for them.
Pets stay with a host family and they’re able to continue with their normal routines in the kind of home atmosphere they’re used to. Cats in particular can get very stressed when they’re sent to a kennel so many people now see boarding as the best option.
Stays can range from a few nights to a number of months depending on need. School holidays and the summer months are great times for pet boarders.
Even though the recommended maximum extra pets per boarder is just three at any one time, you could stand to make a lot of money during these busy periods.
Rates again vary but for example Animal Aunts pay £54 for a basic overnight stay with either one dog or two cats. Some boarders increase their prices at busy times such as bank holidays.
So, if you have three extra animals in your home you could make around £160 a day (minus the agency fee). Not bad money!
The easiest way to get involved is to sign up with a local agency. Put the terms ‘pet sitting’ or ‘pet boarding’ into a search engine alongside the name of your local area. That will bring up agencies in your area.
You could also get on the books of a national agency. Trusted Housesitters, for example, lets you advertise your services.
As does Tailster, which is absolutely free, lets you advertise to hundreds of dog owners a week and set your own price.
If you’d rather work for yourself as a pet sitter, then you’ll need to advertise your services in the local area. You could try and advertise in your local vet’s surgery or contact local schools to put an advert in their newsletter.
You could also put a free advert on sites such as All Pet Services or on Jobsgrapevine so that if anyone from your area is searching the website for sitters, your details will be available to them.
Many customers feel more comfortable dealing with someone who also has pets so if you do have a pet of your own (ideally a cat or dog… not a snake), make this clear in your advert.
If you already have pets, you could also think about joining Pet Sitter Swap. This involves swapping pet-care duties with someone in your local area. Although it’s not paid, it’d be a good way of getting the word around about your services and level of care. It’s like networking for pet sitters.
Potential clients may also request that you visit them so they can see how their pet reacts to you. This usually involves you spending some time alone with the animal and the owners then assess the situation. Make spare time for such requests as they will help increase business opportunities.
After that, it’s really word of mouth. You’ll find that if you give a good service then news will get about very quickly.
Some of the things you need to consider before you take pets in are:
Most owners prefer to supply their own foods as their pets are used to a particular diet.
Check with clients to see what they want and make sure they know exactly what to bring. It might still be an idea to have extra stock in case of an emergency, or treats in the cupboard so that the pet feels happy and loved.
Many boarders have rules regarding what type of dogs they allow into their homes.
Aggressive and unruly dogs are usually a no-go. Some boarders refuse male dogs that haven’t been neutered.
You should also be aware that most insurance covers only domestic animals so if you’re looking after more exotic types, you may need extra insurance (see below for details on insurance).
Unless you’re helping friends, it’s a protection to both of you to draw up a contract.
This can include who’s responsible for vet bills and state any emergency contact details.
You should seek legal advice if you want to set out a formal contract or have a look at contracts on the web and create your own.
There are no laws which directly relate to pet sitting or pet boarding but Animal Aunts recommend registering with the local council if you run a pet-sitting business.
You should also make yourself familiar with the laws about looking after animals.
If your pet-sitting services include extras such as dog walking you’ll need to be aware of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and the Animals Act 1971 (if you live in an area near livestock).
However, you need to think carefully about what the consequences could be if something went wrong whilst they’re in your care.
Check out our pet insurance article which has all the latest special offers from insurers. However, remember there are some things you should keep in mind when making your insurance choice.
Public Liability insurance – You could be sued for negligence if an animal in your care gets out of control and causes harm to a member of the public. Public liability is essential if you plan to include dog walking as part of your services.
Key replacement – If you lose a client’s keys and you don’t have insurance, you could be liable to pay for the cost of replacing all the locks.
Housesitting– If you’re being asked to house sit as well as pet sit, most pet-sitter’s insurance won’t cover this, unless your house-sitting duties are significantly less than your pet-sitting ones.
Discounts – If you’re considering becoming a member of a national organisation, then it might be a good idea to sign up with Petsitters Alliance. They have a deal which includes membership plus third party liability, house-sitting, pet-accident and lost-keys insurance for £95 per year.
Have you had any experience pet sitting? Maybe it’s your ideal job but you still have questions. Let us know in the comments section below – we love to hear from you!