How to Become a Pet Sitter

Lea Jaratz

How to Become a Pet Sitter

Have you ever thought about becoming a pet sitter? It sound so fun — snuggling pets all day, taking them for walks, giving them lots of treats, texting their pet parent photos of them tucked in at night. Maybe you’d like to give it a try or perhaps you’ve done it for a friend or two, but think you want to take it to the next level.

We talked with the folks at Pet Sitters International, and got some great intel on pet sitting. As it turns out, you might be able to make a good living (Nearly 30 percent of PSI’s member businesses report an annual income of more than $55,000), all while spending time with animals and enjoying a flexible schedule. But there are some steps you’ll want to take before putting yourself out there in the pet sitter pool.

Who should be a pet sitter?

It’s not enough to love pets. Any pet lover can post a Craigslist ad, but if you want this to be a legitimate venture, you’ll want to consider the following:

  • Do I have a clean criminal history?
  • Can I provide references to potential clients?
  • Have I passed a pet CPR or other first aid course?

Beyond these basic skills, ask yourself: am I a people person? Because, while you’ll be spending time with people’s pets, you’ll be interacting with pet parents to arrange scheduling, communicating about concerns or special needs, and cooperating with them regarding their household rules.

How do I become a pet sitter or a dog walker?

Before you start passing out business cards or sign up on pet sitter apps, get your legal ducks in a row. After all, you’re caring for someone’s family member, and there can be a lot of liability, safety, and legal concerns.

Your first step should be to contact the Small Business Administration. They can help you figure out if your area requires a business license and help you stay legally compliant. They can even help you with a small business plan and financing, but, fortunately, the start-up costs associated with starting your own pet sitting service are pretty low.

You might also want to join a pet sitting service association, like Pet Sitters International. Not only can they provide you with education in pet care and business know-how, they offer things like group-rate pet sitter insurance and bonding. They’ll also help you with stuff like contracts, networking, and advertising.

What is involved in pet sitting?

Pet sitting is providing care for an animal in a client’s home. This includes the obvious stuff, like walking the dog, feeding and watering, and providing some interaction while the pet parent is away. But, depending on the client and their pet, you may also be sleeping overnight, administering medications, and doing other home tasks, like bringing in mail or alternating the lights.

You’ll need to handle other business aspects as well, like billing, scheduling, and customer service. But even some of these tasks can be performed with your favorite pets cuddled up in your lap.

What are the downsides to pet sitting?

Okay, so there is obviously a ton of cuddles and snuggles, playing fetch, and going for walks. Bonus all around. But there are some aspects of pet sitting that you may not have bargained for.

One of the most commonly-reported downsides to pet sitting is losing the relationship with a special pet. If the pet moves or your services are no longer needed, you’ll likely lose contact with that pet.

Another concern is that a lot of pet sitting occurs on weekends or holidays. While this might be an advantage to some, it’s something to consider if you tend to be busy or otherwise obligated during these peak times.

And let’s face it: other people’s pets are not the same as your pets, and may act differently while their owner is away. For example, I used to cat sit for a neighbor who had the cutest little cat that would pop over to visit me when I came home. But when I went into their home she would attack my feet and legs as though she was a 12-pound lioness and I was her prey. Or perhaps your cat doesn’t struggle when it’s time to take meds, it can be disorienting when another cat puts up a fight. Maybe you’ve trained your dog to walk well on a leash, but your client hasn’t mastered that yet. Pet sitting isn’t the same as caring for your own pet at home.

If you’re interested in becoming a pet sitter, there are tons of rewards. Many professionals are leaving full-time jobs to join a legion of pet sitters who are making good money on their own terms, and the industry is projected to continue to grow. But, make sure you’ve done your research and are on sure legal footing before you start your new venture.

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