Finance

Becoming a Pet Sitter Is the Perfect Side Gig for Animal Lovers

Does getting paid to cuddle cats and walk dogs sound like a dream job?

If so, pet sitting might be the perfect side hustle for you.

If you love animals and need some extra cash, consider watching other people’s pets. It’s a relatively easy and flexible gig, and several websites can help you market your services and find clients.

Pet sitting isn’t all puppy kisses and kitten snuggles, though. You’ll need to be responsible, prompt and good with people as well as pets.

Here’s what it takes to become a pet sitter.

A golden retriever gets a belly rub from his pet sitter
Saint, a golden retriever puppy, gets belly scratches from his pet sitter Lisa Peddicord during her visit with the puppy.The veterinary technician pet-sits for Tails and Trails as a side gig. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

What Does a Pet Sitter Do?

Though snuggling furry friends is a major perk of pet sitting, it does involve other responsibilities.

Pet sitting services might involve:

  • Walking dogs. (Bet you saw that one coming.)
  • Administering medication.
  • Cleaning out litter boxes or cages.
  • Making sure animals have food and water. You’ll want to discuss any feeding schedules or dietary restrictions with the owner beforehand.

Pet sitting can take place in your home or the client’s home, either as quick visits or overnight stays.

What Makes a Good Pet Sitter?

Even if the responsibilities sound manageable, you’ll still want to make sure you’re up for taking care of a client’s animals.

  • Be a good communicator. As a pet sitter, you’ll spend a lot of time talking to the pet owners. You’ll have to listen to them on each pet’s needs and schedule, and they’ll probably want regular updates.
  • Have good time management. Depending on how busy you are, you might be juggling a lot of clients. You’ll want to get to each job on time and have plenty of time to take care of any tasks.
  • Be understanding. Each animal you interact with will have a different personality. Some animals don’t interact well with strangers and some will want to jump on you as soon as you walk in the door.
  • Don’t be afraid of getting dirty. You’re going to deal with poop at some point. You might have to give Fido a bath after he finds a mud puddle on your walk. Embrace the chaos.

How Much Money Will You Make?

The amount of money you’ll make is largely dependent on the rates you charge and services you offer. Overnight boarding will be more work than a quick home visit, but you can charge more. You can also charge more during holidays or if you’re caring for multiple animals. A typical home visit price can be anywhere from $20-30.

Unsure of what prices to set? Look for pet sitters already available in your area and see what they’re charging.

If you’re new to pet sitting, you can also start off at lower prices and increase them as you gain clients and experience.

A woman trains a golden retriever puppy.
Peddicord trains Saint during her 30-minute visit to a St. Petersburg, Fla., client’s home. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

How Do You Become a Pet Sitter?

As a pet sitter, you can strike out on your own or register with established websites. Either option allows you to set your own pay rates and work schedule.

And each has its pros and cons. Third-party sites will take a cut of your profits, for example, but these services could save you a lot of time and energy marketing yourself.

Starting Your Own Service

If you’d rather put in the legwork yourself and keep all your profits, here are some things you can do to attract clients. The downside? You’ll have to pay the costs of running your own business.

1. Get Relevant Experience

If you’re a pet lover but don’t have a background in a pet-related business, that’s OK. You can gain pet sitting experience by offering the service for free to friends and family.

Even if you’re just starting out, don’t be afraid to post your services on social media. Advertise in your local yard sale groups.

You can also gain experience and help dogs in need of attention by volunteering to walk dogs at an animal shelter.

2. Decide on Your Services

As you gain experience, you’ll get a general idea of what type of services you want to offer. Maybe you’ll limit your business to cats and dogs. Or maybe you’re up for caring for anything from horses to hamsters, too.

Are you willing to walk multiple dogs? Can you take a pet to the vet if asked? Do you want breed or size restrictions? These and other questions will come up as you begin your pet sitting services.

You’ll also want to stock up on any supplies you could need and what rates you want to set, depending on what you’re offering.

3. Get Certified

Set yourself apart from the average pet lover by getting a Professional Pet Sitter Certification. You can do this through different organizations, such as Pet Sitters International (PSI) or the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS). The courses and exams cover important information for pet sitters and legitimize your business, but these certifications can cost $200 or more.

Cheaper options are available, including this certification course by petsittercourse.com for just $45.

4. Get Insured

Anything can happen when you’re running your own business, so pet insurance is a great way to protect yourself and your clients. You can get general liability insurance for less than $200 per year from companies like Pet Care Insurance or Pet Sitters Association.

5. Learn Pet First Aid

Give yourself and your clients peace of mind with a pet first aid certification. These classes cover how to care for cats and dogs by checking vital signs, caring for wounds or seizures and other medical emergencies. The American Red Cross offers a basic online course for $25. You can find more extensive courses through organizations like Pet Emergency Education and Pet Sitters International, but those options cost more.

Becoming certified in first aid for pets is also a good idea if you plan on becoming a pet sitter through an existing website.

A woman pets two whippet dogs
Whippet dogs Cooper and Allie greet Diana Sanchez as she arrives at their home for her 30-minute visit. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Using a Pet Sitting Website

If you’d rather find jobs through an established source or just want a side gig, you can use dog sitting websites. It will make finding jobs easier and it can be cheaper than going it on your own, though you’ll still have to pay fees.

1. Rover

One of the most popular pet sitting websites is Rover. Rover allows sitters to choose their own schedule, services and prices. Services you can offer through Rover include pet boarding, dog walking, doggy daycare, house sitting and drop-in visits.

You can also set preferences on the characteristics of animals you take, such as size and age. Payments are ready for withdrawal after two days. However, Rover has a $35 profile review fee when you get started and they take 20% from your job earnings.

Before you can get started, Rover will take 10-20 days to approve your profile and you’ll also be required to pass a background check.

2. Wag!

Wag! is another well known website for pet sitters, with over 400,000 caregivers currently on the service. Like Rover, you can set your own schedule and prices.

When setting up your profile, you’ll be required to provide five endorsements from friends or family.

To provide services on Wag!, you’ll have to submit an application and be approved, which takes 14 days on average. You’ll need to pass a pet care quiz and a background check. The background check is a one time fee of $39.95.

Wag! caregivers are paid through Stripe every Friday for the services done the previous week. Unfortunately, Wag’s service fee per job is pretty steep at 40%. You do keep all of your tips.

3. Fetch! Pet Care

Unlike its competitors, at Fetch! Pet Care, you work through an established Fetch! location, so long as one is available. You’ll apply and be interviewed by the local owner. However, you’ll still be setting your own schedule.

With Fetch!, you’ll become familiar with your clients and their pets, as the company assigns primary and backup sitters to each client. You’ll also be required to keep a Pet Journal during your assignment.

Fetch! Sitters go through an in-depth interview and background check to get started.

4. Care.com

Though you probably think of babysitting two-legged children when you think of Care.com, the site also connects fur babies to pet sitters.

Care.com has two membership levels. With a basic membership, you’ll pay $18.99 per year for a background check and can only find and apply to jobs.

Premium memberships are $8.99 per month and give you first access to jobs, higher ranking in search results and you’ll be able to see who has viewed your profile. The background check fee is also waived.

When you set up your profile, you’ll select your schedule, availability and preferred hourly rate.

One of the advantages of Care.com is fast payment. The money you earn goes to your bank account within 24 hours.

Like the other websites, Care.com users are required to pass a background check before they can participate in the site.

Contributor Jenna Limbach writes on financial literacy and lifestyle topics for The Penny Hoarder from her home base in Nevada.


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