Sure, you could become a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher or a police officer – all very admirable career paths – but let’s face it: playing with and caring for pets for a living sounds so much better and far more exciting than performing craniotomies or chasing down some of the most dangerous criminals the world has ever seen.
Here’s everything you need to know about how to become a pet sitter.
1. Research the Profession
The first step to becoming a professional pet sitter is gaining a thorough and clear understanding of what the role entails. Below is an overview of responsibilities, required skills, working hours and salary prospects.
Pet sitting is basically babysitting for pets whose owners are on holiday, at work or who generally need to be away from home for long (or short) periods of time. You may be asked to host pets in your own home, pet sit in the owner’s home or simply visit and walk pets a set number of times each day.
You’ll be responsible for ensuring the safety and well-being of the pets under your supervision. Typical responsibilities include:
- Feeding pets and putting out fresh water
- Brushing and grooming pets
- Bathing pets
- Cleaning litter boxes
- Walking dogs in all kinds of weather (the owner may request a certain walking distance)
- Vacuuming up pet hair
- Giving medications
- Taking pets to the vet in emergency situations
- Notifying owners of any injuries or sickness, and keeping them updated on their pets and home (this can include sending them photos of their pets)
- Following laws and regulations (for example, dogs should be held on a lead when being walked on a designated road)
You may be asked to perform additional tasks, especially if you’re staying over at the owner’s home while they’re away. These should be agreed on beforehand and can include:
- Cleaning the entire house
- Washing dishes
- Watering plants
- Cooking meals for the pets
- Collecting the owner’s mail
If these extras are not part of your services, then you might want to consider charging an additional fee for them.
Essential Skills and Qualities
First and foremost, you must love animals – whether they’re two-, four- or eight-legged (or legless); small or big; or fluffy, feathered or scaly. (If you’re not too fond of or allergic to a certain animal, you might want to make it a point to let clients know about this or choose your contracts more appropriately.)
Important skills and qualities required to perform the job, other than a love for animals, include:
- Being reliable and trustworthy
- Having excellent customer service skills
- Having strong interpersonal and communication skills
- Being empathetic
- Having a high attention to detail
- Being physically fit
- Being patient with pets
- Being willing to work outdoors
- Being organised and practical
Working Hours and Conditions
Pet sitting is not your typical 9-to-5 desk job. In fact, it’s anything but.
One of the biggest benefits of the profession is that it offers a great deal of flexibility, meaning you get to set your own hours. But, you may have to follow a set working schedule if you’re an employee at a company offering pet sitting services, and you may also have to deal with late-night calls and last-minute requests.
It can be a physically demanding job, as you’ll be responsible to taking dogs out for walks – sometimes for long distances, if requested. Travelling may also be involved if you’re pet sitting in the owner’s home, though you can choose to only take local jobs.
Emergencies may arise when a pet under your supervision becomes sick or suffers an injury and must be treated by a vet. It is of utmost importance that you require owners to fill out a detailed form with their contact details, their vet’s contact details, and relevant information about the pet (including age, breed, prior medical conditions, etc). Such emergencies may, in extreme cases, result in the death of the pet. If a vet recommends euthanasia, make sure that the owner consents to it – it is not your decision to make!
There’s also a certain personal risk involved in pet sitting. For example, you may have to deal with problematic animal behaviour, which may result in a few bite or scratch marks. Improper handling of dangerous animals (like venomous snakes, for example) can be life-threatening.
As an independent pet sitter, you’ll be able to set your own rates, typically anywhere between £10 and £25 an hour – sometimes more. Normally, you’ll start on the bottom end of the salary range and work your way to the top end.
If you choose to offer your services through an online pet sitting marketplace, note that you may be charged a commission which typically ranges between 10% and 20%.
The average annual salary for pet sitters is £29,843, though what you earn will largely depend on your experience, reputation and client base.
2. Get the Qualifications
There are no formal education requirements to become a pet sitter, though becoming certified can greatly help your reputation and credibility within the industry, as well as make you more employable.
You can get certified through one of the following national and international associations (this list is by no means exhaustive):
- Pet Sitters International (PSI): You’ll need to pass the CPPS Certified Professional Pet Sitter exam, which costs $275 (£213), to gain certification. It covers pet care, health and safety, and business operations.
- NarpsUK – National Association of Pet Sitters & Dog Walkers: They offer the NarpsUK Pet Sitting and Dog Walking Business Course which covers topics like business setup and management, pet care and first aid, and animal law and business conduct.
- The Cambridge Institute of Dog Behaviour & Training: They offer a range of CIDBT – PETbc courses, including basic dog handling and training skills, common canine behaviour problems, and veterinary practice and customer care.
- The College of Animal Welfare (CAW): CAW provides various courses in subjects like animal care, dog grooming and veterinary nursing, as well as apprenticeships and traineeships.
Having a background in animal care (as a veterinary technician, for example) can also be beneficial. This could be in a personal or professional capacity, ideally both. Many employers require applicants to have been a pet owner for a minimum of five years.
You’ll also generally need to:
- Pass a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, especially if you’ll be visiting pets in their homes or staying over as part of the services you offer.
- Be insured. You’ll typically need to be covered against things like employers’ liability, property damage, loss or theft of keys and death of animals. Do your research on the best insurance plan for your specific needs.
3. Land Your First Job
One of the best methods to find pet sitting jobs is using Google to search for employers near you and online marketplaces that specialise in offering pet sitting services. Some examples include:
- The London Cat Sitting Company: If you love cats and live in London or the surrounding area, you’ll make a great addition here. Do note, however, that they do not consider applicants who are in full-time employment or education.
- DogBuddy: Another one for the dog lovers, this time in the UK. As a professional dog sitter, you’ll be able to earn up to £1,500 a month while looking after adorable pooches.
- Your London Pet Sitter: Another London-based company, Your London Pet Sitter provides a range of services from pet sitting to boarding for cats, dogs, rabbits, reptiles, fish, etc. Use their contact form to submit your CV.
- Max & Kitty: As a pet sitter at Max & Kitty, you’ll be able to set your own rates and choose your own hours, looking after cats, dogs and other small pets.
You could also explore major job boards like Monster and Reed for pet sitting opportunities, as well as our very own CareerAddict Jobs, but these tend to be rare outside specialist sites.
It’s also a good idea to let family and friends know you’re looking for a job. Word of mouth is still a very powerful marketing tool, even in the 21st Century!
4. Develop Your Career
Getting your name out there is essential for success, especially if you’re working independently. A strong social media presence and a well-designed website can also help you promote your services, as well posters, flyers and business cards.
As you progress in your career and have built up a large client base, you might want to consider setting up your own business. Of course, a large financial investment will be required to get things up and running, but this could lead to a successful, and potentially nationwide, business – or further afield.
You should also consider pursuing further training to stay on top of trends, as well as attend networking events to expand your client base further. It’s also important to note that any certifications you have previously acquired may require renewal.
Are you thinking about becoming a pet sitter? Perhaps you’ve built your own successful pet sitting business and would like to impart your wisdom to those considering following in your footsteps? Join the conversation down below and share your thoughts and experiences with us!
Currency conversions are based on rates supplied by XE.com on 31 August 2017.