Pet sitting involves basic pet care whilst owners are away from home. This provides an alternative to kennels for cats and dogs - which can be expensive and disruptive - and for other household animals for which there is no specific commercial care solution. Standard tasks for a pet sitter include providing fresh water, putting down food, brushing, walking dogs, letting cats in and out and and cleaning trays and litter boxes, other responsibilities may also include administering medication or taking the animal to the vet if they become unwell.
Most pet sitters will be self employed, building their contacts and experience locally and through good use of advertising and social media. Rates will vary, you might set an hourly, half-daily or daily rate for clients, or have prices for specific responsibilities or requirements.
The key to success, apart from being good with animals is to be reliable, responsible and priced correctly.
There are no formal education or training requirements, but you must be familiar with most aspects of pet care and behavior, either through experience or extensive research.
You are in a position of trust, both in doing your best for the owners' pets, but also with regard to access to their properties and possessions. You should have a clear set of terms and conditions with your clients to avoid any confusion over responsibilities and liabilities and be sure to ensure the safety of yourself and the animals in your care.
It will be beneficial for pet sitters to have some animal healthcare exposure, such as prior experience at a vets, whilst training in animal CPR and first aid is also valuable.
You could take a college course which may help when looking for employment or setting up your own business
Relevant courses include the following:
- Animal Care Diploma Level 1
- Animal Care Diploma Level 2
- Animal Management Diploma Level 3
- Practical Animal Care Skills Diploma Level 3
Entry requirements vary depending on the college you are applying to but you will usually need:
- 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent, for a level 2 course
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course
- You may be able to get onto the level 1 course without any specific qualifications
The following colleges offer courses in animal care:
Work experience at a local shelter or rescue centre would help you learn about animal behavior and interactions, you could also become a volunteer dog walker.
Before you start as a pet sitter you should have specialist insurance in place and it is also recommended that you have a DBS check especially if clients are giving you access to their house.
If you wish to start you own dog walking/pet sitting business you should advertise locally. The National Association of Registered Pet Sitters (NARPS) lists pet sitters, dog walkers and pet boarding providers.
Career Path and Progression
Once your business is established, you could extend your services by taking a grooming course and offering dog bathing and grooming. You could also set up pet day care and boarding services. If you take the necessary qualifications, you could offer dog training and obedience classes.
You'll need to be:
- Responsible and practical
- Good at self promotion / advertising
- Mobile, either with a vehicle or access to good transport links (You won't make much from only targeting nearby streets)
- Patience and tolerance
Salaries vary massively, If you are self-employed your salary will depend on how many clients you have and the amount of hours that you work.