So you think you might be interested in becoming a pet sitter. While it sounds like a fun, easy job, there is a dark side too! I wrote this blog for those who think pet sitting is just for sitting, watching and cuddling with furry cute lovable dogs & cats. Yes it is about that but there is so much more to know and do… so much more. First off, hello, my name is Don Richardson. I founded, created and have worked every job at 1st Rate Pet Services in Ocala Florida, and we have made it past the 3 year mark and are in the middle of a growth spurt.
The first part of this blog talks about being a pet sitter and the second part will be directed to those who are thinking about starting a pet sitting business. Please do not skip to the bottom first because the first part pertains to pet sitters and owners alike.
So you want to be a pet sitter? Besides what I mentioned above about sitting, watching, and cuddling with furry, cute and lovable dogs & cats, you will also have pets that crawl, slither, swim, & fly. Plus, among other things, they will claw you and bite you, and will also drool, throw up, poop and pee on you.
A few experiences I have had that were not really expected included finding that a customer’s cat had been bitten by a poisonous snake and had to be taken to the emergency vet (cat is doing well now), having a 60 pound pit bull hurdle over another dog to land in my arms (glad I was ready & alert), and being bitten by a cat named Toothless (she was not toothless by the way.)
My partner and I have both been bitten more than once plus scratched by pets that get a little extra excited. Luckily this next thing has not happened to me yet, but my partner did go to a pet sit and found that one of the cats who had been sick and on medication was lying in the hallway and had passed away. After composing herself and moving the deceased cat from the house, she had to call the owners and inform them their beloved pet had died. The lady she was talking to had to pass the phone to her husband because she was of course extremely upset, and the husband requested my partner work with the veterinarian to get the cat cremated, so she had to transport the deceased cat in her car for approximately 12 hours until she could coordinate a meeting with the customer’s mobile veterinarian.
These are just a few examples of the things a pet sitter deals with on a regular basis. Pets can escape and it is up to you to capture and return them safely home, or, if you can’t retrieve the pet, you then have to inform the customer that you lost their pet. Some pet owners are very specific about how and when and what to feed their pet and you must comply 100 percent with all of the instructions, no matter how silly or unnecessary they may seem to you.
You may have to medicate or give shots to unwilling animals, and sometimes you might not even be able to catch or find the animal that needs the medication during the allotted length of the visit. This will require you staying longer to get the job done, which then pushes the rest of your scheduled visits back and causes you to be playing catch up for the rest of the day. If you can handle all of that and still like the animals, you may be a good candidate to become a pet sitter.
Oh, so you are curious about having time off to do your own thing and enjoy life? Well, pet sitting is a 24 hour job, so don’t expect a regularly scheduled break. As for our business hours, daily scheduled appointments usually start at 6:00am and the last scheduled visit is at 10:00pm, with potential visits every hour in between. Sometimes Julie does an overnight visit but we cannot have anyone we hire do overnights because it pays too low of an hourly rate and we cannot by law have employees work for less than minimum wage.
One thing to realize as well is that a customer’s pet sitting visits may be scheduled for weeks at a time so that means you work weekends as well as week days to accommodate every day’s visits for that customer. There is no doubt that you will have to work weekends, maybe not every weekend but do expect to work weekends none the less. You may be looking forward to your day off all week, but suddenly, a day before the day off, someone calls requesting a visit for that day. Pet sits change daily and you never have a set schedule with all of the last minute visit requests, emergencies, canceled visits, clients coming home early, etc… Another thing to consider is that you will never be able to “call in sick” unless you have someone else working with you who can do the visits in your absence. This is not the type of job you can decide to take a day off and work double hard the next day to catch up. The pets need care EVERY SINGLE DAY and EVERY SINGLE VISIT they are scheduled for the day.
Being a pet sitter will NOT be a 9-5 job. In one day, for example, you may have pet visits at 6AM, 7AM, 11AM, 3PM & 10PM and they may or may not be on the same side of town so you will be driving and using your own gas to get to each visit so make sure you have money in the bank to cover gas. Then there is the matter of the few hours gap in between the visits. How are you going to pass the time? Do you go home, stay close to the pet sitting location, or go out to eat or shopping and spend all the profit you just made. There are still things that always need done at the office such as approving schedules, invoicing, returning phone calls or paying bills, so keep that in mind when making the decision on how to spend that few hours of “free” time.
This post is not meant to scare anyone off because if you truly LOVE animals it is all worth it. However, if you are just trying to find an easy job to make easy money then please don’t even try to do this job and don’t waste a pet sitting business owner’s time in a job interview because he or she will probably realize you don’t take the job seriously and won’t be very happy that you just wasted their valuable time that could have been spent taking care of someone’s pet or doing important, never ending office work (sorry, had to do some venting there.)
As for those of you who are thinking about starting a pet sitting business just remember what I said above and don’t just fall into all the hype you may have read online from the people who are trying to make a buck selling you products and information for starting a pet sitting business. The one I hate the most is the people who state that pet sitting businesses make around $130,000.00 a year. While that may be possible, it is not the norm. Nope, haven’t seen that yet and it’s been 3 years of hard constant work. OK, the first year wasn’t so hard and constant because we did not have very many clients, but within the second and third year we had a lot of growth only because we cover a 30 mile radius since Ocala is such a spread out, rural area. Most pet sitters only cover approximately a 10 mile area around their home and may only work certain hours because they have other jobs besides pet sitting, but we wanted to do this as a full time business and be able to offer pet services in areas that nobody else covers.
The one thing I will insist on is to do your homework! I had this business planned and everything in order including a full website for about 3 years before I jumped in and started 1st Rate Pet Services. I had all the paperwork ready (and there is plenty of that), the website, and everything else needed before I went to the state and registered my business name, opened a business bank account, and made sure we were insured and bonded. Getting all your ducks in order beforehand is very important because this is a legitimate business and should be considered as such by you because it will be considered as such by the IRS. Get all the paper work needed, forms, bank account, and accountant for tax time, and programs to keep track of it all unless you are planning to stay small and wing it.
If you are reading this blog and you are someone who is looking to hire a pet sitter to care for your pets in your home, I encourage you to also do some research. Research some articles on how to find the perfect pet sitter, research the pet business and the pet sitter and if they have a web site research it. Make sure they are insured and bonded as well. Next meet the person(s) who will be coming to your house to take care of your loved ones. Make sure they are someone you feel comfortable with and would trust. If you or your pet have a bad feeling about them then keep looking for that right person. After all, you are putting your loved furry family members’ lives in their hands.
So, if you have made it to the end of this blog and are still interested in being a pet sitter, please go to our website and apply for a position with our company. We would love a chance to meet you and see if you would be a good fit to add to our growing team of pet service specialists!