Pet Sitting: 6 Rules for Caring for Someone’s Pet

Perhaps you have veterinary knowledge or have been veterinary training.  Have you ever considered working as a pet sitter?
Pet Sitting: 6 Rules for Caring for Someone’s Pet

Last update: 10 April, 2020

Babysitting is getting paid to care for someone’s babies or young children while they’re absent. There’s also a similar job known as pet sitting.

This is mainly for cats and dogs as they’re the most common, but sometimes people hire pet sitters for their rabbits, rodents, birds, turtles or fish.

Generally, the pet sitter moves into the pet’s home, although sometimes the owner moves their pet to the sitter’s home or a specific premises (such as a cattery or kennels).

Not only do you need to be prepared and have time to take care of another person’s pet. You also need to have basic knowledge in veterinary medicine, animal behavior and canine education.

Remember that each animal has its own character, emotional issues and different backgrounds. You also need to be legally protected, since issues can arise during pet sitting.

It’s good to know about animal behavior

A dog sniffing a woman's hand.

You may think that looking after a dog is just keeping them company and giving them food and water, and that anyone can do it, but you’d be wrong.

The pet sitter has to understand that they have a different relationship with the animal than the owner does, and they need to figure out how to build that relationship. In other words, coexistence needs to be positive.

Take a dog, for example.

Their owners know them well and know how to communicate with them at all times. They know their reactions and they know how to handle them. Furthermore, they know which situations are most problematic. For example, if the dog doesn’t smell the ground during walks, it will either tug on the leash a lot or it may react to other dogs or people.

Owners can pass this information on to the pet sitter so that they know how to handle the dog, but even so, the pet sitter needs to know a bit about the animal’s behavior to avoid problems.

You should also take basic dog education courses on positive reinforcement and emotional cognitive dog training.

In countries like Switzerland, there are online platforms where owners place ads looking for pet sitters and, in turn, those interested in caring for animals create a profile to look for job offers.

When creating a profile, knowledge in animal behavior and other related areas is highly valued.

Pet sitting tasks 

An owner may hire a pet sitter to take their pet to the vet. In these cases, the sitter needs to know how to help the animal stay calm and well behaved during the journey and the appointment.

In addition to caring for the pet at home (i.e. feeding, drinking, playing, brushing, and taking it out to go to the bathroom), the owner may request other services, such as:

  • Taking their pet to the vet (this is usually agreed in advance, as the owner has to make sure the pet sitter has a vehicle and availability to do this)
  • Giving medication to the pet

Perhaps giving a pill may not be very difficult, but it all depends on how the animal has been trained. For these types of issues the pet sitter must have some training.

Some pets are diabetic and need shots of insulin, just like people. The pet sitter needs to know how to administer it properly. And if the animal suffers from epilepsy, the sitter needs to know exactly what to do in case of an emergency.

This is why not everyone can be a pet sitter. Even if they are good-willed and like animals.

Playing with the pet is part of the job

A cat playing with a toy.

Being a pet sitter doesn’t just mean going to the dog’s house, feeding them and taking them for a walk. Dogs are incredibly complex animals and have many needs. The pet sitter must take time to play with the dog. Of course, everything will depend on the age of the animal and its habits.

One of the most important games to play with a dog is one that will work its sense of smell. By creating “odor mazes” with appetizing food or interactive toys that activate smell, etc. you’ll make the dog much calmer and relaxed.

A pet sitter must be legally protected. This is simply because they aren’t taking care of their own pet and they may have to go to other homes to provide their services.

It’s important to make a contract with the owner and, also, to protect themselves under civil and professional liability insurance. Especially if you intend to earn a living this way. 

Pet sitting is unpredictable, so you have to protect yourself properly.

Other thoughts

When working with animals, you have to be aware that, for them, there are no Sundays. They can get sick at any time. Also, owners may encounter unforeseen circumstances and may request a pet sitter at any time.

If you sign up online as a pet sitter, you may end up having several clients who need your services the same day. Be sure to make everything clear in plenty of time to avoid misunderstandings.

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  • Edwards, R. (2006). Pet Sitting: Is It For Me?.
  • Marçal, A. F. B. A. (2013). Business plan for a pet sitting and dog walking company (Doctoral dissertation).
  • Missoni, J., Cvitković, D., Pavlak, M., Konjević, D., & Marošinac, V. (2015). Pet sitting: keeping and caring for pets as a means of employment. Veterinarska Stanica, 46(1), 19-26.