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Pet-sitting is a budget-friendly travel trend that's a win-win for both pet owners and pet lovers! Here are some top pet-sitting tips.
What is petsitting exactly? International petsitting, also known as housesitting, is a great travel alternative to hotels and hostels because you get to live like a local in a local home and help care for animals in need at the same time.
Pet sitting is perfect for travelers because it matches animal lovers with animals that need love! It's great to spend time with pets, but it's not all just kissing puppies! Pet care is both an awesome and complicated responsibility. As a longtime professional petsitter, here are my best tips on pet sitting.
You don’t need a veterinary background, but the more animal care experience you have, the better. If you're an animal lover, than you've probably grown up with and had pets as an adult, which gives you a great advantage, since you'll be able to appreciate another pet parent's perspective.
If you’re just starting out petsitting, you might want to pet sit for friends or family initially to feel comfortable. CPR courses offer many helpful tips and techniques for animal care and emergencies. Trusted Housesitters has a 24/7 vet advice line you can call for help.
Clients will give you all the needed details about the pets and house, including all your duties, as well as medicines to give if needed. It would be helpful for you to have some basic animal care knowledge, including being aware of which foods*, household items (dryer sheets, cleaning products) and environmental hazards (antifreeze, rat poison) are toxic to pets. Many indoor and outdoor plants can also be harmful, so try to identify them to watch out for chewing or grazing.
*Foods that can be harmful or toxic to dogs and cats include:
- onions/onion powder
- fruit pits/seeds (including mustard seeds)
- walnuts/macadamia nuts
- caffeine (coffee/tea)
- xylitol (candy/gum)
- yeast dough/hops
- avocado skins
- green stems of potatoes and tomatoes
Always know what to do and how to handle a pet emergency. Basic emergency protocols can be live-saver. I've had to treat a dog that counter-surfed chocolates that the owner left on the counter, and a dog that helped himself to an entire box of beef-flavored heartworm preventive chews. He may or may not have had a cat wingman. Couldn't get either to talk.
This, of course, applies to the animals, but also the pet parents as well. You have to meet the emotional needs of the pets and make them feel happy, comfortable and loved. You’ll also want to meet the clients' needs, mainly by ensuring that you’re taking care of the pets and house just as they want.
Sending happy updates, pictures and videos is a great way to illustrate this. You don't need to hold a cat up in front of a newspaper for proof of life. I had a pet sitter send me a pic like this once, and although I just about died laughing, I'd imagine you'd have to have a special sense of humor to appreciate that one.
Pets may suffer from a bit of depression after their parents leave, so it helps to pay them as much attention as possible so they don't develop separation anxiety, eating disorders or destructive behaviors. This especially applies to all herding and terrier dog breeds. They like to stay busy.
Dogs are creatures of habit, so keeping as close as you can to their normal routine often helps them feel less stressed. Communication about the schedule is important, because you'll want to know if the dogs require multiple walks per day and at early or late hours. Make sure everyone's on the same page. Except for the dogs, they have difficulty with both pages and telling time.
When you’re in charge of someone's beloved home and pets, you are responsible for everything. You’ll want to be somewhat hyper-vigilant during your stay, keeping a eye and an ear out for anything out of the ordinary.
You may be expected to organize repairs if something breaks. You will definitely be responsible for getting pets veterinary care if required. I’ve had to do everything from schedule maintenance repairs, wait for the cable man, take animals to grooming and vet appointments, and rush pets to the emergency room.
If the owners are away a while and you’re watching sick or geriatric animals, there is a chance they could need to go to the hospital, or that the owner may want a home euthanasia. Ultimately, It's important to be aware of the pets' medical history and current health status and medications so you can always be prepared for any situation that may arise.
You’ll want to leave the house as you found it. Clients won’t expect house-cleaning service from you because that’s not your job, but you will be expected to clean up after yourself, the pets, any accidents, and any other special projects. Sometimes there will be a yard, garden, or plants that will need care, in addition to disposing of pet waste, trash, recycling, and compost.
You may have to poop-scoop the yard. If you're taking dogs on walks, always remember to bring bags for clean-up there, too. If you are preparing raw meals for the pets, be careful to thoroughly wash your hands, all surfaces, and food bowls to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria. When caring for pets, you often need to extra clean and tidy for yourself and them.
Check out some of the cuties I've had the pleasure to care for in my pet hall of fame!
Treat the client’s house better than you would your own, because hey, it’s not yours! Be safe and respectful. Don't use anything that wasn't offered. While homeowners like to be hospitable, and want you to be comfortable in their home, always remember you are the guest. Keep a good head on your shoulders, always be in control of your environment, get vet advice if needed, and always be ready to go in case of an emergency.