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Like many of us, pets can be creatures of habit. Even the slightest change to a trusted routine is sometimes enough to cause stress and anxiety…for pets and parents, alike. That’s why it makes sense to invest the time and effort to find a qualified pet sitter for your beloved dog, cat, or other household pets. When work, travel, or unexpected emergencies call you away from home, you’ll know your pets are in good hands, with someone you (and they) know and trust.
Fortunately, since close to 85 million people share life with a pet in the United States, you have an abundance of pet sitting services from which to choose. Like dogs and cats, every pet sitter is different, and not all are created equal. So we did a deep dive to help you understand the pet sitting landscape, so you can find the best pet sitting services available.
There’s nothing wrong with giving your pet a toy or puzzle to keep them occupied when you’re away for short periods of time. And some animals are more comfortable than others being left on their own. But arranging for a pet sitter to stop by for walks, potty breaks, water changes, mealtime, and general care is often in a pet’s best interest.
That’s especially true if you notice your pet getting anxious when the keys come out and the shoes go on because they realize that Mom or Dad is going somewhere. So here’s everything you need to know before hiring a pet sitter to care for your animals.
What is In-Home Pet Sitting?
A qualified in-home sitter is perfect for pet parents who are going on vacation, working long hours outside the home, or facing an unexpected emergency, such as a long hospital stay.
In general, dogs should not be left alone for more than four to six hours, and animals should always have someone to take care of their basic needs and provide companionship. An in-home pet sitter comes to your residence and takes care of your pets in their own environment.
Emmy Scammahorn of Corrales, New Mexico, worked as a live-in pet sitter for 14 years. She always met with prospective clients in their homes for an extended one-hour interview.
“One client laid out an emergency scenario with his dogs and asked what I would do,” she recalls. “I said I would call him right away. He let out his breath and I knew that was the right answer. Emergencies happen, and you have to think on your feet.”
In-home pet sitting isn’t a new concept. Pet Sitters International was founded in 1994 by Patti J. Moran, a lifelong animal lover who literally wrote the book on pet-sitting as a business model. And as more and more people begin to embrace their pets as not just animals, but important members of their family, the market for pet sitters has skyrocketed.
Boarding vs. Pet Sitting: Which is Best for my Pet?
For many pet parents, the stress of figuring out what to do with their dogs or cats when they go away can sometimes detract from the fun and excitement of the trip. Some of us can rely on friends and family to take care of our pets in our absence, but not everyone has a loved one to count on.
Boarding a pet requires leaving the dog, cat, or another animal with a professional kennel, pet boarding service, or veterinarian who offers boarding care. While it may be a good solution for some animals, it can become a nightmare if the pet gets stressed, sick, refuses to eat or drink, or isn’t fond of being around other animals or human strangers.
In terms of amenities, boarding facilities can vary greatly. Some facilities offer the basics: kennels, caretakers, and routine care. Others provide everything from high-end dog beds and state-of-the-art indoor play areas to 24/7 video surveillance for staff and pet parents to check-in at any time of day or night.
When you’re shopping for a boarding facility, It’s important to find out exactly what your pet will be experiencing in your absence. What services are included, and what are extras? Will your pet be alone, and for how long? Who is on staff and do they have any certifications?
Animals who aren’t fond of being in strange situations may not do well in a boarding facility. Boarding may not being the best environment for rescue pets, as they may think they are being abandoned again. Pet sitting services are a more popular option for those who prefer in-home around-the-clock or occasional care for their animals. Some pet sitters will live in your home full time while you are away, while others will stop by for meals, to exercise the pet, and check in on them.
If you decide to try a professional pet sitting service at your home, it may put your mind at ease to choose one that your fellow pet-loving friends have used before and recommend.
How to Find a Pet Sitter: What to Look For
A simple internet search for the term “pet sitting” yields over 3 billion results. Even if you narrow that down to just local results, the prospect of finding a sitter you can trust with your pet and your home may seem overwhelming. But having an in-depth screening process in place can go a long way toward helping you find the right person to care for your very important four-footed family member.
Here are some guidelines to help you in your search for a potential pet sitter, so you can make the right decision for you and your pet.
- Ask for pet sitting service referrals from trusted sources—friends, family members, the veterinarian, dog groomer, and neighbors.
- Compile a list of questions in advance of any conversation with a potential pet sitter. Be sure to ask about their previous experience, whether they are insured or bonded, whether they have any specialized training, how they would react in a medical emergency or if your pet was lost, and any references who’d be willing to speak with you about their services. If you have several pets, make sure the sitter has multi-pet experience.
- Before engaging a pet sitter, have them stop by to spend some time with your pet as a trial run. This can also help you identify and work out any kinks or questions you did not anticipate before they become larger issues.
- Agree on how many updates you would like a day from your pet sitter and what method of communication you will use (e.g., text, video), so you can rest assured that your pet’s well-being and needs are being met. If you have surveillance cameras in your home that are accessible through your phone, you can also let them know that you will be checking in this way as well.
- Work out all the details in advance, including rates, schedule, meals, off-limit foods or activities, and emergency info. Add all of these details to a contract signed by both you and the pet sitter, to ensure everyone is clear on the expectations.
- Establish a backup plan, so that you’re not stuck if the pet sitter is late or has an emergency. Ask the sitter what their emergency plan is, as well.
“You want a pet sitter who understands that animals are as complex as humans and someone who loves animals deeply,” long-time pet sitter Emmy Scammahorn shares. “During an interview, I often sat on the floor with animals.”
Pet sitting apps and sites give pet parents a simple and convenient way to connect with pet sitters about in-home pet care. The beauty of pet sitting apps is being able to manage everything from a mobile phone and see what the pet sitter’s reviews are from previous clients.
Most pet sitting apps allow people to find care for their pets like any dating or matching service. It can be nerve-wracking to hand a family member over to a complete stranger, which is where the review process comes in. Carefully read reviews and don’t just look for the multi-star ratings. If there are negative reviews, consider whether they are random complaints or an indication of a consistent problem.
Before committing to a pet sitter, Cocker Spaniel mom Rebecca Tolbert did some in-depth research in Windsor, Colorado. “We used Rover.com to find a pet sitter when we moved to a new city and didn’t have a support system,” she recalls. “We picked the three highest-rated sitters with the most return customers.”
Tolbert and her husband scheduled meet-and-greets with the prospective sitters and took their dogs along. The couple went with their gut instincts and left their dogs in the care of one of the pet sitters, who they ended up using for years.
During the screening process, keep an eye out for red flags that could indicate the pet sitter is less than trustworthy—such as an unwillingness to answer basic questions or share references, poor reviews on apps and pet sitter websites, or refusing to meet with you in advance.
Pet parents will often ask if a pet sitter is bonded, insured, and/or licensed. Though requirements vary from state to state, pet sitting, at its core, is a professional business. If you’re using a professional pet sitter, a reputable one would have no problem answering these questions.
Bonding insurance compensates you if something goes missing from your home while under the pet sitter’s care. Liability insurance covers the pet sitter in the event of an accident or damages that occur in your home, instead of your homeowner’s policy. Both protections benefit you and the pet sitter, so it’s worth asking these questions upfront so you can make an informed decision about your pet’s care.
How Much Does A Pet Sitter Cost?
Drop-in pet sitters charge around $25 for a 30-minute session or $32 per hour, according to research from Thumbtack. Overnight pet sitters charged anywhere from $75 to $85 per night with a $5 fee for each additional pet in their care.
Rates may vary by area, time of year, and even the type of animal. HomeGuide.com says cat sitting and dog sitting are about the same in price, while birds are generally boarded so the prices are lower (about $12 to $18 per day).
Some “full-time” in-home pet sitters will provide care to your pets, but may also go to their jobs or run errands during the day. In this case, find out how long your pet will be alone. Pets requiring 24-hour care and/or service during holidays will generally cost more.
Since many pet parents will use a pet sitting service on a regular basis, some of them offer a membership fee rather than an individual rate. For example, TrustedHousesitters charges its members an annual fee, thus eliminating money exchange between its clients.
6 Best Pet Sitting Services
Best Pet Sitting Service: Overall Winner
Our pick: TrustedHousesitters
Thanks to an annual membership fee, pet parents connect with caring sitters who are verified and reviewed. Options include basic, standard, and premium plans, which range between $129 and $259.
Pet sitters on TrustedHousesitters are verified and reviewed, and all members are are encouraged to complete their free ID and background checks. You can also read reviews and references from other pet owners.
Communication is of utmost importance when someone cares for your pet, so TrustedHousesitters encourages members and sitters to correspond with one another before any appointments. Personal information is not shared until the pet parent requests a phone call, video chat, or face-to-face meeting for local visits.
- House and pet sitters pay a fee for a one-year membership which gives them access to unlimited pet sitting opportunities
- Sitters are verified, reviewed, and referenced
- Pet sitters have 24/7 access to veterinary experts in your absence
- Sitters share photos and updates with pet parents through the app
- Money-back guarantee if 14 days pass without a sitter response
Things to Consider
- Members must pay a yearly fee whether you use the service one time or frequently
- Read sitter profile closely to ensure you get a pet sitter based on your needs
- Book early to ensure you get the pet sitting dates you need before they are gone
Other Pet Sitting Services To Consider
Rover offers pet sitters, dog walkers, in-home dog boarding, and doggy day care. Pet parents view a list of available sitters in their neighborhood, along with profiles and pricing, which varies by person.
They offer 24/7 support along with premium pet insurance and no fees to become a customer. Rover.com has an app that allows pet sitters to communicate with their clients and share updates, photos, and videos. Bookings and payments are made through the platform.
Customer service is available 24/7, and pet sitters can meet face-to-face before you entrust them with your pet and home.
- Rover.com vets their sitters with thorough background checks
- Reservations are guaranteed once you lock the date(s) in
- Free face-to-face meeting before booking
- Rover Match service helps find the right sitter before you book, with no extra fee
- Offers a variety of services beyond pet sitting, from daily walks to drop-in visits
Things to Consider
- Some reviewers feel the site is difficult to navigate
- No capability to leave a review for the sitter based on the face-to-face pre-meeting
- Reviews state many sitters only take care-trained dogs
- Frequent app problems reported
- Booking fees may apply
Fetch Pet Care
Fetch Pet Care offers a wide variety of services through their website. Services include dog walking, pet sitting, pet transport, “almost overnight” care, and help with establishing a routine for new puppies. Pet parents can schedule through the app where pet sitters use a comprehensive journal to share photos, videos, arrival and departure times, and more.
Fetch removes a huge barrier to selecting the right pet sitter by allowing prospective customers to view profiles. Fetch is a franchise, unlike some other pet services that offer independent pet sitting services. Pet sitters at Fetch are vetted with a mandatory background check, in-depth interviews, and are required to go through a safety certification program following region-specific guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Comprehensive journaling allows pet parents to access updates easily
- All Fetch pet sitters are required to be bonded and insured
- Free in-home consultation before the scheduled service
- Same trusted sitter with a backup for each visit
- Last-minute bookings available
Things to Consider
- Pet sitting costs through Fetch vary by location.
- Franchise-based model with locations across the United States
- In-home pet sitting and “almost overnight” in-home visits available
- Availability of services may vary by franchise location
Some folks feel that Wag! is the equivalent of car sharing for the dog walking world. For example, when you need a dog walker, you can request a specific time through the Wag! app, and requests are usually filled within a half hour, much like Uber or Lyft.
Wag! offers a wide variety of services including in-home pet sitting, in-home and digital training, dog walking, overnight dog boarding, and drop-in visits. Pet sitters are vetted and screened and must follow a specific set of community guidelines available through the Wag! app.
Criminal background checks are performed on all Wag! workers, and your residence is protected up to $1 million dollars when booking a sitting or walking service.
- Follow your dog’s walk through the app’s live GPS tracker
- Wag! sends a lockbox to pet parents to keep keys in for the sitter
- They promise all pet sitters are bonded, insured, and experienced
- Many Wag! pet sitters have worked as shelter volunteers or veterinary technicians
- Costs vary by region and depending on need
Things to Consider
- Credit card information must be provided before you can view walkers in your area
- On-demand booking not available in all areas
- Some reviewers complain about poor customer service
- Wag! offers many services but seems to be well-known for their dog walking and last-minute availability for this service
PetSitter.com is part of the CareGuide family of brands, which include Housekeeper.com, Eldercare.com, and HouseSitter.com. Unlike many services, PetSitter.com matches pet parents with sitters across North America, including Canada.
They offer pet sitting, dog walking, boarding, training, and grooming services. PetSitter.com is willing to care for dogs, cats, and fish, as well as other more exotic animals. Safe communication with potential sitters is ensured through their proprietary TELESAFE system, which hides all phone numbers.
- All profiles can be viewed without creating an account
- PetSitter.com operates across Canada, the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands
- How much you pay the caregiver (pet sitter) is up to the pet parent, but it must be at least minimum wage
- Payment details are worked out in final stages of application process
Things to Consider
- PetSitter.com is self-serve and the company does not assist pet parents in the hiring process
- The site performs more like a job board with employers (pet parents) connecting with potential employees (pet sitters) about job opportunities
- PetSitter.com does not reach out to candidates on behalf of pet parents
- No specific app associated with PetSitter.com
PetBacker limits the number of pets they care for at any given time in order to provide more personalized attention. They provide both pet sitting and pet services, including dog walking. They are available in 50 countries and have an easy-to-use online platform so you can research potential pet sitters.
Enter details into the website or apps through PetBacker.com to find the right person to care for a pet in the same way you search a hotel booking website. Simply make a request, answer a few questions about the pet service you are most interested in, get up to five cost estimates from pet sitters, and place a deposit to schedule a meet and greet.
According to the website, only 30 percent of all applicants are selected to work as a pet sitter for PetBacker. Every booking is covered by “premium insurance” in the event of an accident or emergency.
- All bookings are entitled to leave a verified review for future customers
- If the pet sitter cancels last minute, PetBacker works with the client to find a new one
- Payment is secure through the website and no tips are necessary
- Pet sitting report card available through the app, which includes visit time, potty schedule, meal and water times, photos, personalized notes, and more
Things to Consider
- Pet sitters bill on a per visit or per day basis
- Sitters are also available to collect mail, water plants, etc.
- Now offering PetWalk to track the pet’s movement and activities
- PetBacker has a safety and trust team that investigates bookings if a 1-star verified review is given to the service provider
- Ensure reviews are from real people by looking for the verified status tag
Using a Pet Sitter: Tips and Advice
Apps like TrustedHousesitters.com allow pet parents to book in advance and view the potential sitter’s calendar. Having a list of do’s and don’ts along with explicit instructions in a notebook will help the person properly care for your pet.
Ensure the pet’s supplies, food, treats, and any other items of importance are well-stocked. Share a list of places you frequent with the animal, if you want the pet to be transported anywhere such a dog park, to meet with a friend, etc., and how often they should be walked and taken outside.
Emmy Scammahorn says the sign of a good pet sitter is someone who is both easygoing and also absolutely passionate about pets. These pre-requisites are essential for a job where, according to Scammahorn, some pets like to get up to mischief when Mom or Dad is away.
“They may ‘escape’ at bedtime, growl at you when you get into bed, throw up or have diarrhea on the rug, refuse to come in from the back yard, pull you off your feet during a walk, and have to pee during your favorite television show,” says Scammahorn. So it pays to do your homework and find a pet sitter who will love your pet as much as you do, no matter what!