Pet sitter charges can vary widely by location and services offered. A pet sitter in an expensive area like New York City will charge more for a 30-minute visit than a pet sitter in Des Moines, Iowa. Pet sitters may add an extra fee for medicating pets, for multiple pets or for cleaning up. Many will add a mileage charge to cover the cost of getting to the client's house, particularly in rural areas where clients are spread out. Setting charges is more of an art than a science and depends largely on where you live and what services you offer.
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A pet sitter offers care for pets in a client's home. This may be a midday visit for a puppy or older dog who cannot "hold it" while the client is away at work, or multiple visits per day while the client is on vacation. Compared to the cost of a kennel, pet sitter charges may seem high. However, the pet sitter also provides security by visiting and checking on the home and animals, turning on lights, watering plants, taking out the trash and generally keeping the home running and secure as well as taking care of the animals. While dogs and cats may be kennelled, other pets like birds, reptiles and horses must be cared for at home.
Pets are more comfortable when they remain at home in familiar surroundings and maintain their regular feeding and pottying schedule. Being kennelled can be very stressful. Many pet owners realise this and will pay a pet sitter for the well-being of their animals. Since the pet sitter comes to the home several times a day, the home is less vulnerable to break-ins because it looks "lived in." When there are multiple pets in the home, pet sitter charges can actually be less expensive than a kennel.
Pet sitters offer many types of services, and these can be charged for separately. In addition to basic home visits, a pet sitter may charge for transporting the pet to and from a vet or groomer. Some pet sitters will add home training and grooming sessions for an additional charge. Walking dogs, feeding exotic pets like snakes, caring for horses and administering oral or injected medication can all be extra add-ons. If getting to the client's home requires extra travel, a mileage charge is often added. Most pet sitters have a flat fee for visits within a certain area, and add a per mile charge for travel outside of the service area.
When determining what to charge, check out what the going rate is in your area. Since most pet sitters have websites and can be found by a simple search, or by checking online pet sitter directories. There may be people offering pet sitting for very low fees, but many will be uninsured and will have few references. Pet sitting insurance is inexpensive and offers both you and the client peace of mind, and many clients will require insurance and be prepared to pay a little more. When starting out, offer to take care of friend's pets so you can have references available. If you have a relationship with a veterinarian, that can also be an excellent reference. Consider what extras you can legitimately offer and charge for, like poop scooping, training or grooming. Typically the first "meet and greet" visit with a new client is free, to make sure that you are comfortable with her and her pets, and to give her a chance to evaluate you and decide whether they feel comfortable giving you access to their home.
There is potential to make a decent living by pet sitting, if your charges are fair to both you and your clients. Doing an excellent job will get you word of mouth advertising and repeat business. Networking with other pet sitters and establishing relationships with local vets, groomers and other pet professionals also generates referrals. As you grow the business you may want to hire help. Most pet sitter helpers are independent contractors rather than employees, but do your research to make sure you are staying within the law and making hiring decisions that benefit both you and your assistant sitters.
Unless a pet sitter lives and works in a large city, there may be a lot of driving involved in going from client to client, so having an efficient vehicle is important. Hours can be long, and this is often not glamorous work. Determine what animals you are comfortable handling. Some dogs may be aggressive or fearful, reptiles may need to be fed live food, and you have to be prepared for medical emergencies, especially with senior pets. Don't be afraid to turn down a job if you are not comfortable with the requirements. Join a pet sitting organisation for group member benefits and support. Check the link below in the Resources section.
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