Happy Pets, Happy Owners: The Growing Career of Professional Pet Sitter

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People everywhere are creating their own businesses. Those who aren’t content with a nine-to-five schedule are opting for opportunities that replace or supplement income and provide freedom and flexibility.

More and more people are opting to shake the chains of conventional employment to seek out money-making options that fill a need and feed a passion. One such niche that’s growing in popularity is the vocation of professional pet sitter.
A pet sitter is a contracted service provider who takes care of a pet or other animal at its owner’s home, or possibly at their own home, rather than at a designated care facility or other location. The professional pet-sitting industry is growing rapidly, with numbers of more than 25,000 dedicated sitters being reported. This growth is fueled by the belief of pet owners that there are advantages to using pet sitters rather than traditional pet care options; this need is creating a lucrative career path that was unheard of ten years ago. Professional pet sitters are becoming increasingly popular and, if you’re interested, it’s a job that anyone with a passion for pets can master.

What is a Professional Pet Sitter?
Pet sitting goes far beyond just having a friend pop by the house to check on Max or Fluffy. Professional pet sitters are often licensed, bonded and insured for liability; they are responsible for the safe care, custody and control of the pets in their care. Pet sitters usually have training such as pet first aid certification, animal husbandry classes or pet sitting accreditation. A number of professional organizations exist to help pet sitters improve their services. It is not uncommon for pet sitters to be interviewed, asked for references and fully vetted prior to being given the job; for dedicated pet owners, it’s similar to hiring a nanny for children.

If you’re leaving for a vacation but aren’t able to take your dog with you, it’s an attractive alternative. In the past, you might enroll your furry friend in an overnight day care until your return. But if you hire a pet sitter, your lucky pooch gets to enjoy the comforts of her own home, sleep in her own bed and enjoy meals from her own bowl because a pet sitter will either stop by regularly or will stay in the home with them. This process is much more appealing to pet parents because they know the stress on their fur child will be less than if they had to spend time in an unfamiliar environment. Other benefits to having an in-home pet sitter is that there’s no travel trauma for pets or exposure to illnesses and parasites from other animals in a kennel or boarding situation. And their pet parents don’t have to feel guilty for needing to inconvenience neighbors, friends or family members with the care of their dog or cat. Happy critters, happy owners.

Pet sitters maintain a routine and extend courtesies to the pet just as their owners would normally do. Exercise, diet restrictions, treats, medication, cleanup and playtime, among other tasks, are all continued as if the owner were there to do it. Pets are often thought of as family members; by hiring a pet sitter the owner can ensure they’re cared for as if they’re visiting an old family friend.

How to Become a Professional Pet Sitter
Once you’ve decided pet sitting is something you’d like to explore, it’s a good idea to offer the service to a close friend or family member to get an idea of what’s expected. Since you’ll have access to someone’s home, it’s best to start with someone you’re already comfortable with to ensure your focus is more on the pet and not your surroundings.

Pet sitting for friends and family will help you gain experience as well as provide references for the beginning stages of your business. However, when you’re becoming a professional pet sitter, it’s a great advantage to become certified. The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters offers a self-paced certification program that can be completed in four to six weeks to enhance your knowledge of proper pet care, nutrition, behavior, first aid and ability to develop and manage your business.

The NAPPS certification lasts three years with options to renew and provides insurance discounts for liability purposes. As a professional pet sitter, you should have a service agreement available for clients to look over and sign to ensure the type of care they’re looking for is in line with what you’re offering. Create business cards and flyers and encourage word of mouth from satisfied customers to help build your client list. After all, happy pets make happy people and professional pet sitters have the unique ability to do both. ■

Sources: petsit.com, petsitters.org and en.wikipedia.org.