I started out as a house and cat sitter back in 2017. I didn’t have any house sitting experience, but I’d owned a cat.
I felt I was pretty responsible, had enough common sense, and was more than capable of looking after someone’s home for a week or so. Two-and-a-bit years on and I’m still making my way around the country by way of house and cat sitting when I can.
To be a great house and pet sitter, in my opinion, you need to really love pets. Dogs, cats, birds… domestic animals. However, there are also other important elements to successful house sitting, so here’s five things to think about when weighing up whether house sitting is for you.
Most people only list their home because they need someone to care for their pet(s). If you don’t like animals, don’t apply. If you don’t know how to look after a dog—and I certainly don’t—don’t respond to someone’s ad if they’ve got one. And if snakes make you uncomfortable, I’m sure feeding them will make your skin crawl even more.
Apply for the job ads that include animal care for animals you have experience with and feel comfortable around. This way to will make sure you have a good experience, and the animals will be well cared for.
You don’t need to be a veterinarian by any means, but you do need some experience with animals. Whether that’s owning them or caring for someone else’s, it all helps. If you’ve owned a pet, chances are you’ll notice when something’s not right. If you’ve never owned an animal, you might not know when to get a sick animal some help.
It’s also important to adhere to the pet’s routine. If that means feeding them four or five times each day, that’s what you have to do.
Someone else’s pet might require daily injections and/or regular medication. If you’ve never administered either before (that’s me!), don’t waste the owner’s time. Don’t respond to their ad. It’s very important to administer medication as per the owner’s instructions.
There’s nothing worse than not being able to get a hold of someone, especially when they are caring for your beloved pet. Exchange phone numbers and email addresses. If you feel comfortable adding each other on socials, go ahead. If you’re doing a sit in another country, or the home owner is flying overseas, downloading Whatsapp is a good idea. All you both need is an internet connection to stay in touch.
Pet owners will feel comfortable knowing that they can get regular updates on their furry friends.
A free place to stay is great, but it’s not a hotel. It’s someone’s home. Make sure you treat their space in a respectful manner. Don’t go through their personal things and don’t leave your stuff lying around either. Make sure you tidy up your personal belongings and try to leave the home even cleaner than it was when you got there.
Something I always try to do is wash and change the sheets before I leave. If I don’t have time to wash them, I will strip the bed and put my sheets in the washing basket. If they have an extra set of sheets, I’ll make the bed before I go. It is lovely for an owner to come home to a clean, made bed after travelling.
Keep the owner in the loop. How are things going? Is their pet faring OK or are they stressing out? Has something broke and needs fixing? Definitely don’t leave that for them to find out about when they get home. I’ve never had anything break on me, but if the fridge stopped working or there was a leak in the bathroom, reach out to the owner ASAP. Some owners leave their credit card details for sitters while others may prefer to recite this information over the phone. You shouldn’t be expected to foot the bill. If there’s a pet emergency, most people I’ve sat for have had an account with their preferred animal hospital.
Home security is paramount, especially when it’s not your home. Make sure you lock the door and check it’s locked before you head out. Some doors might lock behind you while others don’t. It’s not a bad idea to ask if there’s an extra set of keys hidden around in case you find yourself locked out. There might even be someone (e.g. a close friend or family member) with their own set you can call.
Other people’s homes might have several different keys to open the door. Run through everything beforehand and make sure each key opens what it’s meant to. You don’t want to be stuck without a key or have the wrong key get stuck in the wrong lock.
While each house sit is different from the next, I think these five things are paramount to a successful house sit.
Madolline Gourley is a writer/editor from Brisbane, Australia. She has travelled all around the United States as a house and cat sitter. Read more about her global cat sitting adventures on her blog, One cat at a time.
Housesitters of America has been a major positive experience. Since May I’ve been blessed to find 4 local house/ cat sits that have been a pleasant win/win situation. I am so relieved to find homeowners who are really kind and grateful. It inspires me to be even more diligent in caring for their homes! I will continue until I find what feels like home for me in the New Year. I give HOA 5 ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️for integrity. Thanks Very Much! Bette