When the CDC granted Americans the ability to travel domestically again as vaccines rolled out, Americans got to it. As a result, an industry that went through quite a downturn during the pandemic is seeing a significant resurgence: pet sitting. If you weren’t even aware that pet sitting was an industry, then you may be surprised that before the pandemic, in 2019, the global pet-sitting market size had a value of $2.6 billion — and that number is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 8.7% through 2027, according to Grandview Research.
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Here are tips on breaking into this potentially very lucrative field and how much you can expect to earn.
Work With a Service
While you certainly could set up your own business through word of mouth or posters in your neighborhood, pet sitter and writer Racheline Maltese of New York City recommends you work with a service instead. She sits exclusively for cats through a service called “Meowtel.” The service takes a fee for every sit, but over time, she says, their fee drops as you develop regular clients.
“There’s a lot of legal risk when you’re in people’s homes and caring for animals. If you want to be protected from accusations of theft or (if) something happens to an animal you have no control over, or you get bit or scratched, working with a service is worth thinking about. The one I work with provides insurance. It helps you get business and makes your situation safer,” she said.
Rover is another service that offers pet sitting and dog walking through a free online account. “Rover connects sitters and walkers with pet parents in their neighborhood who are looking for loving care for their furry family members. Rover makes it easy for pet parents to rebook with their favorite sitters and walkers, while also connecting sitters with new pet parents in need of care,” said Kristin Sandberg, pet trends expert at Rover.
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What Is the Work Like?
The term pet sitting might be a little misleading, as it also involves other tasks, Maltese explained, such as “cleaning litter boxes, texting people ‘here’s what your pet did today, here’s anything you should worry about, I watered your plants.'” Sometimes, though her primary animal is always a cat, there are other animals, such as a chinchilla in one house and a snake in another, whom she also checks on.
She also stresses that being professional is of the utmost importance — not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because “90% of clients have cameras. On one hand that’s great because they can check up on their animal, but you can’t be in people’s houses chilling on your phone. You should assume they’re checking on you.”
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Be Flexible and Prepared
Pet sitting is a job that requires tremendous flexibility, said Maltese. As a freelance writer and author, she sets her own schedule and can pick and choose the sitting options that work for her. If you have a full-time job or kids at home, it may not be ideal for you. Additionally, Maltese stressed, “You really have to love animals and people because you wind up in situations.” She’s found that after the pandemic, people are lonely and stressed. “So you get a lot of frantic checking-in about pets. You get clients going through divorces, clients traveling because of deaths in the family. A lot of emotional support goes into the work.”
In addition, she specializes in “difficult animals,” those that require medication or need injections. She sits for one especially high-maintenance cat. “At 4 p.m. every day it has to sit on someone’s lap and will scream until you let him, and he needs an asthma inhaler.”
“If you love pets, are knowledgeable, it’s a great gig. I felt like I was a prepared person going into it, and it was a learning curve. I recommend people know what they’re prepared to do.”
Sandberg echoed this, saying, “First and foremost, we’re a network of pet lovers and each new sitter and dog walker has to love animals. We know that pets are family and pet parents are looking for a loving pet care provider who will love their pet like their own.”
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What You Can Earn
But just how lucrative is this business? Is it worth it? For Maltese, who took the work on part time to finance a new hobby in figure skating, the answer is a hearty yes. She sets her own rates through Meowtel, charging $28 per 20 minute sit, though she also offers 45 and 90 minute visits. Before the pandemic, she says she’d earn around $1,500 at the busy times of year such as Thanksgiving and another $1,500 during the two weeks around Christmas and New Year’s. But since travel has opened up, she’s now earning $3,000 a month and turning down work because she can’t do it all.
At Rover, said Sandberg, each sitter also has the ability to set their own price per service and create their own schedule based on availability. “For example, you may be a student who walks dogs in between classes or a retiree who has more schedule flexibility and offers pet sitting or doggy daycare Monday through Friday to earn extra money on the side. A 30-minute dog walk on average is $15-$25 and an overnight stay is on average $35-$45 per night, depending on location.”
Of course, you must consider your expenses, such as gas, and the time it takes you to travel to a gig. For Maltese, most of her clients are within a 20-minute walk or subway ride from her house. But if you’re spending a lot of time and gas, you might want to rethink your territory.
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