Petsitting is the ultimate way to travel, spend time with animals, and save money. There are multiple websites that make it easy to find prospective house sitters who are willing to stay in your home free of charge and take care of your animals while you’re away. In return, they’ll get to explore a new place and live like a local. We reached out to a veteran petsitter to get the scoop.
In the last 3 years, Sarah has stayed in 15 homes, petsitting in locations as diverse as Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Portugal, Gibraltar, Luxembourg, Italy and New York. She has cared for dogs, cats and fish, for periods that range from short stints to extended stays. She not only petsits, but hires petsitters herself for when she has to leave her rescue dog behind. Here she dishes on the best parts of petsitting, what questions to ask owners, and how she chooses the best sitters for her own pet.
What inspired you to begin pet/house-sitting?
We first discovered housesitters when we moved to Laos and couldn’t find anyone to take care of our dog and cat. I always miss our pets when we travel and meeting other housesitters inspired me to take care of other people’s pets when we travel.
What do you look for in pet/house-sitting situations?
What questions about the pet do you ask when considering a new pet sit?
What’s the pet routine? Favorite walks? How long can I leave the pet on its own? I tend to avoid sits that say an animal can’t be left alone for more than two hours. Although we rarely leave pets alone for longer than four hours anyway.
What experience did you have with pets before becoming a pet/house-sitter?
I have always had pets so lots of experience with cats and dogs. I have also helped with street dog charities in Thailand. We once took 9 rescue dogs with us as flight volunteers for a dog charity from Bangkok to Toronto.
What do you look for in a petsitter when hiring someone for your own home and pets?
We prefer sitters with references although we have offered sits to newcomers and they’ve been great. We look for people who have travelled and are confident in a country where English isn’t the first language, and who accept that every country has its own quirks. As we tend to live in remote areas, we prefer couples although we have accepted singles on occasion. No young children. And no to bringing along your own pets. My dog can be a little unpredictable 🙂 She’s a rescue dog!
Have you ever had a bad experience petsitting or hiring a petsitter before?
Not really. We normally invite sitters to stay a night or two so my dog can get used to them and we can show them around. We have had sitters that seem a bit ‘odd’ but we’ve come back to a happy dog and a clean home so we can’t complain.
Only one time did we encourage a sitter to cancel who we had already confirmed. We wanted to know their flight details so we could confirm they were definitely coming. We asked several times and got no response, which got us worrying. Eventually they said they would take the bus, which is clearly a bit tricky from California to Lisbon, Portugal! It was at this point that I realized that despite their good reviews, they were not worldly travelers. When they realized Lisbon was in Europe, they became nervous as “Europe is a very dangerous place” Lol. I then suggested that maybe we should just cancel.
It’s great to see that there are responsible pet owners all over the world who care about their animal’s well being while away from home. What similarities and differences have you found from pet owners in the countries and cities you’ve been to?
There are many similarities among pet owners around the world. Some parts of southeast Asia are very difficult to walk with dogs since there can be packs of aggressive street dogs. Some cities very pro dogs – they’re allowed in restaurants and basically everywhere with you. Hong Kong was the first time I had experienced a dog park.
What is the hardest part about petsitting?
Saying goodbye to the pets. I get way too attached!
What’s the best part about petsitting?
Meeting new pets, making lifelong friends with some of the owners, a chance to live as a local. We are just back from two back-to-back cat sits in New York. It’s a great way to really experience local neighborhoods, have lots of cat cuddles (our cat died last February and we miss her loads!) and save loads on accommodation costs.
What surprised you the most about being a petsitter?
How much I enjoy this lifestyle. We are even considering taking on this lifestyle full time when our own dog passes on (hopefully not for a very long time!).
What advice do you have for people who want to begin to pet/house-sit?
If you love pets and love travel then do it. Start local or work with rescue animals to gain references.