We live in a highly mobile society. We travel for business, family matters, or just to get away. Unfortunately, it's not always possible or practical to bring our pets with us, and we must leave them in someone else's care. Could that someone be you?
The in-home pet sitting business is booming. More and more people want to leave their dogs, cats, and other assorted pets in the familiar surroundings of their own home. This opens up a great opportunity for you to put your love of animals to work. Literally.
Pet sitting is one of the easiest and least expensive businesses to start. I started mine with a free craigslist ad and a $150 premium for bonding insurance (to protect both me and the homeowner in case something happens while caring for their animals). I also had a reliable vehicle, which will be your most important asset. A hungry Rotty won't be very forgiving when you give him the excuse that your car wouldn't start.
If you want to expand to a full-time business or a multi-employee business, you'll need to invest more time, energy, and money. You'll need marketing handouts, perhaps a website, and appearances at pet-related events and organizations. Like most any business, its growth will depend on how much you feed it.
Before you jump into the pet sitting business, here are a few more things to consider:
• Once an animal is entrusted into your care, you are responsible for it. Therefore, it's essential that you have a backup plan in case you are unable to fulfill your commitment because of health, weather, family emergencies, or other unforeseen circumstance
• What types of animals will you provide services for? Dogs, cats, and fish? Or everything from aardvarks to zebras?
• What will you charge? Typically, pet sitters will charge $10 to $50 per client per day, depending on mileage, how many pets, and how many visits.
• Some pets will require medical treatment. Are you able and willing to administer medications? Do you have the knowledge and ability to handle any medical emergencies that might arise?
• Will you provide other services such as dog walking, poop scooping, transportation to veterinarian or groomer, and household tasks such as plant watering, house cleaning, and overnight stays?
If those kinds of questions don't deter you, perhaps pet sitting is the opportunity you've been waiting for. You can provide a valuable service and have fun doing it.
But don't get me wrong. Pet sitting takes a great deal of work and dedication. You need to find and interview new clients, make two to four home visits per day for each client (careful scheduling is essential), keep abreast of the latest pet health and nutrition news, and keep accurate records. You also need an inexhaustible source of energy for dog walks, playing hide and seek with a skittish Siamese, and a couple hundred iterations of fetch the Frisbee. By the way, I also include those activities in my list of benefits of owning a pet sitting business.
If you're serious about starting a pet sitting business, you have a lot of help available. There are several websites that provide valuable information and forms to start and run your business. Other pet sitters can provide additional help (and may come in handy as a backup sitter if you need help), and there are several good books on the topic. One of my favorites is "How To Open & Operate a Financially Successful Pet Sitting Business," which should give you most everything you need to know make your business a success. And I'll be providing information and tips about this and other pet-related businesses in future blog posts.
One last thing. I said a reliable car was your most important asset. Do you know the second most important asset? It's your reputation. Pet owners are extremely loyal. When they find a caring and dependable caregiver for their animals, they will come back to you again and again. And so will their friends and family.