People tend to fall into pet sitting as a way to make extra money. A friend will ask you to come over because she knows you love animals, or a neighbor will ask for your help because you’re nearby.
But watching pets on the regular can be daunting. Working for a service can put you on a schedule you’re not OK with. Running your own service? A look at potential insurance costs might persuade you to step away.
The happy medium might be right in front of you: DogVacay, a tech-powered go-between for pet owners and sitters. And while it’s designed for dogs, cats can get in on the love and care too. And these cats could be your best path to a steady pet-sitting gig.
DogVacay has been matching pet owners with sitters since 2012, but dedicated cat-sitting services are new. When the service debuted in March 2015, almost half of DogVacay’s dog sitters had signed up to serve cats as well.
“Cat owners can have a sitter stop by to check in and care for their cat while they’re away or have a sitter stay overnight in their home to give their cat 24-hour supervision,” a company release explained. “Just like DogVacay, each stay includes vet insurance, 24/7 emergency support and daily photo updates.”
For pet owners, it’s a dream — pet care peace of mind without dragging your favorite fluffball to the kennel. For pet lovers, it’s a way to corner the market for pet sitting in your neighborhood.
What Does it Take to Be a DogVacay Sitter?
If you start the application right now, you will not be making money before dinnertime. This is a long-term commitment.
The application gives you the flexibility to accept clients at your discretion. “There is just one application and then you can watch any animal your heart desires,” Rachael King, DogVacay’s head of communications, said. “We’ve had pigs, hamsters, chickens, ferrets, you name it!”
After filling out the online application and submitting photos of yourself and your living quarters, you’ll need to do a phone interview, pass a reference check and complete video training (pay attention — there will be a test).
But if you pass each round, you’ll be able to set your own rates for your sitting services, and rack up reviews from happy clients. Pet owners seeking services search by ZIP code, so you’re likely to be able to book gigs that are close to home.
Is DogVacay Enough to Be a Part-Time Gig?
Danielle Martin has been a DogVacay sitter for about six months, and added cats to her offerings when she learned of the new service.
“I’ve always loved working with pets,” Martin explained, mentioning previous volunteer experience at the local Humane Society. “It’s a neat opportunity to connect with families in my neighborhood and make money for something I enjoy doing.” She works in international development, but her part-time position allows her to work from home — and spend plenty of time with her furry clients.
“I pretty much have one dog all the time,” Martin said. While she’s happy to host dogs in her own home, she’s been visiting client homes more often, staying overnight for up to a week at a time. “They’re always close enough that if I need something, I can run home,” she said, “Sometimes even while walking the dog.” Martin takes her clients on walks three times a day and comes with rave reviews — she even has reservations booked up to two months in advance.
Martin’s advertised rate where she lives in Washington, D.C. is $35 per night for boarding or sitting a dog; her rate for cats depends on the situation and amount of care required. Even if she only took customers 10 nights per month at her standard rate for dogs, she could still pull in about $4,200 a year. That’s a solid chunk of change for a job that allows you to play with pets.
“Since most people just need someone to stop by for a visit, a CatVacay tends to be lower in price than a DogVacay,” King said. “Our sitters set their own prices for their services, but the average is $15-20 for a check-in visit to feed, water, clean the cat box and spend some quality time playing and cuddling.” King said that DogVacay overnights tend to be priced at $30-35.
What’s the Catch?
Yes, you give up a portion of your earnings to DogVacay. That 15% cut goes toward operating costs, insurance and credit card fees.
But for that 15%, it sounds like DogVacay takes pretty good care of its sitters.
“DogVacay foots all of the insurance costs out of the 15% cut we take from each reservation,” King explained. DogVacay’s extensive insurance coverage protects boarding and sitting homes, walks, transportation — basically, anywhere a pet might go while under the care of a sitter. Coverage includes general liability, professional liability, care and custody, and veterinary care coverage.
For example, if there’s an emergency and the sitter must seek medical care for a client, the owner will only be responsible for a $250 deductible. Neither owner nor pet sitter is stuck with a huge bill.
Remind Me Again Why the Secret Sauce for Pet Sitting is Cats?
Because cats are so easy.
Dogs? They have to go out. A lot. If you live somewhere very cold or very hot — or both — all of that in-and-out can wear down even the most avid of outdoorsy types. Dogs have to go outside in the rain and snow, and sometimes in the middle of the night.
If you’re sitting for cats, you still have to go out in the elements to get to your client. But once you’re there, there are no walks required. It’s a matter of feeding, petting, cleaning and keeping a general eye on things — all while indoors. There’s probably a kitchen table and a WiFi connection if you hope to work on your laptop during your visit. (Nothing keeps me in my chair and plugging away at work quite like a cat curled up contentedly in my lap.)
Caring for cats pays a bit less than caring for dogs, but the workload is a bit simpler. And your furry client won’t be antsy, waiting at the door for you with a full bladder, when you arrive. He probably won’t even give two hoots about you.
So if you’ve watched cats before but want a bit of structure in your pricing and policies, DogVacay can help you create that. “If you’re looking to make money watching kitties and you live in a city, you should see plenty of demand,” King said.
Demand equals dollars, if you’re up for giving plenty of ear scratches.
Your Turn: Have you tried working through DogVacay? We’d love to hear about your experience!
Lisa Rowan is a writer, editor, and podcaster living in Washington, D.C. She’s definitely more of a cat person.