Want to Earn $100 to Hang Out with Cats and Dogs?

Image: Dogs. Photo by Tony Alter
Tony Alter/Flickr

Can you walk a dog? Can you play with a cat? Are you okay with spending the night at someone else’s house and watching their TV instead of your own?

If you answered yes to those three questions, you could be making up to $100 per night as a pet sitter.

Pet-crazy owners need someone to love and care for their furry children when they’re out of town, and reliable pet sitters can earn top dollar. Your duties will depend on the type of pet you’re watching, but you’ll likely have a lot of free time in between feeding, walking and playing with the animal. Not a bad job, right?

What to Charge for Pet Sitting

You’ll usually visit the clients’ home before you’re hired. They have to get to know you and fill out some paperwork, like a short contract, vet information and feeding instructions. You’ll want to explain your services, make sure you’re on the same page with expectations and build a rapport with the pet. These consultations are normally done for free, but you don’t have to repeat them for regular clients.

When we lived in Colorado, my wife and I paid $60 per night for a sitter to watch our two cats. Here in Naples, Florida, $65 is the lowest rate I could find, and it’s more common to charge $100 per night. In many cities the rate is closer to $50, so you’ll have to do some research before setting your rate. Google “pet sitter” and the name of your city to find examples of what others are charging.

Here’s an idea of what you could earn, based on my local pet sitting service:

  • Visits: $40 (walks, play and feeding for up to 1 hour)
  • Overnight: $100 (10pm to 8am only)
  • Overnight + One daytime visit: $120
  • Overnight + Two daytime visits: $140
  • Key pickup: $20 (unless owner provides key during initial consultation)
  • Trips: $40/hour (vet, grooming, picking up food)

For cats, expect to fill their food and water bowls once a day and play with them for ten or fifteen minutes. Dogs will need some time to run around in the yard. In addition, most pet sitters include some minor extra services in the price, like bringing in the mail and watering plants. Consider charging separately for some of these other services that pet sitting companies offer:

  • Pet baths: $20 to $25
  • Watering the yard or flower beds: $10
  • House cleaning: $20/hour
  • Dog walking (beyond the yard): $10 to $20

With an overnight stay, a daytime visit, and some additional service, you could make as much as $150 per day from a client, even if you spend most of your time reading a book or watching movies.

Make Even More Money

This is a job that primarily requires your presence. You’ll have to play with the animals and feed them, but most of your time will be free. Bringing your laptop creates another opportunity: double up your income by doing online work while pet sitting.

I’ve been working as a search engine evaluator, for example, and I could easily complete $60 to $80 of this work during an overnight stay, perhaps making it into a $200 night between the two incomes. Get creative when considering the many other ways to make money online while staying with people’s pets. Or devote the time to your passion project: what better time to start writing that novel, which might eventually bring you a big payday?

How to Get Started

First, Google “pet sitter” and the name of your community to see what others charge and what services they offer. If there aren’t enough local results, try the next closest city. You want to be competitive but not the cheapest. You also want to have the same (or higher) degree of professionalism as the others, so this research is important.

Joining a trade organization like the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters or Professional United Pet Sitters is a worth the cost. They’ll provide the forms you need, which you can modify to suit your purposes, and a wealth of educational materials. They’ll list you in their directories, which might bring you some business. Belonging to an organization also makes you appear more professional.

You might start out informally by pet sitting for friends who aren’t likely to sue you, but eventually you’ll want some protection. Insurance will make you and your clients feel more comfortable. Usually members of a pet sitting association get better rates; one rate chart shows liability policies starting at around $300 per year. That covers you up to $1 million for any major disasters, although more common claims are for incidents that cost a few hundred dollars at most, like losing a key and having to change door locks for a client.

Once your business is up and running, your costs could include that annual membership fee for a professional organization and your annual insurance premium. Add a website and a few business cards and your basic overhead could be as low as $500 per year, or less than $10 per week. Pet sitting is a low-cost business, and a nice way to make some money if you love animals.