A guide for travellers pet sitting the first time

I decided to prepare a guide for travellers considering pet sitting for the first time after completing my first pet sitting experience. 

After going through the whole process, I realised there are aspects I should have looked into more. Hopefully, this simple guide will help beginner pet sitters understand pet sitting better than I did at the time. 

What travellers considering pet sitting for the first time should know?

Pet sitting means taking care of pets at someone’s place while the owners are away. Travellers would usually pet sit in exchange for free accommodation. Pet sitting can help cut down your travel budget significantly because usually, paying for accommodation eats up most of a traveller’s budget. 

Travellers can pet sit a wide range of animals from dogs, cats, birds, exotic animals, and even large animals like horses. The sky is the limit as long as you feel comfortable taking care of them. 

Outside travelling, pet sitting is an ever-growing industry. Many people run their pet sitting business working with several clients at the same time. While some choose to stay local, some would travel across the country for bookings. 

The difference between a traveller pet sitter and a professional pet sitter is usually the pay. While the first usually does not charge in exchange for free accommodation, the latter does charge, and sometimes this type of service can be pricey. Especially around holidays and school breaks when the demand for house sitters is higher than in the rest of the year. 

How do travellers find their first pet sitting opportunity?

guide for travellers considering pet sitting for the first time

Finding your first pet sitting opportunity can be daunting. However, this is what my experience has been so far. Hopefully, sharing it here with everyone interested in the topic will make the process easier for some of you out there. 

 There are usually pet sitting platforms where pet sitters and pet owners sign up. While most of these platforms charge the pet sitter and not the pet owner (I know it does not seem fair), some are free to sign up. My experience with the free pet sitting platforms has been that they are not very reliable. In fact, the last time I used one of these platforms, I did not get any response back. 

I cannot recommend any of the paid platforms yet because I have not used them. However, there are people out there who use it. In fact, the person who recommended me to the family who became my first pet sitting experience was using one of these platforms. The fee to sign up for these platforms is not that high, considering how much you would save up by not paying for accommodation. Therefore, it’s down to you to decide whether it is worth the investment or not.  

So what helped me land my first pet sitting experience? Believe it or not, it’s been the good, old Facebook. While Facebook lost its charm among the youth as a social platform, Facebook groups are powerful tools to network, find jobs, learn new skills etc. I’m currently in 2 Facebook groups which helped me secure 3 pet sitting bookings. Therefore, I have bookings lined up from now until December. There will be some happy travel days for me towards the end of 2021! 

So one thing to take away from here is: if you want to increase your chances of pet sitting while travelling, join relevant Facebook groups. Joining Facebook groups is the cheapest and most practical way to get in contact with potential animal owners looking for pet sitters. 

I’m currently based in the UK, and I was surprised to find out there is such a demand for pet sitters in this country. I also noticed that international travellers join the group and express their interest in pet sitting ahead of their arrival into the country. How many of them actually secure a place, this is another question I will not be able to answer right now? What is for sure, though, is that many of these Facebook group members have international pet sitting experience. This tells me that you can indeed pet sit while travelling outside the country.  

However, before you set your expectations too high on this way of travelling, make sure you research whether there is a demand for this type of service in the country you are based. Or the country you intend to travel to. I cannot guarantee everywhere is the same. 

From what I noticed, this type of travelling seems to be very popular in the USA, France, Spain, the UK and Australia. I gathered this from what other members of the group were saying. However, personally, I only tried UK based pet sitting for now. So, I do not have experience in pet sitting anywhere else.  

Now that we had an overview of what pet sitting means and where to find sitting opportunities, let’s have a look at the main advantages and inconveniences. There are surely a few under each category, and I would like to share them with all of you. Especially with travellers considering pet sitting for the first time.

Be prepared for rejections!

consider rejections when pet sitting for the first time

Don’t take rejections too personal. And do not get disappointed either. Keep applying until you find the right match. Securing a pet sitting opportunity can be challenging, and sometimes they feel like a job application. You have to keep trying until you get your first booking. 

I had to go through several conversations before I secured my first ones and that took some time. You will learn in the process how to market yourself better and earn the pet owners’ trust. Always remember to be yourself and don’t force it too much. Similar to any marketing strategy, everything that’s too much gets perceived as fake. And people simply won’t like it. 

It is important to keep applying until you get your first booking. How can you do that? It’s explained below, so keep reading. 

Set up realistic expectations and be prepared to be flexible

Applying for a pet sitting opportunity in a popular country or area can be disappointing. Especially because so many other people would consider it. This is why it is important to set up realistic expectations. There is no point in dreaming about a 2-week stay in central London because this might not happen. 

Popular cities and areas tend to be more competitive than other less known places. I can definitely tell you that there were far more people interested in a 2-week pet sitting opportunity in the Peak District than a pet sitting opportunity in Essex (the UK). Why? Simply because the Peak District is one of the most popular areas in the UK, while the county of Essex is not particularly known for tourism. 

So be prepared to have your first pet sitting experience in maybe a less popular place than you originally envisaged. It happened to me, and I could not be happier. Although I was not aiming for London, I did not think I would end up in this Norfolk village called Barnham Broom. 

If you want to read about my tourism experience in Barnham Broom, I did write a blog post about some of the walks I did in the village. 

Norfolk’s hidden villages: The best walk in Barnham Broom!

Sometimes, not staying in the most popular destinations allows you to discover amazing hidden gems. It was my case, and I loved it. Not only I lived in this gorgeous countryside house for 2 weeks and looked after the most amazing dog ever. I also got to know a pretty Norfolk village not many know about. Sometimes the best way to travel is to visit places you’ve never heard of. There is no better feeling than discovering some amazing hidden gems. 

Something else you need to consider is flexibility. When pet sitting you must know that your services are mostly required in high season and during school breaks. So be prepared to get booked over holidays and summer. You will significantly increase your chances to get bookings if you are available during periods of high demand when everyone else travels. 

Talking about flexibility, I believe it is important to be aware of potential cancellations or date alterations. This is why you should always have a backup plan: be able to book a hostel room instead quickly (if you travel from abroad) or be prepared to start you sitting later or earlier if required. 

You must also be aware that you have less flexibility if you decide to pet sit in a foreign country. Because dates can change last minute after booking your flight and everything else. This is why it is important to remember that pet sitting might not necessarily be the best way to have a holiday. Because the dates are never set in stone. 

Having said that, it does help if you work remotely because you can work from anywhere as long as you have internet. If you can only do your job from an office and must be back on a set date, then pet sitting should not be your first option to travel. 

In this case, pet sitting in your area is a safer option for those interested in this way of travelling. It’s much safer if the booking gets cancelled and less economically a burden because you don’t lose that much money. Plus, there are always place to visit in your county which you probably ignored before. Therefore, pet sitting can be an excellent way to slow and local travel. You could even argue that it is even more sustainable if you choose to travel this way. 

Something else to be aware of is that pet sitting while travelling does not need to be a solitary activity. This is for those who might be afraid that such activity could feel lonely at the time. In fact, most pet owners are happy to host couples. Therefore, you can always plan something with your significant one.  

How many animals should you pet sit as a beginner?

how many pets to look after when sitting for the first time

As a beginner, I would advise you start looking after one cat or one dog at a time. Yes, you might have experience looking after your dog back home, but remember that this is someone else’s dog. Pets are different, and you need time to get to know them. If you look after too many, you may feel overwhelmed. So my advice is to start looking after one pet at a time. 

This is very important especially if you also do some sort of remote work while pet sitting and travelling. I worked remotely while pet sitting and travelled in my spare time to get to know the place where I was staying. Looking after one dog was enough for me because I had plenty of time to properly look after the animal and do my work. 

If your work involves online meetings, you must be aware that dogs bark and can get noisier than cats. So consider this when pet sitting a dog. A remote worker and traveller I met some time ago, was exclusively looking after cats because they require less work than a dog and are more independent. These are all very important aspects to consider before fully committing yourself to pet sitting on your travels. 

*Tip Something that helps me make the right decision when it comes to agreeing on a pet sitting opportunity is getting to know the animals as good as I can before I start pet sitting. A list with relevant questions is something I always use to make sure I do not forget anything I might want to ask the owner. A pre-meeting either online or in-person is strongly recommended.

I always make sure I ask questions related to the pet’s routine, the medication, and any behaviour issues. Some animals have high anxiety issues and they can become quite hard to manage if the owner does not warn you. There are other questions you might want to ask, but you can use these as a base to start with.

What else to consider before you start pet sitting?

Before you start pet sitting is important to have clear what are the owners’ expectations. Some owners might ask for additional tasks like watering the plants or additional activities with their pets like administering medicine. Or they might not want you in a certain area of the house. Make sure you have everything clear before you start.

Ideally, you would have had a pre-meeting before you move into their house. Nowadays, you can always have a zoom meeting. Especially if the owner lives miles away from you. Take your time to get to know the pet owners and for them to get to know you. 

This is probably something that does not require mentioning, but still. Be respectful towards the new place. Make sure you leave the house in the same state you’ve found it. Most pet owners would leave some food for you and usually give you access to their Netflix etc. It’s only fair you treat their place with respect. 

Although it is not required, I usually bring a small gift for the owner and some treats for the pet. It’s my way to bond with the animal and the pet owners. You do not have to bring any gifts, but I believe is these small things that bond you with the pet owner and the pet even more. 

No matter what others say, do your due diligence before turning up for a pet sitting booking. While it can be stressful for the pet owners to receive a total stranger in their house, the pet sitter should also do their checks. Make sure you get as much information about pet owners as possible. Usually, if you apply through a paid platform, everyone gets vetted by the platform. It can be trickier if you’ve met your host through Facebook groups where there isn’t such a strong vetting system in place. If you feel something is not right, then it probably isn’t, and you should leave. I’m a strong believer in your gut feeling. Do as you feel it’s right for you. 

Finally, pet sitting is popular among travellers because it’s a cheap yet fun way to travel and bond with locals while looking after their loved ones. It’s also a good option for slow travelling and can even be considered a sustainable way of travel up to a level. 

Pet sitting is perfect for digital nomads or remote workers who wish to change their work location from time to time. I absolutely loved working from a different place because I have to say that after more than 1 year now of remote work, things can get a bit monotonous if you work from home the entire time.  

How about you? Have you ever considered pet sitting while travelling? What would you expect from your first pet sitting experience?

All the photographs used in this blog post have been downloaded from Unsplash

2 thoughts on “A guide for travellers pet sitting the first time

  • Reebs

    When requested to travel pet sit, should i expect them to pay for the flight?
    I have pet sat for them locally, but they are asking me to travel out of state to pet sit for them. I’ve never done something like this before.
    Thank you!

    • TheNextEpicTrip

      Hi there,

      Thank you for your question, it is a good one! It depends on your arrangements. You could either make it clear that you need to have your travel costs reimbursed or you could increase your daily rate to cover your travel costs. I always used the second option. But you can go with whatever works better for you.

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