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Pet sitters in high demand during the holiday season

Anna Lourens in Tips 

Pet sitters in holiday season

There is a growing need for pet sitters. South African households show an increasing importance on responsible pet ownership. These owners enjoy the benefits of owning pets and keep the best interest of their pets in mind when away on holiday or on business trips. It is a long term commitment that requires resources.

A pet sitter serves as an extension of the owner by looking after their pets in their natural environment. Kennels require vaccinations that can be costly. By keeping them at home their exposure to illness and parasites of other animals are minimalised. In-home, personalised care is also convenient since the pet sitter adjusts to the pet owner’s specific needs. Many pet sitters will also do extra house sitting chores to help the house appear lived in.

Pet sitters recommend visiting the pets one to three times daily. Many pet owners opt for 2 visits a day – one in the morning and another at dawn. This depends on whether your pet needs extra care. The average cost is R80-R150 per visit. The types of visits are categorised as drop-ins, visits and overnight stays.

What do pet sitting services include?

Pet sitters should remember that pets are social animals, therefore they need interaction and play time as much as they do food, water and exercise. This keeps them stimulated and happy.

• Food and water (clean bowl)
• Clean bed/shelter
• Clean-up after pet
• Walk dogs
• Petting, playing
• Letting them out

Extra pet sitting services

• Administering medicine, vitamins
• Health checks
• Grooming and brushing
• Pet transportation
• Behavioural training
• Specials diets, cooking for pets

Types of pets that can be looked after

Before deciding on your pet sitter, invite them to your home to meet your pets, ask them what breeds and types of pets they are familiar with and how many pets they can look after. This information helps both the pet owner and pet sitter decide if they are the right person for the job.

  • Birds
  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Reptiles
  • Fish

For pet sitters

Questions to ask the pet owner

Before taking on any pet sitting jobs, visit the property and the pets first. Ask the following questions:

  • What kind of exercise does your pet need?
  • What kind of food do they eat and how much?
  • Does your pet need to be bathed and how often?
  • What does your pet love?
  • What does your pet hate?
  • Does your pet require any special attention? Do they have special needs?

Pet sitter duties

  • Follow the owner’s instructions and keep the pet’s routine regular.
  • Send a daily SMS report to the pet owner with a photo. Owners miss their pets as much as their pets miss them. A photo goes a long way in making sure they know their beloved pets are happy and well looked after.
  • Let them owners know if anything out of the ordinary has happened.

For pet owners

Pet owner duties

  • Instructions: Leave clear instructions about the pet responsibilities. This should include contact details, emergency contact details and the emergency care plan as well as directions to your local veterinarian.
  • Access backup: Leave a key with the neighbours as backup. Remember to inform the pet sitter if anyone else has access to the property to avoid unnecessary alarm or misunderstandings regarding duties.
  • Supplies: Leave an adequate supply of food, treats, toys, litter, cleaning supplies, medicine and other essentials. All supplies need to be easy to access. Meet up with the pet sitter beforehand to show them where all the basic supplies are kept.
  • Pet: Be honest when describing the pet’s health and behaviour. The pet sitters should be able to assess if they are competent enough to look after you pets. Experienced pet sitters are more likely to handle demanding breeds and behaviours.
  • Medicine: For pets that need special care, provide written instructions on how to administer medication.
  • ID tags: All pets should have identification tags on their collars.

How to choose a pet sitter

A pet sitter can be a full-time professional pet sitter or someone with good references that can do the job well.

  • Invite the pet sitter to your home to meet the animals. This helps you see how they interact with you pets. Pet sitters are generally loving and caring.
  • Ask for three local references/testimonials and ask about their experience with looking after animals.
  • Ask if they are familiar with your pet breed. This is important if your pet has certain characteristics associated with the breed, e.g. a Weimaraner that has a tendency for separation anxiety.
  • If you pet needs specialised care, look for someone who has a good level of pet care experience and isn’t squeamish when administering medicine.
  • Ask what their contingency plan is for when they fall ill or have car trouble?
Prevent misunderstandings

Draw up a written contract with the visit schedule, method and time of payment, fees and responsibilities for the pet owner and pet sitter to sign. You can find many free pet sitting contract templates online.

As a pet sitter you should make sure you are not liable for any illness, accident, damage to property or veterinary bills incurred, providing it is not due to your negligence.

Find a pet sitter

Find a pet sitter in you area by entering “pet sitter” plus your area into a search engine. Look at their prices and services. Their contact details will be online as well.


Do you have any pet sitting stories to share? Comment below!