What Does a Pet Sitter Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

A Day in the Life of a Pet Sitter

Maddy Price/The Balance 

Pet sitters provide daily care for pets while their owners are on vacation. They typically stay in the home of the owner, so the pets can remain on their familiar territory. In addition to caring for pets, they may also provide basic services for the owner, such as collecting mail and vacuuming pet hair.

Some pet sitters limit their clientele to owners of cats and dogs. Others provide care for birds, fish, small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

Many pet sitters operate a regular dog walking service and offer pet sitting services on an as-needed basis when clients go out of town. Some pet sitters hire additional staff members to expand their service area, increase the number of customers they can accommodate per week, and act as a backup when they go on vacation or get sick. They can also earn additional revenue by creating a franchise business and licensing pet sitting providers under their established brand name.

Pet Sitter Duties & Responsibilities

Pet sitters are responsible for all basic animal care while their clients are on vacation or traveling for business. They must be able to perform the following tasks:

  • Provide food and water.
  • Brush fur and teeth and carry out other types of grooming.
  • Walk dogs.
  • Clean litter boxes.
  • Give medications, if applicable.

Pet sitters are also responsible for notifying owners and taking pets to the vet if they should become sick or suffer an injury while under their supervision. It is important that sitters require owners to fill out a detailed contact sheet with their contact information, their vet’s contact information, and relevant information about the pet (such as age, breed, weight, prior medical conditions, and medications).

Pet Sitter Salary

The salary of a pet sitter depends on geographical area and the size of their client base. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not compile salary data specifically on pet sitters. Instead, the BLS has a broader job category called nonfarm animal caretakers.

  • Median Annual Salary: $23,760 ($11.42/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $37,250 ($17.91/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $18,160 ($8.73/hour)

Pet sitters must factor in additional costs for their business, such as insurance, travel, and marketing.

Education, Training, & Certification

Pet sitters are not required to have any formal education or training, but they should be familiar with all aspects of animal care and behavior.

  • Prior experience: Most pet sitters have an extensive amount of hands-on experience with the animals they choose to provide care for. It is also useful for pet sitters to have a background in animal healthcare, such as prior work as a veterinary technician or veterinary assistant.
  • Training: Knowledge of animal CPR and first aid is valuable to those in this career and can be a big plus on the sitter’s marketing materials when trying to attract new clients.

Pet Sitter Skills & Competencies

Successful pet sitters should possess the following skills and traits:

  • Rapport with animals: Pet sitters must enjoy spending time with animals and have a gentle — yet assertive when necessary — way with them.
  • Reliable: Their clients count on them to take care of their beloved pets when they can't, so pet sitters have to be reliable and provide their services for as long as they have committed to.
  • Trustworthy: Pet sitters have free run of a home while the owner is away. They must prove themselves worthy of the trust the owners invest in them.

Job Outlook

The BLS predicts all types of animal care and service worker jobs, including pet sitters and other nonfarm animal caretakers, will grow 22% from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average. The BLS also notes that there is a high turnover among those kinds of jobs.

Work Environment

In most cases, pet sitters work at their clients' homes. They should make themselves as "at home" as their clients have told them they're comfortable with.

Work Schedule

Pet sitters work when their clients need them, so overnight stays and working weekends are normal.

How to Get the Job

JOIN A GROUP

The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters and Pet Sitters International are nonprofit organizations that offer services and benefits to their members, including educational courses, marketing materials, and sample contracts.

CERTIFICATION

Both of those groups also offer online certificates in pet sitting, which may provide you with a hiring advantage over other pet sitters in your area.

STARTING YOUR BUSINESS

Check with your municipality and state to find out what steps you must take to legally set up and run your business.

Comparing Similar Jobs

People who are interested in becoming pet sitters might also consider the following jobs. The figures given are median annual salaries: