12 Things Every Pet Sitter Should Know

What comes first in your mind when you hear the word, pet sitter? The closest word to this is babysitter, which means taking care of a baby. So, is a pet sitter, someone who takes care of a pet? Before going deep into the topic, let us define each word; pet and sitter. A pet is any animal kept by human beings as a source of companionship and pleasure. On the other hand, a sitter is someone who provides routines or custodial care temporarily or part time for an elderly person or pet whose owner is away. 

What is a pet sitter?

In 1997, Pet Sitters International (PSI) successfully campaigned to have “pet sitting” added to the Random House Dictionary. 

To answer the question in the introduction, yes, a pet sitter is someone who cares for pets on a daily basis while their owners are away on vacation. Pet sitting is characterized as the demonstration of really focusing on a pet in its own home while the owner is away. They usually stay in their owners’ homes, allowing pets to stay within their familiar territory. They may either remain in animal people’s homes, have pets in their own homes, or perform everyday visits to furnish pets with food, freshwater, drugs, and friendship. In addition to pet care, they can also provide owners with basic services such as cleaning pet hair. 

Dog strolling is likewise a type of pet sitting since it includes coming to the pet’s home to give exercise and friendship. While a few pet sitters and canine walkers offer extra services, for example, limited in-home boarding, these are separate services, and not considered “pet sitting.” Pet sitters focus on pets in the clients’ homes is the distinctive definition of pet sitters from guests or doggie childcares. Some pet sitters hire additional staff to expand their service area, increase the number of clients they can serve in a week, and act as a backup in case of vacation or sickness.

How To Become A Licensed Pet Sitter

Experienced pet sitters are now using the term “professional” to describe themselves. To reinforce their professionalism, they are earning a pet sitting certification. To start, a certification is not a license. A license is something required by a government organization in order to perform services. Not too many cities or states require a specialized dog walking license, but many do require one for boarding. The difference between a license and a certification is that one (a license) is required, the other (a certification) is voluntary.

A certification implies that a person has:

  • Completed educational coursework
  • Taken an exam to prove their knowledge
  • Gained relevant experience under the supervision of an expert.
  • Has completed ongoing education.

What Pet Sitting Certifications are Available?

Obtaining certification as a professional dog walker or pet sitter is a bit of a wild west situation with no clear consensus leader. There is no single entity for becoming a certified professional pet sitter. 

Pet Sitters International

Pet Sitters International (PSI) offers the Certified Professional Pet Sitter (CPPS) Certification. In order to obtain this certification, pet sitters must:

  • Be a member of PSI
  • Pass the CPPS Exam (80% or higher score required)
  • Agree to PSI’s Recommended Quality Standards
  • Agree to PSI’s Member Code of Conduct and Ethics
  • Complete 30 hours of continuing education every 3 years

To help facilitate passing the exam, PSI does have study aids available for download. Once a candidate registers for the exam, they have 6 months to take it.

Two other most popular organizations for pet sitters, check here.

What are the duties of a pet sitter?

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). This serves as a guide to the sitter whatever situation they may be. Pet sitters work when their clients need them, so overnight stays and working weekends are normal.

The duties of a pet sitter includes the following:

  • Provide food and water.
  • Brush fur and teeth.
  • Carry out different types of grooming.
  • Exercising pets which includes walking the dogs.
  • Clean litter boxes, cages, and aquariums. 
  • Change rodents’ beddings.
  • Give medications, if applicable. 

Also includes:

  • Notifying the owners about their pet through photos and videos.
  • Taking the pet/s to the vet if they become sick or suffer an injury. 
  • Taking the pet/s to the vet for check-ups and vaccines. 

What should a pet sitter know?

There are 12 things every pet sitter should know. This serves as a guide on how to be an effective pet sitter and what to look for the best pet sitter.

1. A pet sitter should know how to reach you, the pet owner, and the veterinarian. 

Giving your pet sitter a reliable way to get in touch while you’re out of town seems like a no-brainer, but it’s important to provide contact information for your veterinarian and the closest 24-hour emergency hospital too—just in case.

2. A pet sitter should know pet grooming.

Did you know what dogs with a longer coat may need regular trims around the face as well as nail trims and baths? Find out what products should be used and if there’s a preferred groomer, whether you should take the dog in during the pet sitting time. For long-haired cats grooming can be important too, so just check if you have all the equipment you need to keep the pets looking their best.

3. A pet sitter should know how much exercise a pet needs.

For dogs, regular daily exercise is incredibly important. Check out the local dog parks and find out how the dog walks on the lead. Also check if there are any problems with socializing with different dogs and that the vaccinations are all up to date. For larger dogs and working dogs a good couple of hours of ball chasing, walking and games may be needed every day. For smaller dogs, sometimes shorter walks and more one-on-one attention, brushes and cuddles is the main requirement for happiness. Just remember, a tired dog is a happy dog!

4. A pet sitter should know what to feed the pets.

Knowing what food you need to give the pets, and at what time and how much of it, is one of the key things any pet sitter needs to know. Pets that are on special diets are often eating that food for a reason. Check what the policy is regarding bones and treats and try to avoid overfeeding. As we all know, weight loss is difficult so if you are not sure if you are feeding too much, check the weight at your local vet and compare it to a previous weight. Often the amount of food needed varies with exercise, so if you are walking more or less you may need to adjust accordingly.

5. A pet sitter should know how to provide emergency care for pets – and what to do in a pet emergency.

Do you know where the nearest emergency vet hospital is? Do you have transport, or do you need to look up a pet ambulance service or house call vet? Ask the pet owners what their wishes are should something happen, do they want to spend $10 or $10,000 on their pets medical care? You can also ask them to let her local vet know their wishes in this regard. Knowing how to react in case of a pet emergency is one of the most important things a pet sitter must know. 

6. A pet sitter should know the health needs of the pets they’re taking care of.

Does the pet you’re assigned to have any health problems? If so, make sure you have enough supplies, repeat prescriptions and an understanding of what to look for with the particular condition. Try to get a copy of any vaccination certificates, worming and flea schedules just in case and to keep everything up to date. It will also be handy to get a detailed list of all medications and dosages so the pet care is correct and consistent. 

7. A pet sitter should know how to make a cat happy. 

For cats, a regular play session every day at roughly the same time each day when the cat is most active is the key to a contented feline. Ask what the cat’s favorite toys and games are, as they all tend to like different things. Some cats need a regular brush, while others dislike being touched. This is all of the information you need to find out before you go in for a cuddle.

8. A pet sitter should know that the pets are they’re first priority.

Do you have time to walk the dog regularly? Are you home in the evenings? Working out what your schedule will be versus what the pet is used to will help identify any gaps. Pets will often feel very vulnerable when their regular carer goes away, so try to free up your time to reassure them they are not alone too much. Ask the owner if the pets are used to being alone and for what periods so you can plan accordingly. And always remember, you’re doing pet sitting because you love pets, so it’s one of the responsibilities of a pet sitter to give them all the time and care they need. Pet sitting is not a holiday, it’s a lifestyle. 

9. A pet sitter should know what to expect. 

Whether you’re a newbie pet sitter or a veteran, when you start a new pet sitting assignment you need to know, first and foremost, what’s expected of you in terms of everyday care: 

  • How often should you send updates and photos to the owner? Every day? Several times a day? 
  • How often do you need to take the dog for a walk? How often does the cat need to be groomed? 
  • Are your pets peculiar about anything? 
  • Are there any parks nearby? Any good places for dog walks? Where’s their vet? 

These are all the basic things you should know to make sure the pets you’re looking after are happy and safe. 

10. A pet sitter should know the owner’s house rules. 

Another of the most important things a pet sitter needs to know before committing to a sit is the house rules. That goes from knowing whether the cats are allowed outside or if you can give treats to the pets. Ask if the doggo can sleep on the couch, if the cats are on a diet, if barking is ok – or not. Basically, all the house rules that are in place when the owner is there. Clear guidelines and consistency are key. 

11. A pet sitter should know how to bond with pets. 

If you want to be a pet sitter, one of the things you need to know is how to bond with pets, of any type. Each pet has a different personality and preferences. Some will prefer a calm and patient approach, whilst others will enjoy a game of ball or a belly rub. Whatever it is, ask their owner and always let them come to you first. 

12. A pet sitter should recognize and understand normal pet behaviors. 

Any good pet sitter needs to be good at recognizing and understanding normal pet behaviors. It’s vital. If you’re going to care for pets, you need to understand how they communicate, what they need, why they do certain things when they do them. So, yes. We’d say you need to be well versed in the language of pets. 

With these things covered, we’re confident you’ll be excellent at pet sitting in no time. Just gather as much information as possible from the owner and you’ll fit right in with your new furry friend. 

What skills do you need to be a pet sitter?

To be a successful pet sitter, one should possess these good pet sitter skills and traits:

  • Pet sitters must enjoy spending time with animals and have a gentle — yet assertive when necessary — way with them.
  • They should have the ability to perform animal CPR and first aid.
  • 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.
  • If you want to become a pet sitter, you should have the ability to care for different animals of various sizes and breeds.
  • 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.
  • Excellent organizational and problem-solving skills.
  • One should embody exceptional communication and customer service skills if one wants to become a pet sitter.

Checklist of a Good Pet Sitter

Having a checklist is one step ahead on how to stand out as a pet sitter because it shows preparedness. After going through the duties, responsibilities of a pet sitter, things a pet sitter should know, good pet sitter skills, here’s what completes the ingredients on how to be a perfect pet sitter. A checklist is indeed very helpful as it steers our actions according to your goal.

  • Important Documents

Gather the following information and documents for your sitter:

  • Your contact information
  • A backup contact, in case you’re ever unavailable
  • Contact information for your veterinarian and a 24-hour emergency clinic
  • Microchip information, if applicable (make sure that your information that is associated with the microchip is up to date, too.)
  • Your pet’s medical records, including vaccination records
  • A recent photo of your pet that clearly shows their features and markings
  • Any other documents that are specific to your pet, such as a pet insurance card

Even if you’ve sent your sitter digital copies of these documents, keep hard copies in a known spot in your home. That way, in case there’s an emergency and the sitter’s phone runs out of battery, for example, they’ll have all the info they need.

  •  Your Emergency Plan

Your sitter should be pet prepared if an emergency occurs. Inform them where to seek shelter in the event of a natural disaster, where the pet carrier is stored and how to coax your furry friend into the carrier — whether a pinch of catnip will help your anxious cat or a certain toy makes your dog feel comfortable. Prepare a pet first-aid kit if you don’t have one already. This should include items like gauze pads, non-stick bandages and hydrogen peroxide. Make sure the sitter follows your emergency protocol if your pet needs medical assistance.

  •  Pet Supplies

Stock up on pet food and treats, as well as waste bags, scoopers and/or cat litter. Don’t forget about grooming accessories like toothbrushes, brushes and combs. If your sitter grooms your pet, ensure they’re trained and capable of doing so safely.

  •  Your Pet’s Medicine

If your pet requires regular medicine, show your sitter exactly how you administer it, emphasizing what the dosage is and any side effects to look out for. Make sure they recognize the importance of following the dosing instructions. You can also ask your vet’s office to give your pet sitter the authority to pick up or request refills.

  •  Details About their Meal Plan

Sticking to a routine is important to your pet’s health, so write down your pet’s mealtime schedule. Include feeding times, food options and portions. Be specific about your pet’s nutritional needs.

  •  Potty Instructions

Because cats do their business in a litter box, your sitter doesn’t necessarily need to be there when your feline friend goes to the bathroom, but they should scoop the box at least once per day (two or more times if you have multiple cats). Dogs are a different story. If they’re older than 30 weeks, they need to go out three to four times daily, while young pups need to be let out up to 10 times per day.

  •  Tips for Playtime

Providing enrichment for your pet is a big part of a sitter’s job. Give your sitter dog exercise ideas based on your pooch’s favorite activities — whether they like fetching, power walking or playing tag — or cat game ideas, such as hide-and-seek or a food puzzle. Familiarize your sitter with your pet’s favorite toys and activities so that your pet and sitter will bond and your pet won’t get bored. Preparing for a pet sitter with a pet sitter checklist like this one will help you feel at ease when you leave your beloved furry family member in their care.

Is being a pet sitter worth it?

YES! And NO. Just like any other profession, there are pros and cons in becoming a pet sitter. The advantages of pet sitting over other pet-care options is that pets are happier and experience less stress at home in their familiar environments. Also, their diet and exercise routines are interrupted. The trauma of traveling for both the owner and the dog is eliminated and the pet’s exposure to illness is minimized because it remains inside the house. Knowing both trains one’s mindset on how to stand out as a pet sitter.

Here are the pros of starting a pet-sitting business: 

  • Relatively low start-up costs.
  • No storefront is needed.
  • You can turn your love of animals into a business.
  • You can work as much or as little as you want.
  • There is a wide range of potential clients and many ways to reach them

And here are the cons of starting a pet-sitting business: 

  • You need more than a love of animals.
  • A higher than average level of physical fitness is a must.
  • You will need insurance and/or bonding to protect yourself from liability.
  • Flexibility is essential.
  • You need to have a policy for handling pet emergencies.

Dr. Ruth Roberts DVM, CVA

Dr. Ruth Roberts Holistiv Vet

Dr. Ruth Roberts is The Original Pet Health Coach, and has supported thousands of dogs and cats to overcome health hurdles like kidney disease, GI Illness, allergies and cancer. Her natural approach to healing creates a gentle yet effective path for your pet to take on their journey to wellbeing. Dr. Ruth created The Original CrockPet Diet, a balanced home cooked diet for pets, as the foundation of health. Dr. Ruth is now training passionate pet parents, and pet professionals to be Certified Holistic Pet Health Coaches so that more pets can be helped holistically.