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pet sitter pawshake border collie

Being separated from our furry family members is hard.  I don’t even like to go to work for the day without my two canine buddies – but I’m lucky enough to be able to take them along with me if I want to.  They sneak into the tea room and make puppy dog eyes at various staff members in exchange for tasty snacks.

But what happens when we go away?

As much as we would love to, we can’t always take our pets with us.  Whether it’s a weekend getaway, a family holiday overseas, or a business trip, sometimes it’s just not possible for them to join in on all the fun.  And let’s be honest, it’s not always in their best interests to come along either.

ginger cat in suitcase holiday

Although this kitty is just daring you to hit the beach without him! (depositphotos)

So when we simply have no choice but to go somewhere without our pets for a while, there are a few options worth consideration:

  1. Boarding kennels or cattery
  2. Leave them with a family member
  3. House sitter/pet sitter comes to your home
  4. Your pets go to a pet sitter
  5. Or just leave them to their own devices – they’ll soon learn to live off the land, or at least open old cans of spam and pasta shaped like little dinosaurs.  By the time you return they probably will have mastered modern technology and started up their own online business selling your stuff in return for stinky fish heads, old meatloaf and butt scratches.

All are valid options (except #5 – nobody wants to come home to stinky fish heads!), and the best choice ultimately depends on your individual situation as well as your pet’s personality.

The pet sitting option

In my experience, a lot of people automatically assume that if family are unavailable to help then boarding kennels or a cattery are the only choice.  In recent times this is slowly changing, as we realise the awesome resource that is pet sitters.  Imagine how much less stressful it is for your furry buddy to be cared for either in their own environment or in someone’s home than sitting in a cage or concrete pen?

People who don’t love animals are unlikely to take up pet sitting as a business…

But how confident would you be giving your precious fur-kid up to a complete stranger?  This is the main sticking point for a lot of people, and the reason that taking a random phone number off a community noticeboard is understandably associated with some degree of apprehension.

This stranger-danger issue has been well addressed by pet sitter websites such as Pawshake, who ensure the validity of their sitter’s details and also have in depth information and reviews on each and every sitter.  There is some peace of mind in seeing that the pet sitter in your neighbourhood has 25 five-star reviews from their happy clients.  There is also a free, obligation meet and greet with potential sitters before you enlist their services.  You can check out exactly how Pawshake works here –> How does Pawshake work?.

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with some wonderful pet sitters from Pawshake and I can tell you, these guys are really passionate about pets.

When asked to describe their favourite thing about being a pet sitter, the answers all followed a similar theme. “All the dogs!!” said Bettina, “I am not sure how it happened but I mostly work with Working, Sporting, and Hunting breeds. However some giant breeds have come my way as well. Awesome.  It’s so exciting to go to work.”

Jazz says “Not simply meeting a new dog/animal but getting to know a new dog. Learning and understanding what makes them work and seeing all of their quirks – the good and not so good.”  As a vet I can totally relate to this.  The more time I’ve spent with an animal, the better I get to know their individual personality.  It’s great to know who prefers to be bribed with a liver treat and who just wants to snuggle!

Jazz from Pawshake petsitter dog walker

Jazz hard at work!

Jen reckons it’s all about “The wonderful people you meet with their fantastic pets – I always look forward to taking on a new client’s job for this sole reason!”

Pawshake petsitter

Jen has a soft spot for kitties and loads of experience caring for them.

So do these sound like the people you’d want caring for your furbaby when you couldn’t be there yourself?

And what about the other side of the coin – actually becoming a pet sitter?  I asked these pet-crazy ladies for their best piece of advice for a budding pet sitter in the making.

  • Do it because you love dogs or cats or animals.  Be specific about your skills or services. Your clients know when this is “just a job” to you.  I absolutely LOVE my job and I have the best clients. I have cancelled a client relationship twice, due to unrealistic expectations of the dog, that I would not support.  One has actually worked with their dog since then and we recently started working together again. – Bettina
  • Act as though every pet is a human child of their owner and you will never go wrong.  – Jazz

Learning a little from these pawesome pet people has really piqued my interest about pet sitters in general!  I encourage you to drop by Pawshake to learn more.

In the interest of full transparency – I want to let you know that this post was not paid for or sponsored in any way.  There are various pet sitting services available, but Pawshake are the ones I have been in contact with and they have been truly fabulous with answering all of my questions.

So what I’d really love to know from you..

Have you ever used a pet sitter for your furkids? If so, was it a positive experience?

For those of you offering pet sitting services, why do you do it and why do you think it’s better than boarding kennels or a cattery?

Can’t wait to read your comments below 🙂

Joanna Paul

Dr. Joanna Paul BVSc (hons) BSc

Jo is a practicing small animal veterinarian based in Melbourne, Australia. Working in partnership with loving pet owners to ensure their fur-kids remain happy, healthy family members life-long is what brings her joy. Well, that and taking naps. Jo strongly believes that helping to maintain the wonderful bond between a pet and their human is reason enough for a happy dance.

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Showing 12 comments
  • Meryl

    Hi I have just started pet sitting.I get very excited when I receive a message to say there is someone interested in meeting me with their special furbaby. I always spends a minimum of an hour to care for the particular pet, Even if it is a bird, I will talk to the bird and spend time to clean the cage. I feel any activity you do makes the pet feel more relaxed and happy. I love to play with the cats and give them cuddles if thats what they enjoy. I actually feel bad leaving them as I am unable to do house sitting as I have my own pets and worry about them too. Animals are such delightful creatures and so forgiving of humans. Dogs are very faithful and love to play and go for walks. If you want to pet sit you really have to have that feeling of excitement at meeting each new pet and being understanding of what the owner expects. Have fun and relax.

    • Joanna Paul

      Hi Meryl,

      You sound like an AMAZING Pet Sitter! I think anyone who has you look after their pets is very lucky.

  • Connie

    I’ve never used a stranger to catsit for us, but I have used friends. If this were in my area I might check it out so I can stop imposing on my friends 🙂

  • Caitlin

    Hubby and I travel a lot for both work and leisure and used a pet sitter for about 18 months – we all loved her, especially the pets! Our dog was blind and needed medication and the cat is scared of other cats and goes off her food in novel environments – so it was perfect to have someone visit the house to care for them while we were away. She even cleaned the guppy fish tank and looked after our snake!
    We got her details from a flyer at the local dog park. I was nervous at first but after having a no-obligation meet up I could see she just loved animals and was experienced and responsible. 5 star reviews on FB helped too! She always included play and cuddle time with every visit and sent us FB photos while we were away which gave great piece of mind. The only reason we stopped using her was because she got a new job and had to stop pet sitting- we all still miss her!

  • Pawesome Cats

    If I could find an experienced, trustworthy live-in pet sitter then I’d definitely consider that option, although for our fur family I tend to opt for a 5-star Cattery where they stay in an indoor/outdoor enclosure and are very well cared for. I prefer the peace of mind that a cattery offers – someone is available and keeping an eye on them throughout the day rather than just popping in to feed and change litter boxes for 15 mins.

    • Joanna Paul

      Thanks Pawsome Cats! I think that is a definite benefit of the cattery option – assuming you have an excellent one. There should be people keeping an eye on your furbabies all the time and being aware if anything changes, whether it be in their general health or their behaviour.

  • Ashleigh Mills

    We have a house sitter come and stay with our fur babies. It is much nicer for them and it is the third time she has stayed so they are used to her now. They would hate a cattery. It is also good to know someone is in your house.

    • Joanna Paul

      Thanks for sharing Ashleigh!
      How did you discover your house sitter? Are they a friend or did you have to seek them out specifically for the job?
      I couldn’t agree more about the peace of mind from avoiding an empty house when away.

  • Simone Hart

    We did use a pet sitting service a few years back. Initially they were great. then we dropped out dogs off (one of our dogs was fear aggressive after being attacked in a park as a puppy). We found there were two Alsatians who’s owners were delayed by a day to pick up their dogs, but the pet sitter promised our dogs would be kept separated. I was worried & not happy, but we had a plane to catch and no ‘plan B’
    Two weeks later we returned to find our poor fearful dog had been bitten by one of the Alsatians & had received stitches in his ear. I was really sad and felt so guilty. We haven’t been away on a holiday since. That said, I would consider using a pet sitter if they came to look after our dogs exclusively !

    • Joanna Paul

      Oh wow Simone – that’s definitely a horror story – I’m so sorry that you and your dog had that experience! It’s terrible that you had to feel guilty after doing your best to ensure your babies were well looked after. I hope you can find someone you have trust and confidence in so that you can go for a holiday very soon. And big hugs to Toby x

  • Bobbie

    In the past, I’ve ALWAYS used a pet sitter that came to MY house where my dogs were most comfortable. They were able to keep their normal schedule and get spoiled a LOT! It’s an excellent way to keep them healthy, happy and stress-free. Even the nicest kennel creates stress with the unknown. And unfortunately, there have been too many terrible stories about kennels that I was NEVER willing to take the chance.

    Just make SURE you know, really KNOW, the pet sitter AND your pet does as well.

    Interview them like you would an employee and check references. But also, make sure they spend quality time with your pet (not just a five minute meet-and-greet before you rush out the door). Have them go on walks, play dates and observe if at all possible and take notice of exactly how your pet acts – and reacts – around them. The more time and effort you invest in a pet sitter, the better the experience will turn out for you and your pet!

    When I offered mobile doggie daycare and petsitting services, I took a fair amount of time to get to know my clients, both human and canine; had a questionnaire they filled out and always reviewed the pet’s current schedule, feeding and sleeping arrangements and did my best to make everything seamless to the owners and the pets. And there was no bigger compliment than being asked to come back again!

    • Joanna Paul

      Hey Bobbie,
      Thanks so much for your comment! It’s all fantastic advice for anyone considering employing the services of a pet sitter. I love how you emphasise that both you AND your pet need to get to know the sitter well. With the right sitter, I genuinely believe it has to be less stressful for a pet to remain in their own home environment. It’s just a matter of being willing to put in the effort required to do your due diligence beforehand.

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