Why Hire a Pet Sitter?

by Barbara Murray
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Barbara walking dogs in their neighborhood.When I was a child, I spent hours carrying around kittens, talking with them, getting to know them, telling them my sorrows, and pretending I understood theirs. We had kittens around quite often back then; we knew nothing of spaying and neutering animals. It seemed every time I turned around another litter was born.

Every now and then, we had puppies too, when the female dog would escape the building she was held in when she went in heat. She got locked in the old smokehouse for what seemed like months to me. I would sneak in and talk to her, and sometimes she would run out while I was going in. I got in trouble.

I was maybe five or six years old. I certainly didn’t know any better. Back then, it seemed everybody did the same thing. When I got older, I questioned this, and it seems it was common practice in our small community, as well as many others.

I have always had a kind heart when it comes to animals. I’ve worked with them in one way or another most of my adult life.

A few years ago, someone asked me to watch their dog while they went out of town. The dog came to my house and played with mine for a week. They all had fun. Later, someone asked me to come to their house to watch their pet. I happily accepted.

About seven years ago, an opportunity came up for me to travel for work, except I had no one to watch my dogs. I had seven at the time, and that was a bit much to coax any of my friends into taking care of them. This was when the idea of running a pet sitting service came to me.

I had worked in state government for 20 years and was determined to earn full retirement status. In 2015, I started doing small sitting jobs for friends, and in the next year and a half, I was sitting for my friends, and their friends. I didn’t do any advertising; all the jobs came through personal referrals.

Retirement plans started for me in April 2016. I knew what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. I wanted to provide a low-cost option for people that were vacationing and didn’t want to take their babies to a facility and have them put in a kennel or a steel cage.

I talked to other people that had made this their career. I searched websites and read hundreds of articles so that I would be educated and prepared.

I applied for my business license in December of 2016, and bought insurance in January 2017. I retired from my state job on February 1, 2017, with 27 years to the day served!!! Time to start my second career . . .

When I meet a client for the first time, I want them to know that it is my goal, first, to ensure that their pet is well taken care of. I don’t want them to be lonely, stressed or uncomfortable when their humans can’t be with them. I keep them on their normal routine as much as possible and treat them as I would want mine treated in my absence.

Through preparing for this "second career" I learned that veterinarians say to allow your pet to stay in a familiar environment, like your home when you’re away, reduces stress, because being required to adapt to a new environment and a new routine is a known stressor. Cats especially suffer from stress when introduced into a strange environment and can exhibit overt physical symptoms.

Pets subjected to kennels and other boarding facilities are more likely to be exposed to contagious illnesses like kennel cough, distemper, giardiasis, coccidiosis, and other intestinal parasites. A pet staying in its own home, walking in a familiar neighborhood and playing in its own yard – all things they do regularly – greatly reduces the chance for exposure to bacteria and viruses.

Kennels typically feed, exercise and provide bathroom visits on the facility’s schedule. At home, your pet can maintain his or her own routine, including the regular bedtime schedule. In addition, pets requiring special dietary needs or medication can be easily accommodated in his or her own home.

In all fairness, some doggy daycares do offer luxurious accommodations for your pets, from private rooms with video entertainment to exercise spas and personalized attention. Unfortunately, in many facilities personalized attention is considered an extra and charged as such. Kennels often charge extra for exercise and play time -- a main service private sitters offer.

In private sitting, this personalized attention is based on your requests. You know the needs of your pet better than anyone knows and can relate these to the sitter in the initial interview.

Some dogs are comfortable at high-end kennels. It just all depends on the personality of your pet. There's no cut-and-dried "right way" to leave your pet in the care of someone else. It all depends on what you and they are comfortable with.

A bonus offered by some private pet sitters, myself included, is simple services that make your house appear occupied. Switching different lights on and off, gathering the mail, moving outdoor trash containers and other small day-to-day changes, can make your house far less appealing to thieves.

One final thought -- kennels are often cheaper than private pet sitters are. However, like the old cliché states "you get what you pay for sometimes."

See Also: Frequently Asked Questions