What I Learned During the First Year of Professional Pet Sitting
GOOD ADVICE FOR NEWBIE PET SITTERS
I started my professional pet sitting business in memory of my sweet cockatiel, Puffy. She was my feathery baby and I cried so hard and mourned a long time after she succumbed to an illness. I vowed never to have any more pets because it hurt so much when they died. A few months after she died, my vet's words kept surfacing in my mind "You should be a pet sitter". The thought intrigued me because I could still have pets in my life, but in a different way. Plus I had always wanted to be some sort of entrepreneur and starting up a pet sitting business wasn't that costly.
Almost a year to the date after Puffy died, I opened my business, "Precious Pets". I called it that because I always told Puffy she was "so precious!".
On my one year anniversary in business, in the monthly newsletter, "Precious Pets' Gazette", that I sent to my clients, I wrote an article called "First-Year Discoveries". I thought I'd pull out some comments from that article to share with all of my wonderful readers here because some of you might be thinking of starting a professional pet sitting business and perhaps my first-year discoveries can be of benefit to you. For long-time pet sitters, you will probably think "You are so right Linda!".
My first discovery was that bored pets are good at finding things to do when their humans are away in between pet sitting visits so it is important for owners to do the best they can to pet-proof their homes before they leave for a trip. Owners could benefit from looking at their homes from their pets' perspective - usually low to the ground. I encouraged my clients to remove anything they thought the pets might get into trouble with things they might chew, swallow, or poop on. I encouraged them to take a look at things pets could knock over - like a glass left on a kitchen counter that could get knocked off the edge by a cat, break on the floor, and then cause injury to the cat when they hopped off the counter, or a knife sticking blade up in the dish drainer that could be licked by a curious cat.
A second discovery I made in my first year of pet sitting was the need to ask clients for things like their gas/oil/electric company phone numbers because if the power goes out or the heat stops working and the owners are hundreds or thousands of miles away, a sitter will have to be in touch with the company to directly rectify the situation so pipes don't burst, pets don't freeze, or an unsafe situation occurs.
Another discovery I made is that sooner or later, a client will run out of pet food, so a question a sitter should ask is if the client could please make sure there is at least another week's worth (longer than their trip) of pet food in the house just in case they are delayed and the sitter has to keep providing services. The sitter should know the brand of food and where it is bought just in case food does run out and she has to buy more.
I also learned that it helps, in most cases, to leave a radio or TV on softly for the pets in between pet visits. This helps to mask outside noises that could scare a pet, make them feel that there is company for them in the house, and some pets really do watch TV. Along with that, the client should leave clear directions on how to work the TV remote because some remotes are very complicated.
I also learned that electronic devices will make weird noises and might have to be dealt with in the home. Sounds like a smoke alarm with a low battery can beep and bother a pet, not to mention possibly make a situation unsafe. An alarm clock can be blaring because the owner forgot to turn it off before they raced out of the house to catch their early morning flight and totally forgot to shut it off. Owners should always give the sitter a tutorial on the house's alarm system. Even if it is going to be OFF the entire time and the pet sitter won't need it, there is always the chance that owners, out of habit, will set it before leaving and when the sitter steps into the house, the alarm system goes off. At the very least, the owner should give the sitter the code to shut it off should it go off accidentally.
I live in New England, so I quickly learned during the first winter of pet sitting that it was imperative to put a shovel in my car because you WILL get stuck in someone's driveway. In addition, a client should give the sitter the name of their arranged snow plow person and phone number, so the sitter doesn't arrive at a home with a foot of snow in the driveway and no way to get in, and in most snow states, parking on the road during or after a storm is a no-no and might resort in a tow or ticket. I started my business in January, so this was probably the very first lesson I learned!
Finally, I always knew that pets were givers of unconditional love, but the biggest and most heartfelt lesson I learned in my first year of pet sitting was how incredibly intelligent, intuitive, compassionate, and downright brilliant pets are and how they can communicate their needs to humans in the most creative ways.