[Welcome to gig #63 in our side hustle series! If you love animals and making money, you’ll REALLY love making money while PLAYING with animals :) And Crystal here will show you how as an official Animal Poop Professional (aka Pet Sitter). Take it away, C!]
Hi guys, I’m a professional pet sitter. Specifically, I drive to my clients’ homes and take care of their cats, dogs, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.
My coolest pet client has been an 11 ½ foot long lavender reticulated python named Sephoria, but my normal clients are dogs and cats.
How I Got Started
My husband and I had two dogs, known on my blog as Miss Doxie and Mr. Pug. They both passed away within 3 months of each other in early 2014, so I threw myself into a pet sitting business as a way to cope. Crystal’s Cozy Care Pet Sitting was born in late February 2014 as my way of loving a ton of furry and scaly friends without getting as attached. It has worked out really well for me and more than 160 pets since I started!
What It Entails
I won’t lie. It entails a lot of poop. Animals are pretty much just adorable, loving poop machines. Since I am also a pet sitter that drives to my clients, it also entails a lot of driving within my service area.
The actual pet care itself is pretty simple. It requires an organized mind so you don’t miss any important steps, but as long as you make yourself comprehensive lists you’re golden. A normal visit includes either letting the dogs out in the back yard to go to the restroom or walking them, refilling water dishes, feeding them if it’s the right time, scooping litter boxes, doing the little extras like bringing in the mail or giving the pets medication, and making sure to lock up properly as you leave. Your list exists so you don’t miss the details like exactly how to feed each animal or if they have special needs.
The reason a good pet sitter is hard to find is because of the ABNORMAL visits. You know, the ones that are just insane or horrific. You need someone who can think on their feet in times like that. Here are a few of my most memorable stories…
The Just-Not-Normal Days
The absolute worst visit I can think of is the day I walked into the house of two golden retrievers that I just love to pieces. It reeked the second I walked in. I found the dogs near the back door almost immediately and shut them in the back yard. From the smell, I was just happy they weren’t dead. Then I walked through the house to find complete devastation.
The two older retrievers had somehow found and nibbled away the edges of a 10 POUND bar of World’s Finest Chocolate with almonds (a future Christmas gift for Dad). Luckily, it was milk chocolate and they are large dogs so they wouldn’t, and didn’t, die. BUT, they would puke and poop out liquid for 2 days straight. The house was just one puddle after another of almond-dotted chocolate gunk and they had flooded the dining room with pee. It took over 2 hours to even come close to cleaning up what I could.
Yep, just call my life classy.
My second most horrible visit was actually within the same week in a completely different house. Their 3 dogs had grabbed a whole container of powdered Coffee Mate off the kitchen counter and coated the huge living room in that white mess. It looked like someone had dusted the place with cocaine out of the movies. And the tiny puppy wasn’t completely housebroken yet, so the Coffee Mate had mixed with little pee puddles to create sticky, stinky messes that all the dogs had walked through. That was another long cleanup with a lot of cussing.
(Editor’s Note: Here’s another story that could happen to you when you’re pet watching – your animal could die! Which is exactly what happened to our poor Bob cat, may his soul rest in peace. It wasn’t our pet sitter’s fault as he was 14 y/o and on all kinds of meds (we think he was waiting for us to leave so he can die in peace) but you better have someone who can deal with it appropriately in the off chance! I wish I could say ours did, but the giggles that accompanied her phone call to us were anything but.)
How Much I Make Pet Sitting
For pet sitting itself, I started at $15-$20 a visit early last year and currently make $20-$30 for most 30-45 minute basic visits depending on the location and number of pets. If they need me to stay the night at their home while they are away, I charge around $75-$85 per night, but that includes living out of their home during the day as well. That rate makes me cheaper than most kennels if you have 3 or more pets, and about the same costs with 2 big dogs, and a luxury expense if you only have one pet.
I started Crystal’s Cozy Care as a pure side hustle and was happy making $500-$1,000 a month for most of 2014. But like with most jobs you are good at, word gets around and business picks up. I now make $2,000-$4,000 a month and my husband helps me cover all of the visits during busy times like holidays.
From February 2014 through December 2014, I brought in $10,500. From January 2015 through November 2015, I have already made $31,600!
The Pros and Cons of Pet Sitting
Before I list these out, let me start by saying that you can only be a pet sitter if you have poop-tons of patience with animals and love being around them. If you easily lose your temper when an animal pees all over the place or you rather not spend hours with other people’s “fur babies”, THIS IS NOT THE JOB FOR YOU. That said, here are the pros and cons if you love animals more than people and don’t get sick at the sight of bodily fluids.
- You get to be around animals!
- You are helping an animal stay in its own home or a nicer home than a kennel if you board them yourself.
- You can let other people enjoy their time away from the house more since they don’t have to worry about their pets or home since you are giving them regular updates.
- You make good friends with the people and pets you start working with regularly.
- Your schedule is somewhat flexible depending on how many jobs you take on. “Mornings” can range from 7am-10am, afternoons can be 1pm-4pm, and evenings can be 7pm-11pm.
- I’m pretty happy with the $20-$30 rates I charge now that I have experience.
- Most surprises suck. They almost always involve something that smells awful.
- Driving from job to job can put a lot of miles on you and your car.
- YOU CAN GET HURT. I’ve been bitten twice. Both happened on the pre-meets with the pets and humans in advance. Once was on my finger and the other was on my forearm. The most recent one on my forearm required 6 stitches and is still pretty visible – a Great Pyrenees chomped down for just a split second and we still don’t really know why. I was taking his harness off after a test walk with his owner. Both sets of humans had not warned me that their dogs were just plain aggressive because they lied to themselves in their heads the past times their dogs were assholes.
How To Get Started Pet Sitting
It was really easy to get started. I came up with the business name, Crystal’s Cozy Care Pet Sitting, and listed my services on Craigslist for free all in about an hour. I kept relisting a new post every day and renewing my existing posts every three days as they allowed.
I was offered my first job in about 3 days, with another one about 10 days after that. My third job came in yet another week or so and lasted for a 2 week trip. After about a month, I started bringing in 1-2 new clients weekly.
That’s when I finally decided to spend a little on my company. I bought my first set of business cards ($20), then my domain name ($15), and finally started my business website ($20). My only other expenses in the first 2 months were to invest in pet sitting insurance ($305 a year) and to buy magnetic signs for my car from a company on Ebay ($25 for two signs).
In the first 2 months, I had made $1,600 and spent $405. Over 2014, I made about $10,500 and spent about $600 total (not including gas, which is sort of reimbursed through the excellent tax write-off for mileage). And this year I’ve already made well past $30,000. Yay for low overhead businesses!
What do you think? Could pet sitting be a side hustle or business for you?
Crystal Stemberger is the owner and author over at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, her personal finance blog, as well as Dog’s Life For Me – her blog on pet sitting adventures. She also manages blog advertising for others. You can contact her anytime by email: budgetingfunstuff *at* gmail.com!