Start A Pet-Sitting Service
Article Entitled: Start A Pet-Sitting Service

Promising salary. Holidays negotiable. Be your
own boss. No experience necessary.

If you spotted the above ad in the Help Wanted
section of your local newspaper would you laugh,
'Too good to be true'? But it is true! Have you
always said, 'I’d never have the money or the skill
to start my own business.' But you do! One of the
easiest businesses to start and operate requires
very little money. The only necessary skills are
patience, time, and lots of love. The business?

Jackie McDonald owner of Jackie’s Pals in
Houston, Texas, started her pet-sitting business
after working eight years in a doctor’s office. 'I
wanted to do something I enjoy,' she says. 'I love
animals and I find this work is very calming.'
Mcdonald spoke with other pet-sitters in her area
and discovered how busy they all were. She felt
her neighborhood could support another pet-
sitter. She was right. Mcdonald just completed a
very busy and successful holiday season.

Pet-sitting involves going into someone’s home
and caring for a pet when the owner isn’t
available. The service can include plant watering
and mail and newspaper pick-up. The focus,
however, is on the animal. Pet-sitting saves a
client and the animal the aggravation of dealing
with a kennel. Clients expect a variety of services:
feeding, watering, liter box cleaner, pill giving, and
especially some Tender Loving Care for a lonely
animal who misses its master.


Owning a pet-sitting business has many of the
same advantages of owning any business--you
are your own boss, you set your own hours
(depending on the number of clients you serve
per day), and your paycheck will be limited only
by your willingness to work. McDonald especially
enjoys the flexible hours. 'I also work out of my
home,' she says, 'and that’s a big advantage,'
Another advantage of pet-sitting is the opportunity
of getting to know some real characters: Missy,
the cat that only eats facing north (a real example,
believe it or not), or Rufus, the blue-footed
Amazon parrot who refuses to stay in a cage.
Your list will be endless. McDonald describes the
pleasure she finds in meeting both pets and their
owners, 'Ninety-nine percent of the people are
very nice. Most are concerned about their pets or
they wouldn’t call me. And the animals love me no
matter what.'

As with any business,pet-sitting has a few
disadvantages as well. If the business is to
succeed, long hours and hard work is necessary.
'this is not a get rich-quick scheme,' McDonald
says. Holidays will be especially busy. Servicing
fifteen pets, each two times a day is not an
unreasonable expectation. This doesn’t leave
much time for football viewing on New Year’s Day.
Unless you’re a real animal lover some of the
tasks can be unpleasant: Who wants to clean a
litter box twice a day for two weeks? But that
wildly wagging tail or the purr of a lonely animal
that greets you at the door does make it worth the
trouble. So do those paychecks at the end of the
Christmas holidays. 'you must truly love animals,'
McDonald advises, 'or you won’t enjoy this


Start-up costs for pet-sitting business are small.
Expenses can be divided into three categories:
marketing, insurance, and transportation. Initial
outlay can be as little as $200 or as much as 4300
if you choose to pay for a visit to an accountant.
That isn’t a bad idea. An accountant can explain
tax laws and policies governing this type of
business. In some states, for example, he or she
will tell you not to charge sales tax because you
perform a service that is not taxable.

Although most clients will come your way by word
of mouth, invest in a few marketing tools.
Business cards are essential. Costing anywhere
from $25 to $50, business cards can be placed
anywhere pets are found--pet shops and vet
clinics. Because most vet clients have kennel
facilities, some may not allow you to place your
card with them. Establish a relationship with a vet
in your area, though, and he or she will begin to
recommend you when the kennel facility is full.
Design a flyer and place copies on community
bulletin boards, church bulletin boards, at the
grocery store, and any other place you can think
of. 'Welcome-to-the-community' associations may
be willing to give your card to new residents, too.
Keep trying to get your business known. People
will be delighted with this service when they hear
that you are a top quality pet-sitter. If you can
afford it, buy an answering machine. Once your
business is booming, you’ll need one to take all
your business calls.

Clients will ask if you are bonded. This means
that an insurance company finds you trustworthy
and is willing to put this in writing. An insurance
policy protects the homes you enter. If something
is broken while you are there, your policy will
cover it. Being bonded, however does not protect
against damage to pets while in your care. With
this type of policy, your premium increases as
your business increases. Initially your coverage
cost $100 per year. As you client list increases,
you can pay as much as $500 per year. Being
bonded, however, is worth the expense. Clients
are more likely to use your service if they know
you’re backed by an insurance company.

Keep a log of business miles traveled in your car.
Also keep track of gas and auto expenses. These
are all tax deductible.


What are the mechanics involved with pet-sitting?
When a client calls, arrange a meeting before his
departure. This gives you an opportunity to see
the pet, familiarize yourself with the routine, and
get a key. The client also gets to check you out
and give instructions. Appear professional. Have
a printed instruction sheet ready for the client to
complete. Include space for emergency phone
numbers and vet information. Also include a
section on pet preferences. A pet whose routine
has no disruptions is a much happier one when
his master returns. The master will be satisfied
and you’ll reap the benefits by gaining a repeat

'Suggest that clients limit changes to a pet’s
routine,' McDonald advises. the pet will be
happier and easier to care for. Provide references
to all clients who ask. When you’re just starting
out, ask a neighbor whose cat you’ve fed once or
twice if she’ll be a reference. Most clients won’t
call references, but will be wary if you’ve got no
one to vouch for you. An important note here: ask
clients to be specific about when they’ll returning.
Have them call you when they do get home. Avoid
the disaster of one pet-sitter who clients was
three days delayed and whose cat went unfed for
that time. When you return your clients key you
pickup your payment.


Determining a fee is a personal matter. McDonald
consulted other pet-sitters in the area to
determine an appropriate charge. fees range
anywhere form $5 to $10 per visit. Some pet-
sitters charge more for initial visit and less for
subsequent visits. The fee will also depend on the
number of pets involved and the amount of trouble
they will be. Obviously the household with three
cats, a turtle, two birds, and a hamster should be
charged more than the one with a single dog.
Decide in advance what your limits are, too. If you
don’t care to feed, water, and brush a horse each
day be prepared to say no. Once your business
takes off, one turned down request won’t affect

A wide variety of people will use a pet-sitting
service. Certainly vacationers will be a number-
one market. Therefore, holiday times will be
extremely busy. Some people own pets but have
little time to spend with them--couples who both
work full-time, and singles who travel.

A few words of advice and notes of caution:

* Be prepared for a mess. Bored animals are
messy little things. They knock over plants, break
vases, and chew furniture. Although yours is not a
house-cleaning service, your clients will
appreciate your efforts to tidy things up.

* Follow your client’s instructions to the letter.
Even if no one but you knows Fido ate exactly at
6 P.M., do what is asked. Owners can detect
when a pet’s routine has gone wary.

* Pregnant women should be aware of a condition
known as toxoplasmosis. caused by a parasitic
organism found in cat feces, toxoplasmosis can
cause severe damage to a fetus. Pregnant
women should use extreme caution when
disposing of cat feces or else wait until after the
baby is born to start a pet-sitting business.

* Expect a few complainers. Most clients will love
you. Some, however will be annoyed that Fifi’s
nails grew too long while she was in your care, or
that Bucky seems listless since their return.

A pet-sitting business is an easy one to start. The
only requirement is a real love for animals. You
will find that people are quite interested in your
service and are more than willing to pay for it.
McDonald sums it up this way: 'this is a very time
consuming business. But I really enjoy it and I’ve
learned from it. You’re certainly compensated and
it is very satisfying.'

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