Have you always been a natural animal whisperer? Do you take great pride and joy in caring for your furry friends, and enjoy taking walks as much as they do? A career as a pet sitter might be a pawsible path for you.
First, find out how much pet sitters make—and what you need to provide a pet sitting service—before you embark (couldn’t help ourselves) on your new vocation.
Pet sitter’s salary range
Unlike dog walkers, pet sitters usually come to a client’s house to provide one-on-one care and companionship for their animals, including walks, feeding, and other special care. Occasionally, they may stay over at the client’s home.
Animal care isn’t a standardized business, so the pay scale can vary greatly from job to job. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2019 median salary for animal caretakers was $24,990 per year, and $12.02 per hour.1
- The lowest 10% of earners received an annual salary of $18,6302
- The highest 10% of earners received an annual salary of $38,630
The pet sitter and owner negotiate the exact fee, whether on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis. Despite the median yearly and hourly salaries above, many pet sitters are more likely to charge a flat daily, nightly, or weekly rate for their pet sitting service.
These rates don’t always reflect the same price point as their hourly wage. So, how much do pet sitters make per day? For example, a sitter that charges $15 an hour for regular walks may only charge pet sitting rates of $40 a day and $75 for an overnight stay.
With so much variation within the pet sitting business, it’s important to understand what you should be charging as a pet sitter based on your needs.
How location impacts pet sitter salaries
As with any industry, people in major metropolitan cities and neighborhoods are willing to pay more for a pet sitter than in other zip codes. These states show the range of standard pet sitter salaries across the country:3
- District of Columbia – 470 animal caretakers with a mean hourly wage of $17.50 and an annual mean wage of $36,400
- California – 22,530 animal caretakers with a mean hourly wage of $15.27 and an annual mean wage of $31,770
- New York – 12,450 animal caretakers with a mean hourly wage of $14.87 and an annual mean wage of $30,920
- Florida – 14,760 animal caretakers with a mean hourly wage of $12.82 and an annual mean wage of $26,670
- Texas – 16,370 animal caretakers with a mean hourly wage of $11.72 and an annual mean wage of $24,390
- Idaho – 1,370 animal caretakers with a mean hourly wage of $10.80 and an annual mean wage of $22,470
Transportation is another location-based factor to take into consideration. Many pet sitters charge for the round-trip to and from their client’s home if they have to drive a long way, in addition to their hourly or daily wage.
Education & training requirements
There are no real requirements to become a pet sitter (other than an unparalleled love for animals). But there are certain qualifications that will enhance your employability and earn you a few extra bucks:
- Previous experience with pet care, whether volunteering at a local animal shelter, with a veterinarian, or previous pet sitting experience is a plus (with references, please!).
- Certain licenses or certificates, including the certification programs from the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters or Pet Sitters International.
- Any pet-related courses, like pet behavioral training or first aid.
- In most cases, at least a high school diploma or equivalent is expected for a pet sitting job.
Licenses, certifications, and formal training will only make you more desirable as a potential pet sitter and justify a higher rates more quickly.
Tips for setting your rates
When negotiating your pet sitting rates and fees, the clients make a huge difference. And no, we’re not talking about the pet parents.
Spending your day with a not-yet-house-trained, loves-to-steal-socks, full-of-energy puppy is not the same as lounging about with a low-maintenance, well-trained, six-year-old dog. The pay shouldn’t be the same, either.
Get a clear picture of the four-legged friends you’ll be attending to before you agree to a price point:
Species – All animals need love and attention, but they don’t all require the same amount of work. Of all the household pets, dogs typically take the most effort because of daily walks, playtime, and trips outside to relieve themselves. Cats, rabbits, reptiles, birds, and the like are easier to manage and therefore fall under a lower pay scale.
Age – With dogs especially, rambunctious puppies are a whole new ball of energy and the most likely to want to play nonstop. You should always charge an additional fee for young pups.
Number – They say two is better than one, but it’s also more work. Once you’ve established a standard hourly rate, go ahead and tack on an extra fee for every additional animal.
Care needs – If the animal needs to be continuously supervised, assisted with moving around, or given regular medication, you may want to charge more than you would for a self-sufficient one.
Grow your business with referrals & reviews
As a pet sitter, you’re looking for work through personal connections and word of mouth instead of traditional job boards and corporate sites. That’s why your reputation as a responsible, reliable pet sitter is so important.
Once you build a substantial client base, you can start inquiring about other potential leads, especially with your high-paying customers. You can also ask them to leave positive reviews for you online and act as references for new clients. After you establish your presence, hone in on affluent neighborhoods willing to pay higher wages for your services.
Protect your business with insurance
Pet sitting may be your passion, but it can also be a source of financial hardship and distress if you leave yourself vulnerable.
Anytime you interact with third parties, whether two-legged or four, you risk the possibility of accidents or injuries. But general liability insurance can provide investigation, defense, and settlement for claims that may otherwise wipe out your pet-sitting pursuit altogether, including:
- Bodily injury – Claims of physical injury against a non-employee third party
- Property damage – Damages to another entity’s property (including your client’s home or a third-party location)
- Personal & advertising injury – Claims that you published something damaging to another’s reputation
In most cases, pet-sitting isn’t a full-time job, so paying for annual insurance doesn’t make much sense in a short-term, (often last-minute), gig-based industry.
Luckily, Thimble offers on-demand Pet Sitting Insurance coverage in a matter of seconds (under 60, to be exact). You can purchase:
- Hourly coverage for quick dog-walking appointments
- Daily insurance for a nine-to-five of caring for a furry friend (ahem, client)
- Weekly or monthly coverage for long-term pet sitting stints
Get the Thimble app or click “Get A Quote” now so you can protect what really matters—your business and your livelihood (even if you can’t protect the neighborhood squirrels from your client’s dog).
More than just puppy love
You may have entered the pet-sitting game because of your love for animals. You can turn it into a lucrative pursuit or side hustle by growing your client list, taking good care of their pets, and protecting yourself from potential claims and damages.
Who knows? You might even be able to teach an old dog some new tricks. Just be sure to purchase the right insurance coverage first.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook, Animal Care and Service Workers.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook, Animal Care and Service Workers: Pay.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019; 39-2021 Animal Caretakers.