Just one of the articles from Pet Care Pro Quarterly, IBPSA’s digital magazine for pet care services professionals.
By Kristin Morrison
Pet care professionals looking to expand their businesses without significant increases in costs can benefit from adding in-home pet sitting to existing services. In-home pet sitting is a potentially lucrative source of profits and repeat clients as pet owners who need in-home pet care typically are willing to pay a premium for the convenience and peace of mind that comes from having their pets cared for in their own home.
The benefits of in-home care for clients
In-home pet sitting is a service many pet owners appreciate when they take a vacation or need to travel for work, especially for pets that do not do well in traditional boarding situations. Pets that do not thrive in a traditional boarding environment are ideal candidates for in-home pet care. Examples include:
In addition to specialized pet care, in-home pet sitting also provides clients with the added benefit of having someone to care for their home at the same time. Gathering mail, watering plants, and helping the home appear occupied are benefits many pet owners appreciate bundling together with their pet care.
The benefits of in-home pet sitting for clients—and their pets— can translate into happy, repeat customers and higher profits for the pet sitter. Pet owners who need in-home pet care are typically not only willing to pay more for an in-home sitter than they would for traditional boarding, they are happy to do so once they have found a pet sitter they can trust to care for their pets and home while they are away.
Types of in-home pet sitting
Before adding in-home pet sitting as an added service, it is important to carefully consider what is involved in the actual pet sitting. There are two main types of in-home pet sitting: overnight pet sitting and in-home pet visits.
Overnight pet sitting
Overnight pet sitting is what many people imagine when they think of an in-home pet sitter. The pet sitter will stay in the home at night, usually from around 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Some clients also request services during the day. Depending on the needs of the pets, daytime care ranges from a midday walk or potty break to having a pet sitter in the home most of the day, in addition to the overnight hours.
Overnight pet sitting requires more from the pet sitter than in-home pet visits, but it is the ideal service for pets that need the most care, such as: young puppies and older dogs that need regular trips outside day and night; dogs suffering from separation anxiety; and any pet that has a medical issue that requires constant supervision.
In addition to pet care, the pet sitter is often asked to water plants, collect mail, take garbage to and from the curb, monitor the pool (where applicable), and turn lights on and off as directed. In effect, clients are getting two services in one: a pet sitter and a house sitter. This service is worth the added cost to many clients who want to be able to travel without worrying about what is happening at home.
In-home pet visits
Pet visits require less from the pet sitter and are generally less expensive for the client as a result. Most cats and dogs that do not have special medical or anxiety issues are perfect candidates for in-home pet visits. In these situations, the pet sitter visits the client’s home two to three times each day while the client is away to feed and water the pets, take the dog for a walk or to run around in the yard, administer any required medication, and to clean up after the pets (including cleaning out the litter box if there are cats in the home).
As with overnight pet sitting, the pet sitter is often also asked to perform small household chores such as watering pets, taking garbage to the curb on the appointed day, and collecting the mail.
First steps for getting started with in-home pet sitting
One of the main advantages of adding in-home pet sitting to existing services is that it can be done without significant start-up costs, increasing the percentage of the client fees that are counted as profit. Most of the supplies in-home pet sitters require on the job are items pet care companies use every day:
In addition to those few supplies, a clear client contract is also necessary. As with any other pet care, a signed client contract, vet release, and key release should be completed before the service begins. Because some dogs are anxious or destructive when alone, having a pet sitter in the home at night and at least part of the daytime is a top priority for some clients. How much time the sitter agrees to spend in the home should be decided before the contract is signed so that both the pet sitter and the client are in agreement.
Once the contract and supplies are prepared, adding in-home pet sitting is relatively simple. Start by notifying existing clients who are already familiar with your company and staff. If they are satisfied with current services, they may be very excited to have an in-home pet sitting option from a pet care professional they already know and trust.
From there, word-of-mouth recommendations will help spread the word. Giving a small incentive to current clients who recommend your business is another way to attract new clients. Send out an email blast to your existing customers to let them know about your new service and describe any referral incentive you plan to offer. Most pet sitters find that repeat customers are very common with in-home pet sitting. Pet owners who travel regularly generally will come back for pet sitting again and again, preferring to stick with a professional they trust rather than shopping around for a new sitter before each trip.
Many pet care businesses find that in-home pet sitting becomes their most requested service because clients who want to avoid traditional boarding are happy to find someone to care for their pets and their home. Hiring additional staff to meet client needs is a great option to consider for companies that find more demand for in-home pet sitting than expected.
Because of the high demand for in-home pet sitting, it can be a simple and profitable service for businesses looking to broaden their client base and to help more pet owners looking for quality pet care.
Kristin Morrison started and ran one of the largest pet care companies in California for nearly two decades before selling it in 2013 to focus on Six-Figure Pet Business Academy™, which provides coaching, webinars and online pet business programs to pet business owners. She is the host of the Prosperous Pet Business Online Conference and the podcast called “Prosperous Pet Business”. Kristin is the author of multiple books for pet business owners including The Hiring Handbooks for Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers, Six-Figure Pet Business, and 30 Days to Start and Grow Your Pet Sitting and Dog Walking Business.
SIDEBAR: It can also be beneficial to create a partnership with an established pet sitting company in your area. Try checking with NAPPS (National Association of Professional Pet Sitters) to find a sitter who has their own insured and bonded business and reach out to them about providing referrals. Not only can they help you provide in-home services for your clients, but they can then refer back to your facility when they encounter a pet who is a better candidate for facility boarding