What to charge for overnight pet sitting

How much should I pay a pet sitter?

I attended a baby shower a few weeks ago, and I ended up talking to someone about what to charge for pet sitting. She knew I was a pet sitter, and she said when she looked into hiring someone to watch her two cats (in another city) the range in rates was very surprising to her. Some charged as little as $10 per visit, while others charged $20 per visit and some charged $40.

She thought this range in rates was odd and found the selection process overwhelming and frustrating.

As the owner of a pet sitting business, I am aware of this range in rates but had never really thought about it from the “outside looking in.”

What to charge a pet sitter

Since I’ve been in the business long enough, I know the “pet sitters” charging less are usually students looking for extra cash. I was one of those students, so I get it. I also know the people charging considerably more are well-established pet sitters with waiting lists and strong reputations. Or, they might have another income source, so they don’t need to depend on getting a certain number of pet sitting appointments each month.

I can see why it would be frustrating for someone trying to hire a pet sitter for the first time. How would you know who to hire? In this particular case, the person ended up hiring someone in the middle as far as rates.

Read pet sitter reviews and ask for references

If you’re deciding on a pet sitter, my advice is to hire someone based off references, word of mouth and your own opinion after actually meeting the pet sitter. Don’t hesitate to ask any questions that could help you determine whether or not you feel comfortable with this person. I wrote a post on questions to ask a pet sitter, and some of those questions include:

  • What’s included in your rates? What isn’t included?
  • How long is each pet sitting visit?
  • Will you walk my dogs? How long?
  • Do you have dog training experience?
  • Do you have pet sitting insurance?
  • Do you charge extra for multiple dogs/cats?

One of my blog readers recently emailed me with a similar question about what to charge for pet sitting.

The reader said she normally leaves her dogs at a boarding kennel but this time she planned to pay a pet sitter to stay overnight with the pets – two dogs and a senior cat. This reader was unsure of what a reasonable rate would be, and asked me for a ballpark range since I offer pet sitting in Solana Beach.

Tough question!

She said the pet sitter would be walking the dogs several times per day, sleeping at the house and giving the cat extra attention as well.

This is what I said:

$60 per night would probably be a fair rate at a minimum. I charge $78 per 24 hours, and that can include spending the night or visiting the pets as often as needed. Most other pet sitters are in that range, they just break it up and charge $20 per visit or so.

 Not sure if that helps, but at least gives you an idea. A lot depends on whether this person is a professional or just doing this as a side thing. 

Some additional thoughts:

For the pet sitter – Getting repeat business is obviously a goal. So, while $60 (or whatever your price is) for 24 hours of care may not sound like much, hopefully the client will hire you again or tell others about your great care, thoughtfulness and professionalism.

For the pet owner – If you’re happy with the pet sitter’s care, it could really benefit the pet sitter if you left her a positive review on Yelp, Google + or Facebook. You could also leave her a tip. While most pet sitters don’t expect tips, leaving one is a nice gesture.

$60 (or whatever the price is) per night may sound like a lot already, but remember the pet sitter is available to your pets 24 hours per day. While she may not be at your house the whole time, the pets are still technically in her care and she spends a considerable amount of time and energy thinking about them even when she’s not at your house. She also spends time driving to and from your house, often late at night or early in the morning. She probably also spends time calling you, emailing you or posting social media updates about your pets while “off the clock.”

Book on how to start a pet sitting businessWhat do the rest of you think? If you’re a pet sitter, what do you charge for this type of service? If you’re a pet owner, what would you expect to pay to have a pet sitter stay at your house?

For more information, read my ebook on how to start a pet sitting business. Also check back on the blog each Wednesday for posts related to starting a dog walking or pet sitting business.

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  1. Elizabeth on October 3, 2013

    Back when I was house sittting I would pretty much move in for whatever amount of time needed. If they didn’t need me overnight I would drop by once or twice a day, mostly cats and fish. I charged between $10 to $20 a day. Granted, I was not licensed or insured and by the end of my house sitting years I was pretty much word of mouth. BTW, I stopped house sitting about 5 years ago, after my fiance and I got together.

    I had some clients who would stock their fridge and pantry for me, others, just eat what’s in the house. For the most part it was pretty fun. Learned what I liked in houses and what I didn’t. And especially to ask if the furnace was working!!!! (That’s a funny story)

    The best people are the ones who make sure to leave you detailed notes, etc, because some animals like a certain routine and the owners hired me to keep that routine as normal as possible.

    The hardest thing I think I had to do was say no. The other thing that I would caution any one on who is house sitting on is not to take a house that is on the market with pets. People should not take vacations and put their house on the market the day they leave. I was the one who had to crate two dogs who were not used to it (for the previous 6 months they had free use of the house). Thankfully the dogs were ok, but I felt bad! Their cats brought in mice at night, I don’t like beheaded mice in the middle of the living room first thing in the morning. And the realtor did not have the right number so I was never informed except by screaming voicemail from the owners and then the realtor because she thought the house number was ok to call and leave a message. And one of the dogs was a pit mix which probably scared some people. That was my really horrible house sitting story. I turned them down after that. I was doing them a service and I was treated horribly. I did not have a back up so there was no way for me to get out of the situation till they returned.

    But otherwise I accumulated a great group of people who I have handed over to my brother for the most part. Personally, when my fiance and I go out of town, we board our dogs at a doggy day care facility and haven’t had a problem. But my brother is on call to pick them up should the need arise!

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on October 3, 2013

      Wow, you have some really interesting stories.

      One thing with pet/house sitting, which I’m sure you experienced, is making sure to ask if anyone else will be stopping by the house. Maintenance people, cleaning people, relatives, etc.

  2. Sean on October 3, 2013

    From the perspective of the pet sitter, you have to think about two things:
    what is a competitive rate in your area & what your take-away pay would be after the costs of doing the job are (if you are spending money on gas, losing out on other work, paying for insurance, etc.). You want to make sure it’s worth your time and effort. It’s important to build your cost based on what’s included and what’s not. If you normally would be charging $30 for a walk or $18 for a home visit to feed, medicate a cat and take dog out for bathroom, then there is no reason these things still shouldn’t cost roughly the same amount if you do them as part of pet-sitting, and most people are cognizant of that. It can help to offer people different price packages for pet-sitting based on how much is included and let them choose. Pet-sitting gets very expensive, and the same person who normally might want longer activities for their pets may want to cut it down a little to make things more affordable.

    As for the local market, it’s important to understand who your competition is. If you’re competing against other non-student professionals in pet-sitting, you can expect to be able to charge more for pet-sitting over holidays, since more people need it (demand goes up), while not everyone who pet-sits can do so over every holiday (pet-sitters are people too!). Things change if you’re in a college town or otherwise in a market where students make up a lot of pet-sitting options.

    Also, there is nothing wrong with quoting higher rates and offering discounts for people you have a long-standing relationship with because you know things go smoothly when you pet-sit for them (they give notice on upcoming trips, don’t have things breaking or going wrong in the house, have ‘easy’ pets, etc.)

    From the perspective of the pet owner, price differences often aren’t related to quality of care. Make sure you compare apples to apples. A boarding facility that is functionally doggy day care is not the same as a pet-sitter. Some pet-sitters would rather take your pets in (board them), others can’t. Costs should reflect these housing differences. Figure out what you need and what’s best for your pets.

    Bottom line on pricing: Think about the long game. What I value most as an owner is whether I can trust whomever is looking after my dogs to deal with the unexpected and communicate with me when necessary. So, I will pay more in general to keep a good relationship and connection to a pet-caretaker that I can count on when I’m in a pinch (last minute need, pet requires specialized care, etc.). I know that I may be “over-paying” for feeding or walking the dogs year round but I am cool with that if I know that when something unexpectedly forces me to travel around Thanksgiving, you’ll make sure my pets are cared for. You can charge more as a pet-sitter if you know that you’ll be there for your clients on their schedule, as opposed to your own. If that’s not the type of business you plan to run, then you may need to charge a lower rate or people won’t want to use you.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on October 3, 2013

      Great points. I don’t think there’s anything I can add to what you said.

      • Elizabeth on October 4, 2013

        I guess in response to people stopping by, also make sure to check the house after they leve for the day. I had a contractor shut the cat out of the bathroom that attached to the laundry room where the litter box was. The next day the contractor left all his tools out for the cat to climb all over. I had to pick those up so the cat couldn’t hurt himself. :-)

        • Lindsay Stordahl Author on October 4, 2013

          Ugh. Stressful.

          One time I was walking dogs for a client while she was out of town, but her mom was staying at the house with the dogs. The mom got the dogs leashed up for me, but hooked the leashes to the wrong loop of the slip collars. Let’s just say the collars were way too loose and fell off the dogs instantly.

          Always double check the leash/collar set up if someone else gets the dogs ready!

  3. Renchan Li on October 3, 2013

    I am glad to get this information for my future potential needs for my dog. I always appreciate the basic quality services and don’t want to be seen as cheap (meaning giving less than getting). The best deal is that we all take care of each other. Thanks for this topic.