Pet sitting is super rewarding. You can meet new people, learn new things and spend your time with animals of all kinds. You can also develop special relationships with clients that can last years — or even a lifetime.
Sadly, some relationships don’t develop that way. Pet sitters are generally good-hearted people who love animals and want to help their clients out. Sometimes this means getting taken advantage of.
With that in mind, here are some clients that pet sitters are better off steering clear of.
When things go well on a visit, it’s great. But if there is one guarantee in pet sitting, it’s that things don’t always go well.
Sometimes you need to get a hold of your pet’s people either while you are in their home or before you report to the job. People who continually avoid your calls — and don’t respond to your texts — can’t be relied upon to direct you in the event of an emergency.
Now this doesn’t mean that since Barbara didn’t return your call that one time you should drop her as a client; people get busy at work or are away from their phones sometimes. This refers to the client you continually can’t reach, regardless of whether you call, text, leave notes, send smoke signals etc.
These are the clients who want you to start a new job with a new pet or pets without any initial meeting, discussion or sharing of information.
They basically toss the key to their house under a rock and run out the door, leaving you wondering if you’re sitting for a dog, cat, iguana or some fish. They don’t give you information about medication, veterinarian on record or aggression.
But this client will hold you responsible if something goes wrong.
The Peeping Tom
Most homeowners have security of some kind, and this includes cameras both in and outside their homes. This is expected and normal.
What is not expected — and certainly not acceptable — is for cameras to be in an area of the home where the pet sitter may be unknowingly exploited.
A colleague recently told me about a client who had positioned their home cameras on the floor, angled up, in the bathroom and in the bedroom she was assigned to sleep in. She did not discover these cameras until 3 days into her 7-day overnight job.
Clearly, this was not accidental on the part of the client, who had plenty of time to tell the pet sitter where their cameras were located and that the video of her undressed was recorded.
Pet sitters, if this happens to you, it is unacceptable. This is a complete violation, and you should report it to your local police department immediately and refuse to complete the job.
“Liar” is not a pretty term, but it’s hard to gloss over a person who is outright dishonest about a pet’s problems.
People usually do this because they’re desperate for a sitter. So when the pet sitter asks about aggression or past history of incidents, the client will tell them that their pet is not aggressive and has had no history of causing injury — even if the pet has.
This can be downright dangerous for the pet sitter. A dog with food aggression is no joke, and some breeds are capable of causing incredible damage. A pet sitter who is not informed about food aggression can be attacked when feeding the animal. If a dog is aggressive to other animals, a pet sitter can be caught unaware when the animal lunges at another pet.
Learn why this pet sitter loves her job:
What to Do
Pet sitters, if you have clients who display any or all of these traits, you need to let them go immediately. Call them and arrange a meeting if possible. If not, simply have a phone conversation to discuss the following:
- State clearly that you can no longer sit for them and if you are scheduled for any upcoming jobs, be sure the client understands that you will not be completing them.
- Explain why you have come to this decision. Use examples: “The past 3 times I have fed Fluffy, he has lunged at me, and last time he bit me on the arm.”
- Be polite but firm. The client will probably be upset, but remember: They weren’t worried about upsetting you when they left you with no information, used their security equipment dishonestly, withheld the truth or refused to return your calls. Reiterate that you are sorry but refuse to be drawn into an argument. When ending the call or meeting, do so as courteously as possible.
Whenever you have a situation that makes you uncomfortable — but you aren’t sure if the client is actually going too far — documentation is your best friend. Keep a notebook handy and jot down anything that makes you nervous or insecure about the job.
Accept the fact that a client you let go of is going to be unhappy, so be prepared for negative feedback. Having documentation allows you to provide clear and detailed examples — and defense, if you need it.
Happily, most clients are amazing people who have allowed me to be a part of their extended families, and it’s been a real privilege.
But there’s always that one.