Many people with pets prefer the convenience of a pet sitter as opposed to boarding their pets.
Some pets have anxiety issues that preclude boarding, while others have health problems. And then some pets just prefer — and do better — at home.
In particular, when it comes to boarding cats, just “don’t,” says Jackson Galaxy, a cat behaviors expert and host of the Animal Planet show My Cat From Hell.
“I don’t see why someone would board a cat and take them out of their environment,” he says. Instead, “spend your money on an experienced pet sitter that you trust, that you introduce into your home, and that takes care of your cat on your cat’s terms and territory.”1
Inevitably, though, comes the big question: How much should I pay my pet sitter?
Chances are, you’re going to pay a pet sitter more than you’d pay for boarding, and here’s why.
What Pet Sitters Actually Do
Pet sitters come into your pet’s comfort zone to care for them.
I have been a professional pet sitter for several years now, and when it comes to pets with anxiety (especially separation anxiety), having a pet sitter in the home is much more comfortable for them than being sent to a boarding facility.
Some pets do well in boarding facilities — they enjoy the socialization and change in routine. Pets who are elderly, have medical issues, or are simply not comfortable with other animals or people are where pet sitters come in to save the day.
Pet sitters can come once or twice a day to check in and give medication and walks. Most pet sitters also spend the night at your home with your pet while you’re away.
Not only does this ensure that pets don’t spend the night alone (something many pets struggle with), but it also keeps your house looking lived in and provides security. Most sitters will perform basic tasks like plant watering and mail collection as well.
“You’ll feel better” by going with an experienced pet sitter, says Jackson Galaxy. “You’ll be able to monitor your cat’s behavior, and then there will be that wonderful moment when you come home from vacation, and your cat couldn’t give a crap that you’re home.”
“And that’s good, right?” he continues. “That means that their territory is safe, they were given everything on a schedule — their schedule that you set up over time — and their life is stable.”
Pet Boarding Prices
According to Thumbtack, a job website, here are some current prices for pet boarding in the United States:2,3
- Average cost to board a dog overnight: $40–$60
- Average cost to board a cat overnight: $20–30
Pet Sitter Rates
So, back to that burning question: How much should I pay my pet sitter?
Here are some current rates for pet sitters in the United States that you can use as a guideline:4
- Average cost of a pet sitter per day: $20–$40
- Average cost of a 1/2-hour visit: $25
- Average cost of a 1-hour visit: $32
- Average cost of overnight pet sitting: $75–$85
The hard truth, though? It’s impossible to give a “one size fits all” answer to how much to pay your pet sitter. Let me explain why …
Pet sitter rates vary widely, depending on a number of factors, including:
- Their experience
- Their training
- Where you live
- Whether you are in an urban or rural setting
- How many pets you have
- The cost of living
Do you live in a city? Typically, you’ll pay more for just about any service when you’re in an urban environment.
The cost of living in your area will also affect service rates — your pet sitter has to eat and pay bills as well, and their rate will reflect that.
You should also consider your location. As a pet sitter, I charge more for clients who are farther away from where I live, so that I can cover my gas expenses and vehicle depreciation.
“In addition, sitters required to travel in areas with high volumes of traffic and congestion may charge higher rates to cover the additional time and transportation expenses involved in getting to and from clients’ homes,” according to Thumbtack.
Angie’s List advises finding a sitter who’s close to your home: “Look for a pet sitter in your neighborhood, which will cut down on the pet sitter’s travel cost.”5
The number of pets you have may also affect your pet sitter’s rate. If you have 5 dogs who all need various medications and differing exercise regimes, your sitter is probably going to charge extra for that workload because all of your pets’ needs will not be able to be addressed in a standard 30-minute visit.
Note: No good pet sitter will agree to “ignore” a pet. If you have 3 dogs, 2 cats and 5 hamsters and you don’t want anything done with the cats or hamsters, we’re still going to get a visual on those pets before we leave to make sure they’re OK.
How Pet Sitters Charge
Not only does the price of pet sitting vary, but how pet sitters charge varies as well.
Pet visits are a fairly standard 30 minutes for feeding, walks, medications and so on. What exactly is performed during the visit depends on the contract between the pet sitter and the individual client.
If you have pets who need longer than the normal visit time, then plan to book — and pay for — a double visit. Examples include cleaning cages or enclosures, going on multiple walks for dogs with differing restrictions, administering certain medications, or doing any grooming.
Pets with anxiety or aggression issues may also require a longer visit. The best way to approach a dog who is nervous is to have plenty of patience. This means it could take 15 minutes or more just to get a leash on the first few times.
However, this time is crucial to the relationship between your dog and your pet sitter. Allowing for a few longer visits in the beginning gives the pet sitter time to work with your pet in a relaxed time frame with less stress.
Finally, pet sitters may offer extra services such as home checks, plant watering, light housekeeping and more. If they do, they will charge for these services.
Paying Your Pet Sitter
These days, pet sitters choose to be paid in a variety of ways.
Some accept credit cards — but for most pet sitters, cash, checks and online payment methods (PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay) are the most popular way to pay. Ask your chosen pet sitter (or candidates, if you are conducting interviews) what their specific payment policy is.
- Most sitters require payment at the time of the service. If you have them come daily, they may let you pay once per week.
- Long-term and overnight jobs may require full payment before the job begins.
- Some pet sitters may require a deposit at the time of the booking to hold your spot. This is not because we are mean — it’s because we have been burned by clients who reserve our time and then back out at the last minute.
You and your pet sitter should clearly understand what the payment agreement is before any jobs begin. Misunderstandings can lead to future problems.
Also, please don’t be one of those clients a pet sitter has to chase down for payment. Most pet sitters do not enjoy having to make multiple follow-up calls or visits just to get paid — not to mention they’ll end up dropping you as a client.
My advice? Always have at least 2 pet sitters’ numbers in your phone. This way, if one is busy during a time you need to be away, the other may not be. It’s also a backup if something unexpected happens to your primary pet sitter.
Great pet sitters won’t resent being hired as a backup because we know that ultimately it’s about providing the best care for pets. I’ve been hired as a backup before and then moved into the primary spot when other pet sitters move on as well.
Just remember to keep each pet sitter’s payment requirements straight. Most will provide you with a printout that you can keep for reference.
Pet Sitters’ Expenses
It also helps to know why pet sitters charge what they do.
First, the cost of living in your area will be a big factor. According to CNBC, the 5 most expensive states to live in are:6
- New York
Distance is another factor for pet sitters. How far must they travel to and from your home? Regardless of whether they are doing visits or overnights for you, this is going to be a factor in gas, vehicle depreciation and time.
And then there are taxes. Pet sitters, like anyone else, have to pay taxes on their income. They must factor that into how much they charge for each job because a certain percentage of that money must be set aside.
Good pet sitters carry insurance and are bonded. Health insurance is also a must — there’s always a risk of being injured when working with animals, particularly with pets who are anxious or aggressive.
Pet sitters also need to shell out some money for advertising, even if it’s just for some business cards and T-shirts.
Finally, pet sitters need supplies and equipment. While most clients provide leashes, harnesses, collars, food and other items necessary to care for their pets, occasionally one or more of these items are overlooked. A pet sitter can’t walk a dog without a leash, so most of us carry those items with us just in case.
In the video below, Liana, a professional pet sitter in Fort Collins, Colorado, explains a little more about pet sitter pricing and what you might expect to pay:
Final Thoughts on Paying for a Pet Sitter
When you’re searching for a pet sitter, be sure to evaluate their rates along with their proficiency and professionalism.
Compare their rates with others in your area — and if the pet sitter charges more, feel free to ask why. Most times it’s because they are bringing years of experience and hands-on training to the field. According to PetSitter.com, a sitter with more than 10 years of experience may fetch a 43% higher hourly rate versus a pet sitter just starting out.7
One great tip comes courtesy of K9 of Mine, a dog care blog: “The easiest way to see what most [pet sitters] are charging in your area? Check Craigslist, Rover, or call up competitors and ask about their prices as if you are a customer.”8
Keep in mind, most pet sitters aren’t exactly making a killing: They earn about $32,100 per year on average, versus the average $46,800 annual salary for all Americans.9,10
Remember that you get what you pay for — so if you choose a pet sitter based solely on a low rate, you may not get the best care for your pet.
Bottom line: Have an open conversation about your potential pet sitter’s rates. If you’re concerned, ask if they offer any deals for frequency or loyalty, or for first-time clients.
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