Whether you’re just starting out in the pet sitter biz or have been at it a long time, figuring out how much to charge for pet sitting isn’t easy, as there are so many factors that can affect your rate. However, one thing holds true across the board: The amount of time you spend caring for a pet is directly linked to what you should be paid.
How much should I charge for pet sitting?
According to Collin Funkhouser, a professional pet sitter and host of the podcast, Pet Sitter Confessional, the first thing you should do when starting out as a professional pet sitter is figure out what you need to earn a living. “Do your monthly budget first, then break down the cost per services and bookings,” he says, “and don’t forget to include things like taxes and business expenses.”
Next, Funkhouser adds, you’ll need to decide on what you will, and won’t, be willing to do. “Whatever request you get from a potential client, make sure to make it worth your time financially, before you say yes.”
Finally, make sure your prices match up with the work you’re doing. “When it comes to setting pet sitting rates, it’s reasonable to expect your compensation to reflect the time and energy necessary to provide pets the level of care any owner would want them to have,” says Dr. Jo Myers, a Colorado-based veterinarian and JustAnswer expert.
What to consider when determining your rate
Wondering what else will dictate what you charge? Experts offer tips and advice for what factors to take into account when setting pet sitting rates.
- Your location and the average rates in your area.
- Time spent caring for pet(s).
- Number of animals.
- Type of animal(s).
- Duties and tasks.
- Pet insurance coverage.
- Experience and reputation.
Here’s a breakdown of each:
1. Your location and average pet sitting rates in your area
According to Funkhouser, if you live in an area with a higher cost of living, you can command a higher rate for pet sitting than if you’re in an area with a lower cost of living. While a number of factors should contribute to your pet sitting rates, it’s always a good idea to know what people nearby are charging and paying for pet care jobs.
Here are the average going rates for pet sitters in these top 20 cities, according to recent data gathered by Care.com:
Current pet sitting rates for top cities*
|City, State||Hourly Pet Sitter Rate|
|Los Angeles, California||$15.75/hr|
|Brooklyn, New York||$14.75/hr|
|San Antonio, Texas||$12.75/hr|
|Charlotte, North Carolina||$12.50/hr|
|Las Vegas, Nevada||$12.25/hr|
If you’re looking for a concrete hourly rate, an option is to look at what five to 10 pet sitters in your vicinity are charging and take the average or “slightly above the average,” according to Funkhouser. “Unfortunately, what this misses is the fact that the majority of pet sitters are vastly under-charging for their services,” he says. “So by taking the average, you could be undercharging.”
2. Time spent caring for pet(s)
The time involved in caring for a pet should help dictate what you charge, says Allison Smith, owner of the pet sitting company Waggers in North Carolina. “Whether it’s a potty break, one-hour walk or overnight stay, each job correlates to time,” she says. “And if you’re pet sitting on a holiday, there should be a slight increase for services rendered that day.”
Myers adds that it’s not unreasonable to charge more for pets who require you spend more time with them. “If pets require medication or have other time-consuming special needs, pet owners should expect to pay more for that,” she says, adding that even if it’s not something particularly critical, like a kitten who craves lots of social contact and interaction, “time is still money.”
3. Number of animals
Depending on the number of animals and what their care entails, you may be able to charge a higher rate. However, that’s not a hard and fast rule. “If we’re talking about caring for fish in only one tank, the amount of time and energy necessary to care for one fish or twenty is the same,” Myers says. “Similarly, two or even three cats is really not much more work than one, as long as no one has special needs.”
Myers notes that even two dogs can be as simple as one if the “conditions are right.” “After all, they might play with each other while they’re home alone, decreasing the amount of exercise they need when the sitter visits,” she says. “Likewise, they can be walked together. But once you start taking care of three or more dogs, there’s no getting around the fact that it’s more work and, in turn, you should charge a higher rate.”
4. Type of animal(s)
Experts agree that, when it comes to pet sitting, dogs are generally the most high maintenance of the bunch, with “bigger dogs being more work than smaller dogs,” according to Myers.
“Providing care for some types of pets is a lot more work than others, so it’s completely appropriate to charge more for different types of animals,” Myers says. “It takes a lot more time and energy to try to wear out an interminable fetch addict than it does to make sure a senior cat who sleeps 90% of the time still has food, water and a clean litter box.”
5. Duties and tasks
The types of tasks a pet owner wants accomplished while they’re gone should also affect what you charge. “If an owner wants you to come in and feed the dogs and cats and leave, that’s less work than someone who wants you to stay at the house to keep their pets company for part of, or all of, the day, and pay should reflect that,” says Dr. Gary Richter, veterinarian, Medical Director of Holistic Veterinary Care and founder of Ultimate Pet Nutrition. “On that same note, it’s more work for sitters to take a dog out for a really long hike every day, compared to a quick jaunt around the block.”
Here are other duties that can increase your rate, according to Funkhouser:
- Administering medication.
- Special food preparation.
- Caring for pets on palliative care.
If a pet owner asks you to house sit while caring for their pet, that can increase your rate, as well. Funkhouser notes that services such as overnight house sitting are usually on a “per-hour rate to make it worth your time,” but ultimately, setting a flat or per-hour rate is up to you.
“When I’ve stayed at clients’ homes while they’re away, we’ve always decided on a per-day rate beforehand,” says Nancy Carson, a pet sitter in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “When broken down by working hours, it’s higher than my normal dog walking or pet sitting rate.”
6. Pet insurance coverage
According to Smith, having pet insurance is an important protection for both you and your clients — and being able to show proof of coverage can also be worthy of charging a higher rate.
Not sure where to start with insurance? Here’s everything you need to know on pet sitting insurance and its benefits, policies and costs
7. Experience and reputation
Another factor worthy of boosting your rate? A professional certification. Getting certified as a pet sitter from a reputable organization, such as the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) or Pet Sitters International (PSI), will show clients that you’re serious about your work and are committed to your field.
“As you improve your skills, you’ll be able to charge higher prices,” says Funkhouser. “Additionally, you can also niche into a specific breed or type of care, which means you’ll also be able to charge a premium.”
The bottom line
At the end of the day, you’re the only person who can decide what your services are worth, says Funkhouser, and by sticking to rates that correlate with high-quality service, you’re sure to build your business.
“Will you have people not use your services because they think it’s too expensive? Absolutely. Stick to your policies, prices and boundaries, and you’ll be running your pet care business, as opposed to your clients.”
Does this mean you should take advantage of clients? “Never,” Funkhouser says. “Instead, always strive to offer the highest quality service. There’s no magic number when it comes to caring for pets. There’s only the quality of service and the value your clients find in it.”