A lot of people have asked me how they can get started as a house and pet sitter, and it’s really not that complicated.
I managed to get the first house and cat sit I applied for despite having no house sitting experience. What’s crazier is I was in Australia and the sit I applied for was on the other side of the world. What made the San Franciscan couple pick me? I’m not sure, but I’ll share what I do know applying for sits.
Please note the house and cat sitting ‘jobs’ I take on are not a form of paid employment.
Sign up to a house sitting website
I’ve signed up to several house sitting websites over the years, but remained loyal to TrustedHousesitters. Aussie House Sitters has become a recent favourite largely because Australians still can’t travel overseas. This doesn’t mean it’ll be your go-to, especially if you’re not looking to house sit in Australia, but it got me a sit in Darwin last Christmas.
Have a look at each of the websites before you decide which one to sign up to. TrustedHousesitters is good for those looking to travel to multiple countries while country-specific house sitting websites—like Aussie House Sitters and House Sitters America—might be a better option for those looking for something closer to home.
Work on your profile
Your sitter profile is like your resume. It’s where you should highlight what skills and attributes you possess, and talk up any house sitting experience you have. If you don’t have any experience, don’t worry too much. TrustedHousesitters has a ‘References’ section where people in your life (e.g. an employer) can comment on your character. I asked about three or four people to leave me a reference, and I think they helped a lot.
Personalise your preferences
Owners can search for sitters without putting an ad up hence why it’s worth specifying the places and pets you’re interested in when you create your profile. You can select more than one pet type and as many locations as you like. You can also select no pets, but that seems like a strange thing to do.
Upload photos with pets
Most people on house sitting websites have pets which is why it’s a good idea to upload a few photos of you with the animals in your life. If you volunteer at a farm or animal rescue, or foster animals in your home, these are other photos you could include as well. Remember to mention you volunteer or foster on your profile, too. If you don’t own a pet, it’s OK to upload a photo with someone else’s so long as it’s an animal you’re comfortable with.
Once you’ve found a sit you’re interested in, respond to the ad. I think your initial communication to/with the owner is just as important as your nicely-worded sitter profile so keep it short and sharp.
Don’t send the same message to every owner you reach out to. Personalise the message. Mention their pet’s name, tell them why you’re keen to house sit in that location. If their pets have special needs, let them know if you’ve administered injections and/or are confident in medicating animals.
You’ve got to be quick. I’ve found some owners give the sit to the first person who responds to their ad. Others start reviewing applications after they get three or four responses. If there’s an ad that interests you, message the owner as soon as you can because it might be taken down by the time you get home.
Other things to consider
These are a few things I’ve learned on my house sitting journey and I thought they’re worth touching on.
- You’re not going to get every sit you apply for. I’ve been unsuccessful many times.
- Half the people I’ve sat for have wanted to Skype or Facetime before confirming me as their sitter. Others felt my application letter, profile and reviews were enough to make a decision.
- Owners might suss you out on social media—make sure there’s nothing inappropriate on your accounts. Or at least make them private.
- Even though most sits are more about pet care than home care, some sitters will be asked to maintain the pool, mow the lawn or weed the garden. Most ads touch on what chores are required and more detail is provided at a later stage.
- Sitters need to be flexible. You can’t ask to arrive a few days earlier or leave halfway through the sit because that works better for you. You need to work in with the owner’s schedule.
- Things can go wrong. Appliances break, pets can go missing, get sick or die; pipes burst, you might accidentally start a small fire. You need to be prepared to make yourself available to have these things fixed or take the person’s pet to the vet. This can put a damper on your holiday, but it’s all part of being a sitter.
Final bit of advice
It’s really not that hard to get your first house sit. You just have to be able to sell yourself and back up those claims with experience (or kindly worded references). It’s like applying for a job. Don’t overthink it and just go for it.
I have been housesitting for 5 years. Currntlt I am enjoying a housesit in beautiful Tasmania Australia for 12 months! My longest sit test, and totally wort it.
So how do you pay for your air travel? I understand that you get free room & board from house & pet sitting. It could get pretty spendy.
I pay for it myself, but I’m happy to get the bus and train once I’m *in* the US.
I’ve had folks from Trusted Housesitters sit for me and my kitties three or four times now and have never regretted it. One sitter has even become a good friend, who is welcome to just visit anytime on her many travels and she is looking forward to her next stay with her “stepcats”.
I’ve recommended TrustedHouseSitters.com to I don’t know how many friends since! And I agree with Madolline — my sitters have had many of the same experiences she’s had. E.g. my washing machine died during the first week of my last sitter’s stay and I had to order a new one to be delivered (but sadly not fully installed!) from a different continent. That meant she had to be there for the delivery and set-up and not understand a word of what the delivery men were saying —- and then could not wash her clothes properly for the rest of her stay! She rolled with it fine and saw it as a totally survivable adventure. But if you’re not ready to cope with whatever a sit throws at you, you’re not ready to be a sitter. My sitters also said they learned to leap at sits they wanted and also lost out on more than they won — and when you win a sit, you have to follow through.
Many of my responders were retired couples & singles who have found this to be an excellent way to travel. I’m going to try it myself one day!