Pet sitters are needed for a plethora of creatures, from tiny fish to 100-pound puppers. But they can also be expensive—especially when you need to leave home for long periods of time and your trusted friends or family don’t volunteer to help. So what’s a nervous pet parent to do? Here are some affordable options to consider (just keep in mind that rates can vary by state and level of service provided, so make sure to do your own research when weighing these services).
One of the most popular companies for dog and cat care, Rover currently contracts more than 700,000 sitters and has millions of users across North America, the United Kingdom and Western Europe, according to Rover’s consumer PR manager, Robyn Stewart.
What They Offer: Out-of-homeboarding, house sitting and quick drop-in visits for feeding and walking. Customers can also decide if they want the pet to stay in their own home or go to the sitter’s home. What’s also great about this option is thatall care providers working with Rover must pass a background check, take a safety quiz and have their profile reviewed by the Rover team before they’re hired. The company encourages prospective clients to read sitters’ ratings and arrange virtual or in-person meet-and-greets with caretakers to check out their home environment and discuss the animal’s personality, habits and health history. (Rover even provides a downloadable checklist to help with the meet-and-greet discussions so there’s no awkwardness.)
What You Pay: Services can go as low as $15 to $20 an hour for a 30-minute walk or as high as $60 for overnight boarding, but it depends on your caregiver—because Rover’s sitters and walkers are considered independent contractors and set their own rates depending on the level of care required and their experience. Furthermore, the company collects a 20% transaction fee for each walk or stay booked through their platform. This fee, according to Stewart, covers marketing, 24/7 support, the company’s Rover Guarantee for both pet parents and care providers and other perks like reservation protection.
What Clients Say: Yvette Santos Cuenco from Washington, D.C., uses Rover for in-home dog care. “I’ve paid $60 and up in the past and find the prices to be fair—especially if a sitter has several positive reviews and repeat customers,” she says. The background checks make her feel more secure about who’s inside her home. “I think of Rover as the Airbnb for pet sitting,” she adds.
Tye Tavaras of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, uses the drop-in cat sitting option. Her cats have a water fountain and an automatic dry-food feeder, so they don’t need much extra care. As a result, the fees she pays range from just $15 to $25 a visit. “The sitter comes over to give them wet food, check the water and dry-food levels, clean the litter boxes and play and cuddle with them a bit,” she says.
2. Facebook Groups
While a little unorthodox, Facebook groups that help you find sitters are growing fast and allow you to tailor your pet care requests specifically to your area. Pet parents can be upfront with the type of help needed and the rate they’re willing to pay, and caregivers can advertise their services and prices.
What They Offer: Pet and home care (usually light chores). Some offer drop-in visits to play with your animal, give food, dispense medications, take them for potty breaks and/or clean the litter box. Owners of small, low-maintenance animals like birds or fish appreciate this easy option and don’t have to go through too much trouble to use it.
What You Pay: Again, it depends on what you’re looking for. Ryan Stewart, a dog walker and trainer based out of Long Island City, New York, charges $15 for a 15- to 30-minute cat day-visit where he or one of his employees plays with the kitty, feeds it, changes the litter and refreshes the water. He charges $60 for boarding and $70 for sitting, with a discount (around $10 per night) if services are needed for a week or more. It’s smart to factor in extra fees if air travel is in your plans, as pet sitting bills can pile up if your flights are delayed or canceled.
What Clients Say: Lisa Borders found her cat sitter, who lives 45 minutes outside of Boston, through her local Facebook group. “I chose her because she was independent, that is, not working for an agency where she’d only get a percentage of what I paid,” says Borders. “Plus, she had many positive reviews; my cats love her.” The $18 in-home care fee Borders’ sitter charges covers feeding two cats, scooping the litter box, petting and brushing. A bonus? “She brings the mail in and lets us know if anything is amiss in the house,” Borders adds.
Jody Allard of Phoenix, Arizona, says: “I found a local kid via my neighborhood Facebook group who comes in for 15 minutes daily to feed the cats and fish when we’re out of town—for just $5 a day.” If the care is minimal and you won’t be gone for too long, a neighborhood teen is an easy, inexpensive option. Just be sure you get their parents’ permission first, of course.
3. Your Local Vet/Animal Clinic
Yes, sometimes this is an option! If your flea-free pet is a patient that’s up to date on their vaccinations, they could get first dibs for boarding opportunities—though these can be limited due to space and inadequate staffing, and some vets have a cap on how much time a pet can be in their care. Technicians will also sometimes make “house calls” for animals who need medication while you’re away, provided there’s someone or some way to let them in.
What They Offer: Pets receive many of the same comforts they would experience at a day care/boarding service, including nail cutting. Walking, playing and feeding are undertaken by trained staff who can also administer oral, topical and injectable medications if your pet is under the weather. Cats are usually housed in quiet areas away from dogs, and those with smaller animals like birds, rabbits and gerbils may be asked to bring in their pets’ cages for comfort. Dutchess County Animal Hospital in Poughkeepsie, New York, also recommends bringing your pet’s usual food to avoid digestive problems, though medical attention is easily given should any problems arise.
What You Pay: Rates vary by region, but according to home improvement professional site HomeGuide, boarding costs average $40 per night.
What Clients Say: Celeste Marie from California says: “We hire a vet tech at $40 a day to come give our elderly cat his insulin injections.” The tech also scoops the litter box and feeds Marie’s two felines while administering the care.
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Chanize Thorpe is a lifestyle editor and writer. She’s based in New York but considers the Caribbean her second home. Thorpe is also a proud mother of two daughters, LGBTQIA+ member and caregiver for seniors.