Pet Sitters


Education and Training Requirements

High School

As a pet sitter, you'll be running your own business all by yourself; therefore you should take high school courses such as accounting, marketing, and office skills. Computer science will help you learn about the software you'll need for managing accounts and scheduling. Join a school business group that will introduce you to business practices and local entrepreneurs.

Science courses such as biology will give you some good background for developing animal care skills. As a pet sitter, you'll be overseeing the health of the animals, their exercise, and their diets. You also might be preparing medications and administering eye and ear drops.

As a high school student, you can easily gain hands-on experience as a pet sitter. If you know anyone in your neighborhood with pets, volunteer to care for the animals whenever the owners go on vacation. Once you've got experience and a list of references, you may even be able to start a part-time job for yourself as a pet sitter.

Postsecondary Training

Many pet sitters start their own businesses after having gained experience in other areas of animal care. Vet techs and pet shop workers may promote their animal care skills to develop a clientele for more profitable pet sitting careers. Graduates from a business college may recognize pet sitting as a great way to start a business with little overhead. But neither a vet tech qualification nor a business degree is required to become a successful pet sitter. And the only special training you need to pursue is actual experience. A local pet shop or chapter of the ASPCA may offer seminars in various aspects of animal care; the NAPPS offers a mentorship program, as well as a newsletter, while PSI offers online courses and webinars.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Pet Sitters International (PSI) offers the certificate in professional pet sitting designation. Pet sitters receive accreditation upon completing home study courses in such subjects as animal nutrition, office procedures, and management.

The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) offers the certified pet sitter designation to applicants who complete a home-study broad-range and in-depth 4- to 6-week course covering all topics relevant to pet sitting, including pet care, health, nutrition and behavior for a variety of animals. It also includes business development and management, pet safety and a complete pet first aid course. Applicants must pass an exam and take continuing education credits to maintain their license.

Though there is no particular pet sitting license required of pet sitters, insurance protection is important and certification often enables a pet sitter to get a discount on their pet-sitter liability insurance. Liability insurance protects the pet sitter from lawsuits; both NAPPS and PSI offer group liability packages to its members. Pet sitters must also be bonded. Bonding assures the pet owners that if anything is missing from their homes after a pet sitting appointment, they can receive compensation immediately.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Experience working with pets or at an animal shelter will be useful for aspiring pet sitters.  

You must love animals and animals must love you. But this love for animals cannot be your only motivation—keep in mind that, as a pet sitter, you will be in business for yourself. You will not have a boss to give you assignments, and you will not have a secretary or bookkeeper to do the paperwork. You also won't have employees to take over on weekends, holidays, and days when you are not feeling well. Though some pet sitters are successful enough to afford assistance, most must handle all the aspects of their businesses by themselves. So, you should be self-motivated, and as dedicated to the management of your business as you are to the animals.

Pet owners entrust you with the care of their pets and their homes, so you must be trustworthy and reliable. You should also be organized and prepared for emergency situations. And not only must you be patient with the pets and their owners, but also with the development of your business. It will take a few years to build up a good list of clients.

As a pet sitter, you must also be ready for the dirty work—you will be cleaning litter boxes and animal messes within the house. On dog walks, you will be picking up after them on the street. You may be giving animals medications. You will also be cleaning aquariums and birdcages. Embracing all types of animals that need at-home care is critical.

Pet sitting isn't for those who just want a nine-to-five desk job. Your day will be spent moving from house to house, taking animals into backyards, and walking dogs around the neighborhoods. Though you may be able to develop a set schedule for yourself, you really will have to arrange your work hours around the hours of your clients. Some pet sitters start in the early morning hours, while others only work afternoons or evenings. To stay in business, a pet sitter must be prepared to work weekends, holidays, and long hours in the summertime.

For those who wish to start their own pet-sitting business, entrepreneurial skills such as marketing, invoicing, and supervising are necessary.