6 Things to Consider Before Accepting a Sit With Pets

As of June 2023, we have been housesitting full-time for over 14 months. Every single one of those sits have been housesits with pets. This means that we have now looked after nearly 50 cats, 25 dogs, and a variety of small animals and even poultry. In fact, an overwhelming majority of sits available on platforms like TrustedHousesitters also have petsitting responsibilities.

Housesits with pets often have dog care - this is a working cocker
Max has lots of energy and loooooves long walks

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We have learned a lot about what to know about the pets before deciding whether to apply for or accept an offered house sit. Most of these we thought we were paying attention to, but then when we arrived at the sit, the reality of elderly pets and pets with health issues was a little more than we had originally bargained for.

A happy sit is so reliant on the right expectations. It’s important that you know what you are heading to so that you don’t have unrealistic expectations of what a housesit will be like.

Jack Russells typically like lots of exercise and then lots of sleep!
Miley beneath her blanket

Here are six things we think are important to consider before committing to a housesit with pets.

1. Will the pets need medication? Are you willing and/or able to administer this pet care?

A lot of pets in the housesitting community need medication of one type or another. It makes sense right? Owners with pets that need medication often don’t want to ask the neighbors or friends and family because they are worried about their pets’ care being too much trouble to ask as a favor. Having a house sitter who gets something in exchange for the extra care makes perfect sense.

Pets need medication of all kinds, just like humans! It’s amazing how many are on anxiety medication, heart medication, skin medication, and the standard flea and tick medication!

Medications for dogs

We have given medication in so many different ways. The dog medication has been pretty straight forward. We have only given dogs medication in pill form and they take it with their food. Some dogs need it disguised though! At one sit, we have cooked down courgettes on a weekly basis to hide pills in!

Dogs typically get their medication disguised in something tasty

Medications for cats

Cats can get medications in all sorts of ways. Two elderly cats we have sat for had liquid medication that we measured out with a syringe, then added to their wet food, and sprinkled goodies on top (we called it gold dust) to get them excited about eating it! One kitty cat gets her medication hand fed to her in a creamy treat on a spoon. Hold up the spoon till she has licked it clean!

Cats have medications too
Petey is a star at 20 years old but needs his heart medicine!

And one cat had her pill popped directly into her mouth with a little tickle under her chin to get her to swallow. Are you comfortable administering a pill this way? We have a lot of experience giving cats medication, so this was not really an issue for us, but you may want to consider if you want to take on this responsibility. Do not be afraid to ask how difficult the pets can make medication time. Struggling to administer all important heart medication or liver medication, for example, can be stressful. It will make your sit much better if you know about and accept the situation from the start.

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2. How mobile or active are the pets?

A lot of house sitters and potential house sitters love the opportunity it gives them to go for long walks and hikes with dogs. Others really prefer the idea of hanging out with the dogs or cats on the sofa, in the garden, or at a cafe.

Sprocket running on the beach
Minx will run for miles

If it is not clear from the listing, one of the questions to ask about pets is how mobile and active they are. Will they be able to walk as far or as little as you would prefer? Most people know that dogs need at least 2 walks, but how far are you willing to go? Do you prefer throwing a ball with the dog in the park? Or do you dream of setting out for miles over the fields and through the woods?

Maltipoo sleeping

Some older pets not only do not need a walk any more, but need help getting out in the garden to do their business. They might need to be lifted up and put out on the grass to get them interested in doing their business. One of our beloved regulars had a stroke in the past year and now walks about like a drunken sailor, so he doesn’t much like steps anymore. An older Jack Russell we cared for needed to be picked up out of her bed to encourage her to come out for exercise. She was fine once she was out, just needed to be physically put there ha ha

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3. Is the pet house-trained or continent?

This brings up another one of the questions you should ask about pets at your potential housesits. You would be amazed how many pets have issues with their house training as they get a little older. The listing description may include these details, but chances are it does not. Homeowners may not want to deter potential house sitters by mentioning that sometimes there are accidents.

Black and white cat in front of a fire
Sebbie goes outside then comes in to warm up

We have learned to deal with pets who cannot hold it in all night. Homeowners usually confine their pets to certain areas of the house (like the kitchen or utility room) when it gets to this stage, but not all of them!

One cat we sat for this past year had a little trouble with his balance. He used the litter box just fine, no accidents outside the box. But he would sometimes wobble a little and, when adjusting his stance, accidentally step where he shouldn’t, the poor man! So we had to sometimes assist with his cleanup and little missteps.

Are you prepared to deal with pet accidents as soon as you wake up? Cleaning up the kitchen before you make a cup of tea or coffee? Do you mind assisting with a little cleanup of the back haunches if necessary? These are things you should be honest with yourself about and then ask the questions and make decisions about housesits with pets accordingly.

4. What time will the pets wake you?

Which brings us to one of the most important things to consider. Do the pets sleep with you in the same room? Will they scratch at your door? Wake you with barks in the night? Do you mind being woken up by loud meowing for no apparent reason at 4 or 5 am? We’ve sat for pets that we were told slept in their own beds. Then at 4 in the morning, we would feel a wet little nose snuggling their way under our duvet.

West highland terrier
I sleep with you, ok?

Personally we love pet cuddles at night, we feel like it means the pets have accepted us. But some people might not appreciate this behavior. Again, ask the question, and decide if this is something that would make or break a housesit for you.

All photography on this site is Copyright Christine Sovig Gilbert unless otherwise specified. We take all our own photographs.

5. How long can you leave the pet at home?

One of the best things about housesitting is without a doubt the opportunity it gives you to travel and explore new places. It is a very large part of the attraction for us. When most are also housesits with pets, how much should you reasonably be able to expect to explore and see in the area if you accept a sit? This is so very very sit dependent!

Devon Rex we had the privilege to have a sit with pets
Beautiful Peppa, a Devon Rex, was a cat we wanted to stay home with

Housesits with Cats

A lot of people expect to be able to go out and explore touristy attractions much more easily with cat only sits. For a majority of sits for cats, this holds true. However, you should not assume that a cat sit will let you go out for a full day, only feeding the cat morning and evening. It is important to make sure that this is what the owner expects.

I know one owner who was distraught because she wanted her sitters to give her beloved cat lunch. Her sitters, however, had been out on their cycles on a day long adventure, and she was not able to reach them to check on her kitty cat at lunch time. I don’t know how they had discussed the routine before the sit was agreed, but I have to think this is something that both parties should have stressed prior to offering and agreeing.

Housesits with Dogs

Dog owners typically say you can leave the dogs for up to three hours. Occasionally this can stretch to 4, but it is more common for homeowners to request it to be shorter.

Dog with stick
Gus. What a guy!

Think about whether you are willing to take the dog with you to whatever sights you are hoping to see during your housesit. Also, consider the dogs’ home. If the dog lives in a flat in a big city, they will need comfort breaks that involve getting your shoes and a lead on 5 or more times a day. Far more than dogs who have some outside space where they can go before bedtime.

6. Are there other things to consider about the pet’s care?

Finally, make sure you ask if there are any other things you should know about the pets. One kitty cat we have sat for twice needs her nose wiped every couple of hours. We don’t mind, we love kitty cats, and Mogs has a special place in our hearts. Some people, however, might not like dealing with that sort of thing.

Pug in raincoat - put walking requirements in things to consider
Some dogs need a lot of encouragement to go outside. Buddy hates rain!

Homeowners should know if their pets have any special quirks.

Housesits with Pets

Are never one size fits all. If a housesit listing is good, it will tell you a lot. But it will not tell you everything you need to know. If you want to have a good experience, consider what you are willing and/or capable of dealing with. Ask questions. Be honest with yourself.

Are you a house sitter? Do you have other questions you ask or things you consider? Are you a home owner? Do you have other things you think sitters should know and ask about? Please let us know in the comments below.

4 responses to “HOUSESITS WITH PETS:”

  1. Great advice. Another issue we’ve come up against is fleas! The cat owner’s house was infested. How she didn’t know this is beyond me, but I would be sitting watching TV and about a dozen would find my ankles. I tend to attract biting insects so it was worse for me than my husband.

  2. What a cute post! Taking care of a pet is really like taking care of a child isn’t it? The only pets I’ve had were fish, but I would love to have dog. Dogs are so friendly! Also, I’m not a very active person, so maybe a dog would force me to exercise! Lol. One day maybe!

    • Hi Charli,
      Thanks so much for your comment! We definitely get WAY more steps in on housesits with dogs! Not necessarily as much fun when it rains lol

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