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I have been pet-sitting for almost three years now. I’ve been able to travel to Canada and
around the US to different states such as Washington, Florida, California, Nevada, and Texas
without paying for accommodation. I’ve stayed in an array of different homes from city
apartments, mountain getaways and huge houses that have private pools and movie theaters!
I’ve looked after an array of furry and not-so-furry pets such as dogs, cats, chickens, geckos,
lizards, and tropical aquariums. I’ve had my shoes eaten, cleaned up chicken poop,
administered an inhaler for an asthmatic cat (yes cats have asthma too), found poop in my
bed in the morning (don’t ask, I thought it was cereal), had to feed a gecko alive cockroaches
with a pair of large tweezers and saved a puppy from eating almost eating a bee!

I investigated house-sitting after a friend of my parents told me about how she went on lavish
vacations to the south of France and stayed for free, by looking after someone’s home and
pet(s) whilst they were away. You don’t get paid for this – a common misconception – but it
operates on an exchange basis whereby the owners get free pet care, and you get a free place
to stay. However, with a nice Airbnb costing upwards of $100 a night it can definitely be
worth it, not to mention the other benefits of hanging out with cool pets, traveling, and
meeting some really awesome people.

I use a website called Trusted House Sitters where you pay an annual fee of around $130 and
get to use the site as a sitter. It works like Airbnb where both the owners and the sitters can
leave each other feedback, and you can check for available house sits by date and location.
There are other sites out there as well such as HouseCarers, Nomador and MindMyHouse
amongst others but Trusted House Sitters from my experience is the best.

In Las Vegas I squeezed in a trip to the Grand Canyon, whilst in Vancouver I did a few days
skiing on Grouse Mountain, in Whistler I came across a black bear on a bike trail (hey, I’m
alive to tell the tale) and when I first moved to Houston to start my MA in communication, it
was a great way to make connections with people who have proved to be lasting friends.
I’m sure many of you can relate – at the start of my first semester I went through an emotional
rollercoaster (how am I going to survive for the next two years as an international grad
student and pay these tuition fees!?)  and I can say that having three cats to look after actually
helped as I felt a lot less alone than I would have done if I’d have been in a hotel or Airbnb.
The two-week sit gave me the opportunity to work things out without the added pressure and
worry of temporary accommodation costs.

There are so many perks to pet sitting, however, if you’re thinking of starting you need to be
committed to making the experience as positive for the owners as well as for the pets
themselves. You’ll need to make sure that you spend enough time with the animals you are
sitting for, and you’ll be living as a local rather than being on vacation. Absolutely no house
parties and you’ll need to send daily updates/photos to the owners as well as leave their
home neat and tidy.

The downsides are that you are constantly moving around with your belongings in a suitcase.
You’re not guaranteed to find house-sits on the dates you need or want, therefore when
looking at pet sitting as a sustainable living arrangement it’s not ideal. However, if you are
looking at alternate temporary living options, want to travel over the summer, love animals
but can’t have your own pet right now or even if you just want some space from whoever you
currently live with (parents anyone!?) then I can highly recommend getting into pet sitting.

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