Kids often look for ways to earn a few bucks. Some baby-sit, while others mow lawns or assist family or friends with odd jobs. If a child is an animal lover, perhaps he or she would do well by starting a pet-sitting business.
My kids don’t have an official business but have always helped watch friends’ pets when those friends are out of town. They’ve had the opportunity to pet sit cats, guinea pigs, and even dogs. They started around age 6 and 8 (with my help), and now they are 15 and 17, and able to handle the entire operation on their own.
We’ve learned a lot about pet-sitting over the years — sometimes the hard way. We definitely know if we had to do it all over again from scratch, we’d do some things a little differently.
Here are four tips for helping your child create a successful pet-sitting business.
1. Consider the responsibility
Taking care of pets is a big responsibility, and one that should be carefully considered before taking on pet-sitting. When my children began their venture, I always accompanied them and supervised as they completed their tasks. Most articles I’ve read suggest a child would be ready to take on many of these responsibilities on their own around age 10. Truly, it depends on the child’s temperament and maturity level — a call best made by the parent or guardian.
2. Start small
When embarking on an adventure in pet sitting, it’s a good idea to start small. Perhaps start with one family, get acclimated and become comfortable with the new role. After one or two successes, slowly expand the business, while making sure the child has still allotted plenty of time to provide quality care and attention for each pet. Pet sitting is not about walking in, feeding cats, scooping litter boxes and leaving five minutes later. The pet probably feels lonely and craves playtime and the opportunity to cuddle. Never force a pet to cuddle — always follow their lead on the amount of interaction they prefer. Over time, a skittish pet may come around and warm up to the child.
Get the word out! It’s a good idea to start advertising services with friends, family and neighbors. Because the child already has a relationship with these individuals — and perhaps their pets — it will be an easier foray into their new business.
Help your child give the business a name and create inexpensive business cards. You can easily make these in Word, using business card templates bought at an office supply store. Make sure and use an adult’s phone number on the cards and create an email address just for the pet-sitting business (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can also create flyers to hand out to neighbors or pin up on bulletin boards in local businesses.
4. Spend time with the pets in the presence of their families
It’s important to meet with the family prior to taking on the responsibility of sitting for their pet. This is an excellent opportunity for the child to interact with the pet in the comfort of the family’s presence. The pet will likely feel more at ease and begin to develop a trusting relationship with the child. It may be helpful for a couple of these playdate visits before the child and the pet feel ready for the experience of interacting alone.
4. Make sure expectations are clear
A meeting with the family is also critical because that’s the time for becoming clear on expectations. The family for which my kids pet sit always has a checklist typed up for them and they email a copy to me. This is extraordinarily helpful. If there’s not a checklist, make sure the child takes copious notes and then reviews the notes with the family prior to the first pet-sitting visit.
Also make sure the child has all the important contact numbers, including the family, veterinarian and any close-by family members. Ask for a key. Some families use a security keypad to enter the home, but if the area loses electricity, there will be no way to enter the house and take care of the pets.
How much should the child be compensated? This will probably depend on the age of the child and the amount of responsibility he or she has undertaken. If the child is young, the parents will likely work through these details with the family. In my research, I found kids typically get paid anywhere from $5 to $10 a day for their services. This is in line with what my kids have always been paid.
Do you have any tips for kids starting a pet-sitting business? Tell us about it in the comments!
About the Author: Angie Bailey is a goofy girl with freckles and giant smile who wants everyone to be her friend. Loves pre-adolescent boy humor, puns, making up parody songs, and thinking about cats doing people things. Writes Catladyland, a cat humor blog, and authored whiskerslist: the kitty classifieds, a silly book about cats wheeling and dealing online. Partner in a production company and writes and acts in comedy web series that may or may not offend people. Mother to two humans and three cats, all of which want her to make them food.
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