"In the last two decades, we've seen a new profession blossom, and that is pet sitting. People hire pet sitters to look after their pets while they aren't at home. They may be at work, on vacation, or away for a weekend," writes Dr. Jeffrey Grognet in the book Professional Pet Sitting for Love & Money.
Bernie Ong, who owns HomesittingSg, explains this concept originated from the West but is slowly catching up in Asia. An engineer by training, Bernie would be asked by his expat boss to look after his house when the latter would go home for the holidays. Although it started out as a hobby (Bernie grew up in a home near the MacRitchie Reservoir area, and have since reared four dogs amongst other pets like rabbits, hamsters, tropical fishes, and terrapins), he soon realised there was a market for home/pet sitting in Singapore. He set up HomesittingSg and clients were soon booking his services.
Expat Matthew Elton and partner Mark are one of those who benefited from the service of a pet sitter. The couple, who lives in a stunning shophouse on Everton Road, entrusts their cat Babything to pet sitters whenever they're away. "They send us pictures and feedback every day and we love being able to relax knowing that Babything is in safe hands," quips Matthew.
Matthew and Mark's cat Babything is cared by pet sitters when they're away. Photo courtesy of Matthew Elton
Choosing the perfect sitter for both your home and furry buddies is crucial, especially if you plan to be away for some time. Read this first before you avail of the services of a home/pet sitter—after all, you are entrusting important parts of your life to someone.
Why do people hire a home/pet sitter?
There are various reasons to getting the services of a sitter, and they depend on different needs. Here are some:
- You will be away for a couple of days or weeks (even months, for some!).
- You wouldn't want your home to look unoccupied. Having a home sitter come regularly means that he/she can keep the home looking as if there was someone living in it.
- You need someone to start your car once in a while.
- You need someone to water your plants.
- You need someone to watch over and care for your beloved pets.
- You work the whole day and cannot go back home in the middle of the day to take care of your pet's needs.
- Comfort and convenience: You don't want to cause hassle to those close to you. "Some of my clients say they don't rely on them as sometimes they don't turn up, or give some excuses at the last minute. Some just don't want their family or friends obligated to them," explains Bernie.
What are the benefits for the pets?
Some homeowners are not comfortable to give their keys to a stranger—and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. "I haven't used a home sitter, but I have left my dog with a pet boarder. She didn't come to my home, except to pick up and drop off my dog," says Evelyn Tan Rogers, who lives in a colourful HDB flat in Bishan.
We all want the best care for our pets. Although pet boarding is an option, some owners prefer their pets to just stay home for a more familiar environment. Pet sitters can also provide a more personal approach according to the specific needs of your pet.
"Sending the pet somewhere also incurs time and cost. When owner picks them up from boarding, the pets oftentimes seem stressed because they had to travel and adjust to a new surrounding. There's also the possibility of catching infections and parasites because they get exposed to other animals," says Bernie.
Emily Phua, senior designer at TFS Singapore, agrees: "I would avail pet sitting services, where they come to my place to pet sit while I travel overseas. Because I have cats as pets, it's more comfortable and stress-free for them to be in a place which is familiar territory, rather than being boarded in someone else's house, or even in the presence of other stranger's cat."
Home sitting services include, but are not limited to, maintaining garden/plants, security checks, water and gas checks, and mail/junk mail collection. Design by Impression Design Firm
Can I just ask my friends to look after my home and pets?
Although they mean well, it's still recommended to get a professional home/pet sitter to do the job. You also don't want to burden them with such responsibility.
What to consider when choosing a home/pet sitter?
For pet sitters, genuine love for animals should be a given. You don't want to entrust your precious babies to someone who isn't passionate about them. You may also want to check if your home/pet sitter is any of the following (best if he or she is all of the above):
"Safety, reputation, trust, and preferably somebody who's already a friend," says 31-year-old Witono Halim, an engineer, on things he considers in a home/pet sitter.
What services can I expect from a home/pet sitter?
Bernie says, "I meet with the client to list down specific tasks he or she wants me to accomplish. You have to agree on pre-arranged tasks, but of course, you also need to be flexible to act on unexpected situations."
Bernie and his small team of home/pet sitters do a variety of tasks for their client's home. These include, but are not limited to, garden/plants, security checks, water and gas checks, and mail/junk mail collection.
Aside from providing lots of TLC to the pets, they also feed and administer medication if required, keep them and their toilet clean, and play and exercise with them.
How long can the home/pet sitting service be?
It depends—there are owners who ask for their home and pet to be watched over for only a day or two, and there are some who get the services of a sitter for several months.
Aside from providing lots of TLC to the pets, pet sitters also feed and administer medication if required, keep them and their toilet clean, and play and exercise with them. Photo by Jerni Camposano
What kinds of pets can be looked after?
Dogs and cats mainly, and also rabbit, koi fish, birds, guinea pigs, hamsters, terrapins.
How is the process of getting a home/pet sitter?
If it's your first time to get one, you have to take time doing interviews and checking references thoroughly. Bernie says the initial enquiry would usually include fact-finding and quotation.
Next is an in-your-home meeting so the sitter could get to check your house, find out how to care for your pet, and to start the bonding with your pet.
"[Pet sitting] can be very challenging at times. But if you really are passionate about what you do, you will be able to do it well," concludes Bernie. Such passion satisfies home and pet owners, of course.
Do you have an experience getting the services of a home/pet sitter? Share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cover photos courtesy of Sophie Nakasako (Humphrey the pug) and Bernie Ong (Macu the cat)