As winter is starting to (hopefully!) wind down and the chirping birds usher in spring, many of us are starting to dream of warmer times and summer vacations. If you’re a pet parent, when you’re budgeting for your next vacation, one of the additional costs you’ll consider is their care while you’re gone.
“How much does it cost?” is one of the most frequent questions I hear as a pet sitter, and a quick internet search will show you why—there are any number of options available and all sorts of prices and fees. From internet companies/apps, local pet sitting businesses, that friend of your neighbor who takes care of her cat when she’s away, and all the flyers/advertising you see at your local pet store, it can be really confusing to figure out what the best option is for you and your fur family.
So, I’m breaking down the options you have here in the Harrisburg, PA* area for in home pet care, along with price points and factors to consider, to hopefully help you make more sense of it all. Since services offered can vary option to option, I’m going to go ahead and base my analysis on the plan that is most popular among our clients: 3 visits a day.
Favors from Family & Friends – as low as $0 per day
This first option could, theoretically, cost you nothing at all, which makes it really appealing for some people who have enough “favor credit” to ask a friend or neighbor they already know to care for their pets for free. Or there may be a local group where you could trade services.
Things to consider with free pet care:
- If this is not the sitter’s full-time job, how can you be sure they will be available and committed?
- Is there a backup plan for if the sitter gets ill or their car breaks down or something else happens that prevents them from being able to make the visits? Will you have to arrange alternative care in the middle of your trip or even cancel it entirely?
- What happens and who is responsible if there is an emergency in your home or with your pet (i.e., flooding, pet needs vet attention)?
- If you’re hiring a stranger, how can you be sure they are trustworthy? Do they have references, background checks, etc?
- How often will you receive updates on your pets’ wellbeing?
Web-Based Services/Apps – $30 to $135 per day
This is a fairly new option for pet care coming out of the tech sector with pet sitting listing websites and apps. Sites like Rover, Care, and Wag allow pet lovers to sign up with pet sitter profiles and start taking bookings through the sites. Some of these sites offer a small amount of insurance, some offer optional background checks, all of this varies site to site and you need to research for yourself ahead of time.
These sites/apps are a popular choice for students and other people trying to make some extra money on top of their regular job. So, I would consider them slightly more reliable than favors or trades, but still not full time pet professionals.
Things to consider with internet-based pet care:
- Is this the sitter’s full-time job or a side hustle?
- Are they just a “pet lover” or do they have real experience working with other people’s pets?
- Have they passed a background check and have references?
- What exactly does their insurance cover/not cover?
- What happens and who is responsible if the sitter gets injured on your property?
- Does the company offer dishonesty bonding for your home/property (so you would be reimbursed for any theft of your possessions)?
- What is the emergency plan if anything goes wrong?
- How will you know when/if each visit takes place?
- How often will you receive updates about your pets?
- Will you and your pets meet the sitter in person before they start providing care?
Professionals – $51-90 per day
Professional pet sitting businesses typically cost more than other options (although I was shell shocked, when researching for this article, to find several Rover sitters charging $35 per visit!). This is what professionals do full time in order to make a living so they have larger expenses than hobbyist sitters, usually including lots of insurance protection, local 24/7 emergency support, software systems, etc.
Some of the top notch features and extras you may find with a professional business include regular photo updates, GPS/time tracking of visits, software/apps for you to request services and pay your bill, and ongoing training and support for staff.
Things to consider with professional pet sitting services:
- Are they insured and bonded?
- Do they use staff or is it one person doing everything solo?
- Will the same person be visiting your pets each time?
- Do you meet the sitter ahead of time?
- Can they provide good reviews, testimonials, and references of long standing clients?
Other factors that may affect pet sitting rates:
- Extra pets: some pet sitters charge up to $5 more per pet, per visit for multiple pet families.
- Medication: some charge fees to administer medications, usually $5-10 each time. Some will only do pills/liquid and not injections (like insulin or sub-q fluids).
- Holidays: many pet sitters charge fees for visits on holidays (usually $5-10 per visit) and/or on dates surrounding the holiday.
- Mileage/area: some pet sitters charge fees to clients who live further out of their area.
What about Prefurred?
If you came to our website looking for prices, you probably noticed we don’t publish our rates. As a professional organization who deals with many different types of pet families and varying needs, your services and your rates are customized to suit you and your family personally.
According to my research for this article, our rates are on the higher end of average. But, we also offer a lot of above average options and a high quality of service along with all-inclusive pricing: we never charge extra for multiple pets, medications (even injectables), cleaning up messes, sending updates with photos, even extra time or emergency care. We also specialize in difficult cases that other pet sitters may not take. Our staff are all employees who have passed background checks and drug tests, receive ongoing training, and are protected by workman’s compensation insurance.
So, you can see now that asking the cost of pet sitting is really only touching the tip of the iceburg in terms of knowing what you are getting for your money. Hopefully this article has been helpful in outlining the options and will make it easier for you to choose—there’s no right or wrong answer; it really is all about the best fit for your family, your needs, your values, and your budget!
*For the sake of this article, my research focus was the areas we currently service through Prefurred Pet Care Services, including Annville, Palmyra, Hershey, Hummelstown, Middletown, Harrisburg, Enola, Wormleysburg, Camp Hill, New Cumberland, and Mechanicsburg.
by Becki Davis