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Whether you're going on vacation, travel often for work, or just work long hours and worry about your furry, feathered, or scaled friend while you're away, hiring a pet-sitter can provide you with peace of mind - and your best friend with some extra love.
Though pet sitting is generally defined as the act of a caregiver coming to your house to look after your pet (including walking, playing, feeding, administering medication, and many times spending the night), most pet-sitting services also provide options for doggy boarding (meaning your pup spends the night at the caregiver's home), doggy daycare (your pup spends the day with human and canine playmates, then comes home to tell you all about it), regular drop-in visits for walking, and even grooming.
Tuesday, June 15th
Established in 1994, Pet Sitters International (PSI) is the world's leading pet-sitting association and provides training resources for its 6,000 professional pet care provider members.
PSI stands out in the saturated market of pet-sitting services by empowering its licensed pet-sitters to deal with any situation that could arise. The service accomplishes this by requiring official PSI members to complete training in many areas, including animal first aid, body language, pet CPR, and ethical practices. Because PSI sitters have made pet-sitting their profession, they treat the animals they look after as their top priority - unlike many self-described animal lovers for whom pet-sitting is a hobby, or who are just looking to make a few extra bucks.
Home sitting means less stress
Pet Sitters International defines pet-sitting as caring for an animal in its home environment while its owner is away - as opposed to a boarding service or a doggy-daycare. PSI sitters may occasionally offer these services as well, and PSI offers their sitters insurance coverage for these cases. The benefits of caring for a pet in its own home include less stress for the pet, uninterrupted routines, and a reduced possibility of exposure to illness. Many PSI sitters will also water plants, retrieve mail, and maintain a "lived-in" appearance for the home upon request.
No subscription fees
For such a highly-rated service, you might expect to have to pay some sort of subscription or fee for access to their directory of licensed PSI pet-care providers. Amazingly, however, the only fee you'll be required to pay is the rate that you and your chosen pet-sitter agree upon.
Browse your available pet sitters
On the tab labeled Find a Local PSI Sitter, you enter your ZIP code, select the kind of pet you need care for (dogs, cats, reptiles, horses, farm animals, and even exotic or special needs pets included!) and click on the Discover button. Here you can click through the profiles of your local PSI-certified pet-sitters and find contact information for those who seem like a good fit. Badges on a sitter's profile will indicate the training programs and background checks they have undergone and whether or not they are insured or bonded.
As a recipient of the Better Business Bureau 2016 Torch Award for Ethics and with an A+ Better Business Bureau rating, Pet Sitters International clearly has a fantastic reputation. Because of the level of care and protection this service offers to pets of all sizes, shapes and breeds, PSI is our top pick for pet-sitting services.
Rover is a web-based cat-and-dog-sitting service that connects pet owners with independently-contracted pet sitters. Whether you're in need of a place for Fido to stay overnight while you're on vacation, in-home sitting, or someone to pop in and take him for a walk while you're at work, Rover has it all.
Upon visiting their homepage, you will be prompted to specify what sort of care you need, the size of your dog, your zip code, and the availability you need. From there, you are taken to a list of the available sitters in your area.
Read pet sitter reviews
If the idea of leaving your best friend with strangers makes you a little nervous, you can put your mind at ease by reading reviews from other pet owners and arranging a meet and greet before deciding who the best fit is for you and your pal. A profile with a badge means that the sitter has chosen to complete an optional background check, and a badge with a green star means that the sitter has passed an Enhanced background check, which means that they have undergone a search through county court records from the previous seven years. Other badges indicate other qualifications and training programs sitters have passed, such as Rover 101, Rover's basic pet-care course.
Narrow down your search
Sitters create their own rates for boarding, drop-in visits, daycare, and walking that will vary depending on the area in which you live, but you can use Rover's search tools to narrow the list of sitters down to show only those who fit your budget, as well as other criteria, such as whether they have a fenced yard, are pet first-aid certified, or if there are other pets in their home.
Due to its prominence among pet-sitting services and the ease with which one can sign up, some pet-sitters treat Rover as an easy way to earn some quick cash on the side, so pay special attention to sitter profiles and their reviews. When meeting with your sitter before entrusting your pet to their care, ask questions about their level of experience and be sure to detail any special needs your pet may have.
Get information while you're away
So, you've had a Meet & Greet and found your perfect fit, and Fido is having the time of his life while you're on vacation. The Rover app allows pet sitters to send you photos of his walks, playtimes, mealtimes, and just about everything else - like the route and duration of his walks, including how many potty breaks he took.
In the event that something goes wrong during a booking, the Rover Guarantee is there to put things right. After a $250 deductible, Rover will reimburse you for veterinary bills up to a limit of $25,000 per claim and damage to personal property caused by the sitter or third-party injuries up to $1,000,000 per claim. And, of course, Rover provides customers with 24/7 over-the-phone and online support.
As there is always a certain level of risk involved when leaving a pet in another's care, we would encourage users to take full advantage of the Meet & Greet appointment and background checking capabilities. But otherwise, as a service designed to help pet owners find affordable care providers near them, Rover performs exactly as advertised and is highly recommended by TopConsumerReviews.
Despite its canine-related name, Bark introduces itself as a sort of jack-of-all-trades online service marketplace that partners with small businesses to match customers who are looking for services with providers of those services local to them.
Getting in touch
Bark's clean website layout makes the process of getting in touch with pet-sitting professionals, local to you, intuitive and efficient. Simply type "pet sitting", "pet care" or "kennels" into the search box, enter your zip code, email address and phone number, then answer a few more questions about the specifics of the care you need, and you're off!
Support for exotic pets
Because Bark partners with businesses and professionals all over the world, the specific kinds of pet care you will be able to find will depend on your location. That said, Bark stands out from other services in that they allow you to search for care for many different varieties of pets, including rabbits, reptiles, fish, and birds.
Match professionals with your needs
Rather than taking you to a list of profiles of pet care providers and leaving you to wade through customer reviews and service rates, Bark chooses professionals from your area according to the criteria you specify - if you need a short-notice bunny-sitter who is available to stay over at your house for a week who can also give Fluffy her medication and take her on hops around the block, Bark will notify only the pet sitters who match your request (also called your "bark"). You won't even have to spend time drafting messages to send to each and every one of them; up to five Bark freelancers will have the opportunity to pay to respond to your lead and message you with quotes. Then you can review their profiles before deciding who to hire.
Customers who have used Bark say that the platform worked just as advertised, and many have been happy to report that they were put in contact with professionals they would not have known where to find otherwise. Bark customer support can be reached via the email address or phone number posted to their website on weekdays from 9 am-8 pm Eastern time.
Bark functions very well as a pet-sitting lead-finding service. They deliver a small pool of highly-rated professionals that you can choose from. At the end of the day, it you'll need to read through the pet-sitter reviews and ask questions to decide whether Bark has put you in contact with the best pet sitting fit.
Launched in 2007 by CEO Sheila Lirio Marcelo after she struggled to find care for her newborn baby and ill father simultaneously, Care is an online platform designed to help families connect with caregivers for children, seniors, those with special needs, pets, and more. Care is one of the better-known caregiver services out there.
Browse for free
A glance at Care's page for pet-sitting gives users an overview of caregivers near them, including the rates they charge, their qualifications, and their reviews. In order to hire one of these pet-sitters, you're prompted to sign up. After entering your name, contact information, specifying the type of pet you have (dog, cat, or simply "other"), what sort of care you need (sitting, boarding, walking, grooming, or training), and your zip code, your pet-sitting request is posted to the site.
3 membership plans
A free Basic membership allows you to create a job posting and read a limited selection of reviews, but to view contact information, references, background checks, or hire anyone who may reach out to you in response to your listing, you're required to choose a Premium membership payment plan. A 1-month membership will run you $29, a 3-month membership $19 per month, and a yearly membership comes out to $9 per month.
Hiring a pet sitter costs extra
The subscription price only includes access to their database of pet sitters. This does not include the cost of hiring a pet sitter. It should be noted that Care uses an auto-renewal system and will not, under any circumstances, issue refunds. Once you've found a pet sitter, you may want to switch back to the free Basic plan, or cancel your account to avoid subsequent monthly charges.
Inactive pet sitters
Although Care has a large database of providers, when it comes to finding a good sitter, you could be in for some frustration. Once you think you've found the perfect person to take care of Fido, you may find that they haven't been active on Care for some time: Care does not seem to have any system for removing sitter profiles that do not respond to inquiries. Also, beyond occasionally running third-party background checks on sitters, Care does not verify the job aptitude of its sitters, or require any sort of training course be taken before they begin advertising their services.
Customer service lacking
If you do hire a pet-sitter through Care and something goes wrong - you review your security camera footage and find that your sitter never checked in on Fido, despite being paid to spend the whole day with him - you may get frustrated again. Many people have complained that customer service is of little or no assistance. Another frequent customer complaint is that it is too difficult to shut down your account. Furthermore, Care CEO Sheila Lirio Marcelo resigned in August 2019 after a Wall Street Journal article exposing cases of caregivers committing crimes while working in clients' homes was published.
Care does offer a large database of pet sitters to choose from. However, lack of vetting and attention to their providers, plus the customer service difficulties, leave us disappointed. Combined with their auto-renewing monthly subscription fee, we suggest you first look at one of the higher rated pet sitter services.
Pet Sitter is the pet-sitting sub-brand of CareGuide, a company that oversees 28 other caregiving service provider websites.
Free basic access
Before you create an account, Pet Sitter gives you access to the directory of pet-sitters looking for work through the Pet Sitter website in your area. You can view their rates, recommendations from past clients, and their level of experience, but you will only have access to what Pet Sitter describes as "limited messages" until you've signed up for a Pet Sitter subscription.
3 subscription plans
The Pet Sitter FAQ page elaborates that as a Basic plan member, you will be able to send a first message to a pet sitter, but you will not be able to read their response or share your contact info until one of you upgrades to a paid subscription. One month will cost you $30, three months is $45, and one year is $90.
Unhappy pet sitters
We found very little in the way of customer reviews, though there are many unhappy reviews from the pet-sitters themselves. Pet sitters who sign up to find work with this company complain that they had no idea they would not be able to respond to possible clients' messages until they had paid for a Premium subscription. As a result, these pet sitters were forced to leave those customer inquiries unanswered unless they paid money. As someone looking for a pet sitter, you may end up sending dozens of messages to pet sitters in your area, and even if they are interested in the job and want to discuss their rates with you, you may never get a response.
No pet sitter verifications
Pet Sitter caregivers are not required to have any past experience before creating a profile, and there is no verification process for any skills or certifications they may claim that they do have. Pet Sitter does not run background checks or even incentivize caregivers to undergo them.
We recommend you look elsewhere
Unless a pet-sitting service that can only connect you to underqualified, inexperienced pet sitters for a premium of $30 a month sounds great to you, we recommend you look elsewhere for a more reliable, user-experience oriented service.
Sittercity introduces itself as an online childcare-finding service built for and by parents who understand the struggle of finding the balance between looking after their children and finding the freedom to spend time together as adults. While childcare appears to be their main draw, Sittercity also connects cat and dog parents with pet sitters local to them.
Doesn't inspire confidence
Although their website is well designed and appears legitimate, once you begin looking for a pet sitter you may have a different opinion. There are certain risks attached to using any pet-sitting service, but Sittercity's business practices don't do much to inspire customer confidence.
Recurring subscription charges
Before you can begin hiring a dog or cat sitter, you must sign up for a one, three, or 12-month plan, starting from $35/month. Sittercity has an automatic renewal system and a strict no-refunds policy, meaning that should you forget to cancel your membership, you'll be stuck with an irreversible $35, $70, or $140 charge. Sittercity lays this out in clear terms under their pricing options, but what makes us raise an eyebrow are the hundreds of customers who report having received no notification before being issued the recurring charge.
Billing and cancellation issues
Some customers even claim that, despite having downgraded their memberships, Sittercity continues to bill them for the higher priced service. Several customers have found it necessary to get their credit card companies involved to stop and try to reverse the charges. Sittercity customer service responses to these complaints are typically flat recitations of their no-refund policy - if one can even get in contact with a customer service representative.
Billing practices aside, Sittercity's pet-caregiver selection is limited at best. The number of pet-care service providers will be dependent upon your location, but we found numerous complaints of a lack of pet sitters in a customer's area.
With Sittercity's business practices, the disappointing way in which their customer service representatives deal with their customers, and the restrictive sitter options, we suggest you try one of the higher rated services first.
Many people go the route of asking a friend or family member to look after Fido while they're away, and while their heart might be in the right place, simply being a pet-lover is not enough when it comes to ensuring the health and safety of a pet. Our pets are family, and when searching for the best sitter or pet-sitting service for the job, there are many things to consider guaranteeing that our pets are in good hands.
Some factors to consider include:
TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best Pet Sitting Services available today. We hope this review helps you find the most qualified sitter to take care of your animal companions!
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