No one wants their sweet kitties to be lonely. Fortunately for all you cat lovers, professional pet sitters are available to provide care and feeding while you are at work or on vacation. You can hire a cat sitter for a short period of time, such as daily visits during an extra busy period at work, or for a week of overnight visits so you can finally take that trip to the Florida Keys. You can also create an ongoing relationship with a cat sitter if you want someone to visit your cat every weekday. If you work long hours and don't want your elderly cat to be alone that long, a pro cat sitter can swing by during the day to love and feed your cat, and even administer medication. Whether it's for one day or for a month, your cat sitter can care for one cat or your entire gang.
Daytime cat-sitting visits will vary in length, depending on what services you want the sitter to provide and what rates you agree to pay. Longer visits will cost more, as will multiple visits per day. If you're out of town, you may want daily visits or overnight care, which is a great option if you have an elderly cat or mischievous younger kittens who need frequent attention or specialized care. Overnight cat-sitting duties vary slightly from daytime visits, and of course, they mean that the cat sitter stays in your home for the night (many cat sitters are also excellent all-around house sitters). Overnight stays will cost more because they require more of the professional's time. There are also cat boarding facilities if your cat needs 24-hour-a-day supervision or you prefer not to host the cat sitter.
Most cat sitters, as a baseline, provide your cat with food and water, change the litter box, clean bedding, take an indoor/outdoor cat outside, and provide companionship. Some cat sitters will also collect mail, water plants, take out trash, and check the security of windows and doors for an added fee. Other additional charges can include fees for extra play time with the cat, administering medication, taxiing your cat to vet or grooming appointments, or providing grooming services.
Several factors affect the average cost of cat-sitting services.
Daytime cat-sitting visits can last anywhere from 15 minutes to 60 minutes or longer, depending on your requests (and your budget). The longer the visit, the more expensive the service. For many cat owners, a short visit is sufficient to make sure the water is clean, their kitty gets a few snuggles, and all is well at home. A standard daytime cat-sitting visit generally includes feeding, watering, playing and giving affection. Cats who are more independent or aloof may be more interested in snacks than snuggles, but some owners just like knowing their cat isn't alone all day.
Daytime visits are especially helpful if you have a cat with health concerns, such as diabetes, that needs to be monitored more closely. Administering medication and grooming are not always included in the basic cat-sitting fee, so be sure to discuss rates and services with your professional. Here are some examples of average tiered pricing based on the length of visit from Wave Your Paw Pet Care in Minneapolis, Minnesota:
- 15-minute visit: $17.50
- 30-minute visit: $21.50
- 60-minute visit in the evening: $32. All visits from Wave Your Paw include:
- Giving food, water and medication
- Walking or exercise
- Litter box scooping
- Bringing in mail
- Adjusting lights in the home
Cat sitters can be hired to stay overnight and care for an animal in the client's home. Many clients choose this option if they want the security of having someone in the home, if they have an elderly or sick cat, or if they have a kitten that needs greater levels of attention. Hiring a cat sitter to stay overnight increases the cost for services because the client is paying for exclusive use of the cat sitter's time. Overnight cat-sitting rates will be greatly influenced by your geographic location, regional cost of living and regional costs to do business. Here are some examples of average cost:
- Gail's Full Service Pet Sitting in Dallas: $65 for up to two cats. Standard overnight cat-sitting hours are from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 a.m. Midday visit: $20
- Sparkle Cat Sitting in San Francisco, California: $85
The total cost for services generally increases with the number of cats. Additional cats require additional time, energy and attention — including extra cleaning of food dishes and more time to administer medications if required. Gail's Full Service Pet Sitting charges an additional $5 for each additional cat if there are more than two cats.
Cat sitters generally charge more if they have to travel beyond a certain distance. Cat sitters typically offer tiered pricing based on location. Some examples of three price points for cat-sitting day visits:
- Locations closest to the business address: $30
- Locations further away: $35, depending on whether a client can provide a parking space
- Locations farthest from the business: $40
The beauty of finding a great cat sitter is you can finally road-trip to grandma's for the holidays without attempting to pack your cat up in a travel case. On holidays, cat sitters often charge an additional fee because services are in higher demand. In addition, the professionals must be compensated for working on a day many prefer to have off.
- Gail's Full Service Pet Sitting, overnight pet-sitting service: $70, a $5 increase over standard overnights
- Wave Your Paw Pet Care: $10 additional fee for any cat-sitting visit or overnight service on a major holiday
- Sparkle Cat Sitting: $10 additional fee for cat-sitting services on federal holidays
If you prefer not to have someone stay in your home, or your cat needs 24-hour-a-day supervision, you may prefer cat boarding to overnight cat sitting. Cat boarding is basically a fully equipped kitty hotel that provides a safe and clean space for your cat with a cozy place to sleep, gives them all their meals and water, offers them love and attention, and provides the opportunity for social interaction — if your cat likes to hang with other cats. Usually, cat boarders request that you provide the food to avoid any allergy or stomach issues. For example, Peticularly Perfect in Escondido, California, charges $25 for each 24-hour period that your cat stays in their facility. They ask that clients provide their pet's food, any medications, and special care instructions. The facility provides TLC time and supervised playtime, pet feeding and care routine, photo text updates, and administration of medicine as arranged. Each pet-sitting facility will have its own amenities, but most require proof from your veterinarian that your cat has the proper vaccinations. You are also responsible for bringing in a clean pet that's free of fleas, ticks or mites. If your cat brings in pests and infests the facility, you will likely have to pay a cleaning fee — so it's always wise to keep on top of your cat grooming.
Most professional cat sitters are ready and able to handle any emergencies. In fact, many have taken SPCA-sponsored pet first aid programs to learn such invaluable skills as CPR, rescue breathing, restraint and muzzling, choking management, bleeding and shock protocols, treatment of fractures and limb injuries, what to do in case of poisoning, managing seizures, administering medications, and use of pet first aid kits. Knowing pet first aid is not a requirement, so if your cat sitter hasn't taken a course in this, you can prepare a ready-made emergency kit in case of problems. It will only take a short time to put together, but can keep your cat in good health if an accident happens while you're away. When you meet with the cat sitter to show them your house, point out where the cat food is kept, where the water dish is located, where all the favorite toys live, and where to find the emergency kit. Keep the kit stocked with these recommended items from the Humane Society of the United States so your pet sitter is equipped to handle the unexpected:
- Phone numbers: your veterinarian, the nearest emergency veterinary clinic (along with driving directions), and a poison-control center or hotline (such as the ASPCA poison-control center, which can be reached at 1-800-426-4435)
- Paperwork for your pet (in a waterproof container or bag) including proof of rabies vaccination status, copies of other important medical records, and a current photo of your pet (in case they get lost)
- Nylon leash
- Self-cling bandage (bandage that stretches and sticks to itself but not to fur—available at pet stores and from pet-supply catalogs)
- Muzzle or strips of cloth to prevent biting
- Pet first aid book
What to expect
You may be feeling apprehensive if you have never hired a cat sitter before, but there are simple guidelines you can follow to make sure you find a safe, caring and competent cat sitter. These questions and suggestions can guide your search for a sitter:
- Read their online reviews, and ask for (and follow up with) references.
- Look for a professional cat sitter who is insured; if you are working with a pet-sitting company, make sure they are also bonded.
- Insurance protects you, your pet and your home in case of accident, and bonding protects your assets against theft.
- Meet the cat sitter in person first. Look for someone with a good personality who shows up on time, is good at communication, and treats your pet with kindness. If something doesn't feel right, look for someone else.
- Sign a contract or service agreement. It's always good to get the details in writing, especially when someone will be coming to your home. Service details to specify include rates, what each cat-sitting visit or overnight stay includes (e.g., medication), the exact dates of their services, what times they will come and go, etc.
Many professional cat sitters will do an intake interview before starting with a new client. Gail's Full Service Pet Sitting explains that during her intake she meets the client's pet and lets it get comfortable with her; makes sure she has all necessary emergency and veterinary contact info; learns medication schedules; asks about physical limitations or behavioral concerns; informs clients about when to expect text updates with photos; and clarifies payment and access to a key.
- Always meet your cat sitter in person before hiring them.
- Always let your cat sitter know what to do in case of an emergency with your pet or in your home.
- Read client reviews and follow up with references to make sure you're choosing the right cat sitter for you. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring.