James and Jemma are a part of a new breed of pet sitter; sitters who pet sit for free. It’s given James and Jemma opportunities for new adventures and for the pet owners they work with it means they can go on holidays knowing that their pets are going to be properly looked after.
James contacted me through email to see if I would be interested in interviewing him for the site – I thought it was really neat what they were doing – not only as someone that is a little envious (because I love pets and travel), but also as a pet owner that would want someone to stay in my home with my pets.
1. How did you get into pet sitting?
Not too long ago, Jemma (my partner) and I were thinking about going traveling. We wanted to continue working whilst traveling and couldn’t work out how that would be possible save moving to somewhere cheap like Asia or South America – the cost of a hotel room or self-catering apartment in Europe was too expensive and neither of us liked the idea of working for a hostel dorm. Somehow or other we started reading write-ups from other people who were working and traveling and that’s when we heard about house sitting.
2. How did you find Trusted Housesitters?
After discovering house sitting we read up as much as we could about house sitting and other people’s experiences. There were only a few house sitting websites out there, but a lot of them looked like they’d been forgotten about so we wanted to make sure that any we signed up to were active. Anyone who had written about house sitting tended to favour Trusted Housesitters so we thought they would be a good bet. We’d also read about it on quite a few pet forums and magazines and the feedback from people who’d taken on a sitter was also very positive.
3. Why do you pet sit for free? And can you define “free”?
We came into pet sitting because we wanted a means to travel. Another selling point was that we would get to have pets in our lives, something we didn’t think would be possible when travelling. When we lived in Scotland we had rented a flat which also meant no pets so we were very excited about this prospect.
Take a look at some these housesits worldwide and tell me you wouldn’t be willing to do that for free? In return for dog walking or looking after someone else’s cats (all things we love to do anyway) you get to look after beautiful homes in destinations you’ve always wanted to visit. And, you’re helping someone else out as well; someone who might be thinking of giving up their holiday plans as they don’t want to put their dog in a kennel.
So yes, we don’t charge anything if it means just doing a few small chores like dog walking or watering plants. A lot of people we petsit for have several pets, so the amount we save them in kennel/”traditional pet sitter” fees is substantial.
4. Is it hard to leave the animals when your assignment is finished?
Absolutely! Saying goodbye is really hard. We are on a five month housesit at the moment and I’ve no idea how we’re going to say goodbye. Sometimes when I’m looking through old photos I’ll see a pet we looked after and that’s always sad as well.
5. Do many people rehire you?
We often get asked back. I think finding a reliable sitter can be difficult and quite a long process so once someone has used us once, they’re keen not to have to repeat the searching/interviewing process again if they can avoid it.
6. What has been one of your favorite pet/house sitting experiences so far?
We looked after a farm of 18 alpacas a few months ago. That was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. I didn’t particularly enjoy having to rub cream onto an alpaca’s testicle one day, but c’est la vie I guess.
7. How many repeat customers have you had?
When we lived in the UK (and housesat there) I think we petsat for pretty much every customer at least twice. Since hitting the road and coming to France we’ve only petsat for one person twice, but these sits have all been quite recent so it’ll probably be next summer before everyone starts thinking about going on holidays again. A few people have dropped us emails about our availability though!
8. How long have you been doing this?
When our current housesit ends we will have petsat in France for just under a year, but we did the rounds in the UK for another year or so before that. This year we’re hoping to do more housesits in warmer climes and have one or two assignments lined up in Portugal which should be exciting!
9. Do you have a home base?
We don’t have much “stuff” but what we do have is in Jemma’s parents home. We go back to the UK once a year to sort out car documents and that sort of thing, but we don’t have a place there.
10. Do you have a blog?
We have a website: https://www.portugalist.com/house-sitting-sites/ There’s a few more pictures of our adventures on there as well.
11. Have you been able to get referrals from clients?
A lot of the people we housesit for oversees are expats and so usually a part of an English-speaking community in their area. Once one person takes us on, the idea spreads and it’s not long before we’re getting emails from the friends of previous clients asking if we’re available to housesit for them.