First of all, just to get this out of the way. I LOVE BEING A CAT SITTER. I do. I love my life style, I love my human customers, I love my cat customers, I love that I am doing something I am passionate about every day to the point that I never feel like I am working. But having said that, I am sick of people thinking I am getting paid to cuddle cats all day, so I decide that writing a post about what are the pros and cons of being a cat sitter is in order.
Pro 1. Flexible hours – apart from some cats who need to get their food or medication at specific time, most cats are quite flexible. As a result, I rarely have to deal with rush hour traffic. I can mostly start my day whenever I want. If I feel I am under the weather, I can start my day half an hour later or an hour later. I don’t need to report to anyone. The cats won’t mind, haha.
Pro 2. Get to see sunshine – I am not trapped in the office like I used to! Some days I can even sunbath with the cat together!
Pro 3. Cat cuddle – ok, there is a bit of truth about the cat cuddles…
Pro 4. Amazing customers – 99% of my customers are amazingly lovely people. Anyone who has worked in customer service will tell you 40% weirdo are the normal rate. But cat lovers are some of the best people in the world so I don’t have that problem at all. In fact, many of them have eventually become my friends. In the 8 years of my cat career, I have only ever handle half a dozen difficult people or some of them are just strange. But the beauty of being your own boss is, you can just fire them. You don’t need to take customers you don’t like.
Pro 5. Financial freedom – I control my destiny. I work however much or however little I want. If I need more money that month, I can always do more cat sitting or promote the sales of some cat toys or run a cat workshop etc. I will never ever be layoff ever in my life again!
Pro 6. Read a lot of books – I do spend a lot of time in traffic or sitting with a cat, so I end up reading a lot of books. I love reading and studying so this one is an important perk for me.
Pro 7. Stay healthy – the job is actually very physical. You end up walking a lot. Bending down a lot, lifting things a lot. Goodbye to the office life of sitting all day. There is no need for gym membership! haha
Pro 8. Get to see a lot of interesting places – I have seen hundreds of house of Dublin at this stage. Sometimes the job will take me to neighbour of Dublin I never knew existed. Every day is an adventure.
Pro 9. I get to do what I love! This is the most important point. For the past 8 years, I have never had one day I feel ‘oh man, I have to get up to work….’ Some days it’s difficult because I am doing 14 hours day for 10 days straight. I am tired but I never feel ‘the drag’ to go to work. I am happy to go to work EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Pro 10. Every day is different – no two days are the same at cat sitting. Every job is different, because every cat, every human and every house is different. If you are like me who gets bored easily, hate repetition, love challenges and problem solving. Then cat sitting is for you.
Pro 11. Affordable AND peaceful off season break – since we work a lot during weekend and major holidays (we will talk about Cons number 1 in a minute), we tend to take time off mid-week or off season. I usually take time off in February and November. The advantage is hotels and tickets are cheap and the places are usually peaceful. However, it can be a bit difficult to find somewhere interesting to go in those months as weather tend to be horrible in those months…
And that takes us to the cons…
Con 1. Anti-social hours – cat sitter works a lot on the weekend and major holidays as those are the prime time when people are going away. I end up having to say no to a lot of (I mean a lot!) social engagement. Christmas parties are usually a huge logistic nightmare for me. I need to wake up at 5am sometimes to be able to go to a party. And your friends WILL NOT know how much effort you made just to show up. We also work a lot in the evening. Even though we meet most cats during the day, we meet most humans in the evening when we sign up new customers at meet-and-greet. I constantly feel guilty that I don’t get to see my son when he comes home from the creche.
Con 2. Not as fluffy as you think – we are dealing with cat poop, cat pee, cat vomit. Sometimes even blood. It is not as glamourous as you thought. We are often crawling under the bed to look for a cat, sometimes I am even under a car, or under a brush. And I can imagine sitters who work with dogs will have to handle even more less-than-glamourous stuff…
Con 3. Cat or human emergencies – when there is an emergency, you are stuck with the situation until it is resolved. Bella here had a cat bite, you can’t see very well here but her right eye is swollen. I remember I didn’t go home until after midnight that day. I was in vet emergency with her for a long time. Sometimes you can also have human emergencies. Flights are delay and extra visits are needed last minute.
Con 4. Cat dies – yes this one is very sad but it’s inevitable. Here Mr Jenkins is a very very special cat (I will write about his story one day, follow this blog to make sure you don’t miss it!) He has since passed away. I get very very upset every time when a customer informs me a cat dies, but it’s part of this job.
Con 5. Can’t really call in sick – the cat needs to eat every day. If you are ill, unless you can call in a back up very quickly, you can’t really call in sick.
Con 6. Work at all weather – as I said above, cats need to eat every day. So the same thing applies when the weather is really bad. In winter, we are very often soaked to the bones. Here are some examples of what kind of situation we can be dealing with.
Con 7. Sit in traffic…a lot! Even though we are mostly able to avoid peak hours, but we can still be stuck in traffic a lot. We are spending a big part of our day going from one place to another. It’s inevitable that we will end up being stuck at some point. And then sometimes, you can run into some freakish situation like you can be blocked by Westlife, Queen of England (story will come up soon), or President Obama (story come up soon too).
Con 8. Loneliness – we don’t get to see human very often. If you don’t like water cooler conversation, then this job is perfect for you. But sometimes, you can go on days without speaking to human at all. Plus, another form of loneliness comes from the fact that very few people understand this job. So most people don’t understand when you said you are ‘stress at work’. They just laugh and think you are joking. They don’t understand you can be upset because a cat dies or you are working 14 hours day because it’s bank holiday weekend.
Con 9. Very physical work – cat sitting is a lot less glam than you thought. Most days your clothes are covered in hair, cat poop, cat vomit, etc., our hands are usually in very bad state. Especially in winter when a lot of customers turn their heating off when they are away, we are washing the cat bowls in freezing cold water. (This is my go-to hand cream by the way…)
Con 10. It is actually a very stressful job! This might come to a surprise to you. Yes, we cuddle cat and read books, but those are the good days when everything works as plan. And I am telling you my friend, those days are not the majority! Most of our days will have at least one of the following things happened (often more than one, sometimes all of them!) – cat is sick, road diversion, human’s flight got delay, key doesn’t work, human forgot to buy cat food or litter or both, can’t find the bin bags to take dirty litter out, can’t find the garbage area to put the bin bags (!), cat won’t take medication, cat won’t eat, cat won’t poop for 3 days in a row, human’s family member suddenly show up and throw a party without telling anyone in advance, human got their travel date wrong and you nearly run into them coming out from the shower naked, the roof of the house falls in (I am not joking, this is a true story that I will tell in a future post)…I can go on and on! Plus, it’s a HUGE responsibility to be entrusted with someone’s property and an important member of their family. Compassion fatigue is a big topic in the pet sitting industry. So if you are looking for an easy and relax job, then you are looking in the wrong place. If you love a challenge, then yes this job is full of them!
Con 11. You don’t actually make that much money! This is the ultimate point! A lot of people imagine us rolling in money cuddling cats. But we are not! We spend HUGE amount of time doing unpaid work. Meet and greet, picking keys up, dropping keys back, marketing, charity work, answering email, etc etc. ALL of these unpaid. The only time we are being paid is when we are physically with a cat. So when you even out the hours, we are being paid very little.
After seeing the 11 pros and 11 cons of being a cat sitter, you might also want to read this post about what does it mean being a cat sitter.
As I said at the beginning, I absolutely love what I do and every day I am grateful to work in something I am genuinely passionate about. In fact, I suspect I might continue to cat sit even if I win the lotto. However, I want to show to public that like most jobs in the world, there are downsides to it. Cat sitting maybe a ‘purrfect job’ to me, but it’s not a dream job like people imagine me cuddling cats and doing nothing much.
If you have any question about how is it like being a cat sitter, please don’t hesitate to ask! I constantly got ask lots and lots of questions about my job whenever I meet new people. So fire away, I will answer the best I can!
Since I started my cat sitting business 5 years ago, I have been asked again and again how did I do it.
People who asks, some of them curious (nosy), some of them genuinely want advices. Especially information on how to start a business in Ireland is not available in a consolidated manner, it might take a long time before you get on the right track with a lot of false start in the wrong direction in between.
I am all for sharing information to help other people, so I decide to start a series of post to explain once and for all – how did I start my own pet sitting business.
In the last post, I talked about doing your marketing research. Also, you might want to know what it means to be a cat sitter by read this post.
That will give you a good idea if starting a pet sitting business in your area is a good idea at all. If it turns out pet sitting might not be suitable for your area, there are other business ideas you might want to explore.
And of course before you start any business at all, you should ask yourself if you are cut out for it.
After researching, thinking, checking with your family if everyone is cool with you starting a business, then what’s next?
Follow my blog. Joking…haha! (Only half though, as I will be telling you everything about how to start your own pet sitting business in Ireland!)
Then you have to think of a business name for your pet sitting business.
Step 2 – naming your business
(Step 1 and the rest of the series can be found here.)
First of all, you might want to read my post on the general information on business names. But there are other things we need to consider when choosing a name for a pet sitting business.
My business name Maow Care came to me because ‘maow’ is nickname my husband has been calling me for many years, which means ‘cat’ in Chinese…
So I thought Maow Care sounds like me. Notice I did add a ‘w’ at the end of just ‘Mao’ due to obvious reasons…
When I first got the idea of a name, I have asked one of the marketing consultants in the Start Your Own Business course by Dublin Enterprise Board. He thought ‘Meow Care’ would have been a better name. But my gut feeling told me I needed something a bit different, something almost a little strange so people would remember me. ‘Meow’ sounds too common. After using Maow Care for 5 years, I believe I was right. Because now I could use the word ‘Maow’ in a lot of word play in any marketing campaigns, e.g. Hungry Maow Cat Food Collection, Maow Of The Year competition, MAOW! Newsletter, etc.
For a pet sitting business, I think it’s important to choose a name that’s cute but at the same time professional. And it’s not easy…
I notice there are a few common theme with pet sitting business name. There is no right or wrong on this subject matter, but I will list out what I think as pros and cons for each of them. It is ONLY MY OWN OPINION. I have no intention to offend anyone. If you have alternative opinion, please leave a comment, discussions are most welcome!
1. Someone-someone’s pet care
For example, Mary’s pet care.
Pro: Very personal touch. Pet sitting is such an intimate service that I think it is a great idea to stay personal as much as possible. I believe I am the first pet sitting company in Dublin to put my own picture on my website. I want my potential customers to see me and ‘know’ me already before meeting me. I don’t want to hide behind the logo because I want them to work with ME not my company. (A post about ‘staying personal’ will come up in the future…)
Con: If your business start to expand, your customers might be disappointed to find out they are not actually talking to Mary when they ring the number. Some sitters I know do stick with working alone for many many years. But if you plan to expand in the future or want to leave yourself a possibility of expanding, you might not want to do that.
2. A-LOCATION pet sitting
For example, Dublin Pet Sitting
Pro: Straight to the point. People know where you are at and what you cover. Great google SEO.
Con: Not very personal and you might ‘clash’ with other companies who have similar names. You might not stand out from the crowd. A quick search on Google shows at least 3 companies with similar name if you type ‘london pet sitting’!
3. Funny-pet-related-word pet sit
For example: Maow Care (my own business, haha!)
Pro: It stands out. It can be funny and cute.
Con: People might not know how to spell the damn thing!
As you can see, there is no ultimate best naming solution. At the end of the day, I think the best important is this – YOU LOVE YOUR NAME! If you feel very proud to say your business name every single time you pick up the phone or handing out your business card. That will make you happy. And happy energy is so important in running a SME!
Do you have a business yourself? How did you find your business name? Share your experience in the comment below, I would love to hear from you.
I started my own pet sitting business (SMOPB) 5 years ago, I have been asked again and again how did I do it.
In fact, I have been approached by numerous individuals for the past few years asking for advices and tips to start their own pet sitting business.
I am one for information sharing and karma. Every time, I would answer all their questions as best I can. As far as I know, there are 2 other pet sitting business in Dublin has been set up after talking to me. I would like to think they find my information is somehow useful.
Today, I am starting a new series here to share my experience on how I started my own pet sitting business.
5 years ago when I first started Maow Care, the ‘pet situation’ in Ireland was quite different. There were, at that time, only 2 other pet sitting companies in Dublin. It was and it still is confusing to get insurance to cover such business. General public didn’t understand the concept of pet sitting service very well neither did the vets.
But fast forward to 2014, the business starts to ‘get’ pet sitting. I got referral from vets, charities, word of mouth and of course Social Media. I feel very hopeful to the pet sitting industry in Ireland and I think there are potential for many more companies in this country. I am hoping this series could inspire some of you start your own pet sitting business. I am looking forward to see such satisfying profession as pet sitting flourishes in the coming years in Ireland.
If you have any questions or feedback after reading this series, please feel free to contact me.
Step 1: Research
Before starting any business, doing a thorough research is very important.
You might start yawning now…
No, but I am serious.
It is very important to know where you are standing before you even start the project, even you waste time, energy and money on a project that might not be suitable to you.
As I am intended to write a straight-forward A-Z guide, I will give you a list of ‘assignments’ to do for this step.
1. Check if there are other pet sitting companies in your community
Do a quick google search to find out what’s the market situation in your community.
- Are there existing pet sitting companies?
- How many?
- How much do they charge?
- Do they work alone or do they have contractors?
- Which area do they cover?
2. Try to talk to them
Contact the existing pet sitting companies and try to talk to them. You might go ‘what? Why would they talk to me?’
Well, if they are anyone like myself, they wouldn’t mind talking to you. I am not making huge amount of money from my business but I love my business and making a healthy living from it. Why would I mind sharing my experience and information?
You might go, ‘why would you want more competitors?’
Answer is simple: I would love to have more pet sitters in Dublin! Sometimes, I can barely cope with the amount of booking to be honest! Plus, from a point of view of establishing a professional image of the whole industry, having more professional pet sitters is only going to help us as a whole by raising public awareness of the industry and to improve animal welfare in the country in general.
The bottom line is this – a pet sitting business who have enough customers to keep them going WOULD NOT MIND having more competition. A pet sitting business who don’t have enough business might not want more competition. But then why would you want to take advice from people whose business is not successful?
If you can’t find any sitters in your community who would help you. Try this trick: contact a sitter in another country. Since you won’t be a competitor, I find people are 99% of the time being extremely helpful and tell you every trick of the trade.
3. Get training
Join Pet Sitter International. Pet Sitter International is the biggest pet sitting educational body in the world. After joining them you will have access to their member’s only area online. There is such huge amount of information on pet sitting. The members forum is also a gold mine. You can get to chat with pet sitters around the world, some of them have over 30 years experience under the belt! You might also want to get certified by following their education programme.
4. Find out a realistic picture of what being pet sitter is about
Read my post here. Serious.
Depending on your location, maybe you can try to ask for an opportunity to job shadow an existing pet sitter? I can’t speak for everyone, but I personally wouldn’t mind to show someone the trade to be honest.
5. Talk to friends and family about your plan
As I said on this post, having support from friends and family are so crucial for any SME. Talk to them and make sure they are being supportive. But then if they are not, don’t let them get you down either. My parents still don’t understand why I quitted my job as a civil servant over 10 years ago. They understand even less why I would prefer to be covered with cat hair at work than to dress up nicely to work in a bank. Being determined (read stubborn) is usually what it takes to start your own business.
6. Volunteer at the local shelter
There is nothing like getting yourself dirty covered with cat hair/poop/vomit to get a feeling how it is to be a cat sitter. This is the ultimate test to see if you will really enjoy the lifestyle.
Once you are sure you want to be a pet sitter, you need to find out how to start. If you are in Ireland, then worry not, because I will be telling you everything in this series (FOLLOW this blog!) If you are not outside Ireland, you will need to check the followings:
- how to register a business? (you might not necessarily need to register as a company, you can potentially register a business as a sole trader)
- insurance requirement?
- how to open a business account with the bank? Is that mandatory to have business account?
- do you need a special license to work with animal? (I know it is the case in France)
- do you need to clear with the police? (I know it is the case in France)
- do you need to trademark your logo?
8. Miscellaneous stuff
Find out all the other stuff you need to get your business up and running, including the following (the list is not exclusive):
- how much is it to get your logo design done?
- how much is it to get a website professional design? (You don’t need to, I will tell you how to do a cheap one until you have the money to invest a better one)
- how much is it to get marketing material printed? (e.g. business card, flyers, etc)
Honestly, find out as much about pet sitting as you can. And if you have any questions, please feel free to be in touch!
Next SMOPB post – corporate image: business name, logo, etc.