Being a good pet sitter is like being a good parent. It requires long hours, hard work, and the ability to adapt to unexpected problems. Like when a client's cleaning lady called a sitter, saying the cat had escaped.
"We all searched and searched to no avail. Several hours later we found the source of the meowing. The sound was coming from inside the wall behind the refrigerator. We had to break the wall to get the cat out," said John F. D'Ariano, CEO of "A Pet Sitter Plus" in Palm Beach County.
On Thursday at 11:00 p.m., the I-Team is conducting a hidden camera investigation into local pet sitting businesses. We're finding out what they do when no one is watching and whether they really stay for as long as they promise.
We wanted to find out what it's like to be a pet sitter, caring for dozens of clients' dogs and cats at a time. D'Ariano says a pet sitter's day starts early and ends late.
"Our pet sitters typically start morning rounds at about 7 AM daily. They often return for a second visit in the middle of the day and again between 7:30 and 10:00 in the evening," D'Ariano said.
There are typically a few hours of free time between each group of visits. Cats are typically visited once a day and dogs at least 2 or 3 times a day, though it depends on the requests of the owner.
D'Ariano says one of the biggest challenges of the job are dealing with the long hours and occasionally working 7 days a week. Sitters also do more than just walking the dog and making sure there's food and water.
"It may include brushing, talking to, or even singing to the fur kids. Pet sitters also spend time walking, jogging, running with their charges," D'Ariano said.
Many pet sitters are also asked to make sure things at the home are in good condition, as well.
Naturally, pet sitters need to love being around animals. D'Ariano himself started his business after retiring as a canine officer.
"Pet sitters can earn as little or as much as they would like to earn. Ones income is based on how hard they are willing to work and whether they are going to work for others or start their own business," D'Ariano said.
One of the biggest challenges for a sitter is dealing with the unexpected. That can mean finding a pet that escaped, dealing with an unexpected medical emergency or anti-social pet, or fulfilling an unusual request from a pet owner.
"Things do not always go perfectly. Clients can be very demanding and even unreasonable at times. A professional pet sitter must respond to every situation that comes their way in a knowledgeable and professional manner," he said.