Petsitters enjoying their charge
After retiring from a stressful, mid-life career, traveling might be high on your list of activities. You wouldn’t be alone. People age 60 and beyond are frequent leisure travelers with fewer constraints than their younger counterparts. Less hobbled by work responsibilities, family obligations, lack of free time, and financial limitations, older adults hit the road in large numbers. According to AARP, nearly every boomer plans to do some traveling each year, and for the past four years, the typical boomer made plans to take between four and five trips.
Older adults are also likely to be pet owners. Over the past decade, the pet ownership rate among those 55-74 years old jumped from 50% to 54% and from 41-45% among those 70-74. When we combine the desire to travel with pet ownership (I prefer the term “guardianship” when referring to pets), a conundrum ensues: what to do with the pet(s) while we are away?
I remember when I was a child and our dog went to the local veterinary hospital kennel to be boarded for whatever time we would be away from home. I have no idea what that cost my parents, but in today’s world, boarding a dog or cat can be verypricey. The national average price for boarding a dog for one night is $40. and in some cases can go as high as $85. Weekly prices can be less costly on a per-night basis, generally $140-$175, but can go higher.
Cats are boarded less frequently, but there are kitty hotels for those pampered felines. Feline Wishes and Caviar Dreams is one such luxury cat boarding facility in downtown San Francisco. They advertise the options of Pensiones, Villas, Palazzos, and Lounges for their feline guests. The different types of accommodations vary in size and number of cats they will accommodate. The prices range from $39. To $69. per day. Less costly cat boarding runs from $17. to $30. Per day
In the last two decades, many new facilities have spring up to accommodate the huge need for pet care, especially for dogs. One small chain, Wag Hotels offers day care and overnight boarding. They have nine locations around California. Most other boarding businesses around the U.S. are also local to a particular geographic area and are independently run.
Many people love the freedom of being able to drop off their pet and know that they are in a safe environment and someone else is going to be responsible for them for the duration of their vacation. However, there are risks associated with pet boarding, both of which I have experienced: Kennel Cough, also known as bordatella, is highly contagious and can spread easily among dogs who live in close proximity. Back in the 1980s, before there was a vaccine, my collie came home with a case of kennel cough. She was young and recovered from it, but it was heartbreaking to watch her constant hacking. It is also not uncommon for fights to break out among dogs who are allowed to play together during boarding. For these reasons and others, I and many others I know, elect a different solution for their pet-care needs while they are away: pet sitters.
One huge advantage of having someone live in your house and care for your animals is that they are also there to watch over your home. Occupied homes are far less susceptible to break-ins and vandalism. Pet/house-sitters are also on site in case of an emergency (flood, fire, broken pipe, etc.) and can move your pets out of harm’s way and alert additional help, if needed. Prices for pet-sitting vary tremendously, not just among geographic areas, but also within any given area. One very popular site for finding pet care is Rover.com. It’s a match-making site that functions much like the sites for dating, finding a vacation rental, or hiring gig workers. It’s easy to navigate and will quickly zero in on the area in which you live. There you will find a list of pet sitters in your area along with their bios and preferences or limitations. Part of the fee you pay goes to Rover and the rest goes to the sitter.
It’s all about dog love!
Another very interesting and unique pet-care solution site has come to my attention recently: TrustedHousitters.com. It operates more like a home-exchange service than a gig matching site. With a dual focus, house-sitting and pet-sitting, this work appeals primarily to animal lovers with a desire to spend time with someone else’s pet, while watching over their home. Since no money changes hands between homeowner and sitter, the preponderance of people who want to do this work are older, often retired.
With TrustedHousitters, homeowners purchase a yearly plan and sitters do the same. The homeowner then creates a “listing” with the details of their sitter needs. Sitters can then “apply” to those listings that look appealing to them. The homeowner then selects the sitter of their choice and starts a conversation about timing and other compatibility issues.
You might ask “what’s in it for the sitter?” I asked that same question. What I discovered is that many sitters look for opportunities to travel and visit new geographic locations or an opportunity for some peace and quiet if they normally live with others or in a noisy neighborhood. It seems like a win-win for both parties as well as for the pet, and based on the experiences and reviews on the website, I think they may have a marketable formula.
In my household, we are currently between dogs, but later this year when we have become dog-parents again, I plan on giving TrustedHousesitters.com a try.