I’ve been using Trusted House Sitters for years in my travels, and some of my favorite memories have been from pet sitting my four-legged friends. If you want to spend less traveling the world, don’t mind settling a bit more in one spot, and love animals, house sitting is the perfect opportunity for you.
What is House Sitting
House sitting is the arrangement of looking after the home and (usually) pets of another when they go on vacation. The benefits to the host are possibly even greater than those of the petsitter. Taking your pet with you when you travel can be ridiculously expensive, but so can hiring a sitter or putting your pet in a kennel. It’s a lot better to leave the pet at home in familiar surroundings. Having a guest in the house will also help to deter thieves. I read that in Canada, some insurance companies won’t cover the house if it’s been vacant for more than 4 days!
For the house sitter, the main benefits are two-fold. First, they have a place to stay and, on rare occasions, food provided. Second, they get to have the company of animals!
The disadvantage is your freedom of movement can be a bit limited. You’ll need to be available usually at least two times a day to feed the animals, although sometimes you can make arrangements (with the approval or help of your host) to have a neighbor feed the animals, or you might be taking care of something that doesn’t need daily attention (like a reptile or a cat with an automatic feeding tray).
It might be something as simple as a single dog or cat. It might be a handful of either or a combination of both. You might be looking after chickens, geese or donkeys. Some have snakes, others have fish, and a lucky few have horses. There is even a small handful just looking for people to water the plants.
Joining Trusted House Sitters
Trusted House Sitters (or TrustedHouseSitters as the company spells it as one word) is a website you can join in order to housesit for people who have animals they plan to leave behind while they take a vacation. Membership is $119 for a year, which gives you unlimited applications for house sits.
Trusted House Sitters launched in 2010 in Brighton, England where the average pet sitter charges $60 a day for looking after just one dog. The site very quickly built up, and now there are usually about 2,000 house sits available worldwide, about a third of which are in the United Kingdom…except when international travel is shut down. Some countries only have one or two opportunities, which means they’re probably in high demand.
Along with Couchsurfing and Workaway or Worldpackers, Trusted House Sitters makes up the Holy Trinity for unique and wonderful websites that budget travelers can use to help with accommodations. Each has its benefits. As much as I love meeting locals on Couchsurfing, or volunteering for my bed and board on Workaway or Worldpackers, Trusted House Sitters just might be my favorite, and for a very simple reason. You get to pet sit! You have to love animals if you want to housesit; I know I sure do!
Finding a Good House Sit
House sits are posted several months in advance in some cases, but others are posted last-minute. Some get dozens of applications, while others might not have any. As with any application site, you just have to send your requests and hope for the best.
In my first three months using Trusted House Sitters, I sent out nine requests and had five responses, two of which accepted me and three who had just accepted someone else. That’s much better odds than I had on other sites.
There are a few tricks I’ve used to improve my chances of getting a host. Applying for a job several months away is a good idea if you plan that far out. Many backpackers, such as myself, prefer to stick to last-minute planning. The house sits that are months away tend to have fewer applicants, at least until you get closer to the dates. Hopefully, the host takes taken down the house sit when they find a sitter so you don’t apply for something that isn’t available.
Very last-minute hosts are the best, especially if you’re already in the area or can get there fast. Unless you’re in a big city like London or Paris, chances are they’ll have only 0-3 applicants (Trusted House Sitters shows the number in ranges like this). If there are more than about 10 applicants, I won’t usually bother applying unless I have particular skills needed for that house sit (working with horses, etc) and it’s in an area I really want to travel to.
The length of the house sit will also make a big difference in how many people have already applied. Shorter house sits generally have more applicants by backpackers who are just going to be in the area for a few days and are hoping to find accommodations through the site while having a pet to take care of. There are also a handful of travelers who use Trusted House Sitters almost year-round and try to find long-term sits for weeks or months at a time. There are fewer travelers in the latter category, so you have a better chance to find a host offering a place for a week or longer.
Lastly, the more remote the location, the fewer the applicants. I often find that house sits in the heart of Edinburgh have dozens of applicants. On the contrary, hosts in the Highlands or on the Scottish Islands will usually only have 0-3 applicants. If you’re able to get out to these locations, your chances of finding a house sit will improve greatly.
Some Tricks To Improving Your Chances of Getting a House Sit
Know How to Take Care of Animals
This one should be a no-brainer, but some people do try to use the platform only to get free accommodations, and taking care of the pet is almost an afterthought. Having extra experience with animals and how to deal with problems they can encounter will go a long way to improve your chances of getting a house sit. You can always specialize in a species, whether canine, feline, avian, etc. Most hosts will have a strict regiment to follow with their pets, but it’s good to know what to look out for with the animals so you can notify the host or vet of anything that needs attention.
If you really want to have some fun with house sitting, learn how to take care of horses, donkeys or other less common domestic animals. I’m eternally grateful to my five weeks on a horsemanship training farm in Sweden and all the other work I’ve done to take care of horses over the years.
Have a Vehicle
There are plenty of urban house sits which are well connected to public transportation. If the house sit is more rural, you’ll probably need a car. There’s a tiny chance your host will have a vehicle you can use, but that’s pretty rare. Just like with Workaway or Worldpackers, it’s always good to pay attention to the exact location of the house sit, what kind of publication transportation goes to it, and where nearby shops and other services are.
Have a Very Thorough Profile
As with other memberships sites, the best way to improve your chances of landing a good house sit is to have a complete profile. Don’t just say how much you love animals (that should definitely be part of it), but also include all the experience you have housesitting, any training you have had with taking care of animals, pets you’ve had, etc. Also give details on any dietary restrictions, if you have a vehicle, what your travel plans are, etc. The more, the better.
After each house sit you complete, try to get a recommendation from your host. Some hosts don’t really care if you have recommendations or not, and they probably won’t bother to leave a recommendation themselves, but it helps to get more of them if you can.
Be Willing to Accept Full Responsibility for the Pets and Home
House sits are quite often more than just taking care of animals. You might get asked to water the plants, receive parcels, or do other weekly activities (I once had to report solar panel readings regularly to the city officials). It should be a given to keep the house immaculate. I try to leave the house better than I found it, although there have been a handful of times when arrived into a rather shoddy situation.
Some of My Experiences With House Sitting
Two-Week House Sit in Dundee
My first house sit was in the Scottish countryside outside Dundee for the first two weeks of August. My host was leaving down to London for volunteer work and needed someone to take care of her two old dogs. One was a Jack Russell and the other was a Bearded Collie. They were nearing the end of their lifespan, and my host even commented that it wouldn’t be unexpected if the Beardie wasn’t around when she got back. What was truly unexpected was the level of exchange I received from her. I don’t want to set any false standards here for house sitting, but suffice to say, some hosts really take care of you!
The dogs weren’t up to taking walks in the countryside, but I explored the many trails myself – although I had injured my feet just before arriving. I also got to go down to St. Andrews with the vehicle she left for me to see the oldest golf course in the world, and make a couple trips down to Dundee, where I was dealing with various medical problems. Mostly I just stayed at the house, which was absolutely gorgeous!
Three Days in Rural England
Then at the end of September, I was accepted at a house sit in central England less than an hour away from Luton airport, where I picked my dad up for the beginning of his own international adventures. We only stayed four days at this location, but watching the year-and-a-half-old Terrier was an absolute joy. The dog, Holly, had unlimited energy. She just couldn’t get enough of retrieving the tennis ball in the backyard or going for walks in the surrounding fields where Alpaca grazed.
By far the best part of that house sit was in the evening. Holly would wait outside my bedroom door until I was comfy in bed, and the quietly push it open. She’d come to the side of the bed, lightly jump up, crawl under the covers and snuggle on my arm!
Five Weeks in Brighton, England
After a couple more short house sits, I had my first long-term stay in Brighton, my favorite city in England. The only problem was that the house was five miles away from the city center and the beach. Well, another problem was that the kitchen and pantry were overstocked with food I was allowed to use, but most of it was several years out of date and my host had no intention of letting anything be thrown out, no matter how spoiled it was.
I was taking care of two Staffordshire Bull Terriers (known as Staffies). They were young, and absolutely determined to chew on everything in sight, usually to the point of complete destruction of the object. I had to ensure the door to my room was kept closed at all times. Despite a lot of rain, I was able to make a few trips out to the beach, although it was a hard choice between walking the 10-mile round-trip or spending several dollars on a day bus ticket.
Six Weeks on the Isle of Skye
I went directly from my long-term sit in Brighton to an even longer sit on the Isle of Skye – my favorite place in the world! For six weeks, I took care of a Springer Spaniel dog, two cats, four ducks and eight chickens. Aside from taking the dog on a walk each day (with one of the cats sometimes accompanying us), I also had to collect all the chicken and duck eggs, clean out their coop, and feed all the animals every day. It was a lot of work, but more than worth it.
The location was absolutely stunning, overlooking a bay with the most gorgeous sunsets. The house was a four-bedroom B&B with a massive kitchen and even bigger living room. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my own transportation for most of my stay, so I spent my days hitchhiking to my favorite spots around the island.
A Week at the Lanark Estate
A really interesting house sit was the week I spent on the Lanrick Estate in Scotland, not far from Doune Castle where they filmed Monty Python and Outlander. Lanrick Castle, as it was told to me, was built using the drug money that was acquired by the Scottish men who owned Hong Kong and used the territory to conduct opium runs from China to the West. The castle was torn down a few years ago after it went to ruin, but the Lanrick Estate is still gorgeous with the River Teith running through the center of the property.
Where the castle was is now just a flat field, but you can still explore the ruins of the stables, the laundry house, the chapel and many other buildings. Fishermen are invited to rent the two fishing huts and spend the weekend in the river. The estate is also the perfect location for filming, but that’s a story for another article.
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I believe that giving back in your travels is a huge plus, and I’ll always spend a few months out of every year doing volunteer jobs. Here are some more articles that cover volunteering, the pros and cons, and some of the experiences I’ve had.
- 5 Reasons Why Workaway Reviews Are Inaccurate and Could Be Improved
- My Workaway Experience in Brussels
- My Original Workaway Story for France
- My Workaway in France – A Story of Worst Case Scenario
- My Adventure with Zanzibara Campground via Workaway
- My First 3 Weeks Back in Europe, Helping on a Farm in Sweden
- My Five Weeks in Sjuntorp Could Have Been Better
- Hostel Workaways in Scotland: Mostly Great Volunteer Jobs
- A Worldpackers Review and 5 Reasons It’s Better Than Workaway
- A Guide to Volunteering with Workaway or Worldpackers When You Travel