Why We Started Catsitting + How to Start Housesitting to Travel

It all started with a cat named Monday. At least, that’s what we called her. And after finding a forever home for her, we wanted to have more cats in our lives without the drama and the tears. More happy stories of beloved felines that receive regular veterinary care. Fewer stories of kittens discarded on a hiking trail or born in a colony on a rooftop. Just taking care of cats for a few days or weeks or months and then handing back the responsibility to their pet parents who missed them dearly and are grateful for the help. That is why we looked into kickstarting our catsitting/housesitting careers via Trusted Housesitters in 2023. In this article, you’ll find out how you can start your cat/pet/housesitting career as well!

Finding Our Way to Our First Official Catsits

Click to open to read about our personal experiences

Asking a friend who has done petsitting before

Back in January 2023, Jonas did some Googling to find out more about housesitting platforms, while I messaged my friend Nina Sodin who has done it before. She sent me two chapters from her future book (in Hebrew) and gave us some personalized advice from her experience.

One tip was to join local housesitting/petsitting Facebook groups if you’re looking to housesit in one specific country. Also, some countries like Poland have their own housesitting websites – in Polish – to connect pet parents with pet sitters.

Another tip was to try to find housesits via friends or friends of friends. Jonas and I actually received one offer like that from a colleague of my mom’s but had to decline it because there were no cats/pets to take care of, just plants and the house and we would have had to pay for gas/water/electricity.

This was an interesting offer, though, because it made us think very hard about why we want to do housesitting after traveling together full-time for more than seven years and paying for accommodation everywhere. Because let’s face it, Jonas and I are looking to spend time with cats. We’re not doing it for the free accommodation.

Lastly, Nina spoke about online housesitting platforms, such as Trusted Housesitters. That is really the big platform, the Airbnb of petsitting. The platform isn’t free to use – the lowest yearly fee will set you back €10 or US$11 per month – but it has a lot of users and the chances of finding a sit in a cool country are quite high. But Nina said it’s vital to build a good profile on these platforms before you get chosen.

Choosing Trusted Housesitters (premium membership)

While still traveling in Madagascar, I downloaded a bunch of housesitting apps on my phone to see what it’s about, but none of them were good or intuitive to use. Meanwhile, Jonas looked for a Trusted Housesitters (THS) membership. It is possible to create a free account on Trusted Housesitters to look at open sits, but you can’t apply to any. In the hope that we’d get chosen for a catsit soon, we looked at the paid membership options. The options were: basic (€119), standard (€149), and premium (€239) without a promo link. Jonas found more ways to reduce the price, see below.

We ended up choosing the premium membership. Even if we’d just find one catsit for a week, money-wise, that would already be worth the price not counting the tremendous joy we receive from being around a cat. In my opinion, the Premium membership shows we mean business and that we don’t look at housesitting as a way to save money on accommodation.

Filling in our profile

After paying the big money and getting access to our Premium membership account, we immediately began filling in our profile. I got all the pictures out of us taking care of Monday and rescue kitten Limon Confit in Mauritius. Together we filled in the fields of pet care experience and our motivation for housesitting. We know that if you don’t have references, the most important thing is to have a profile that’s completely filled in.

Monday Mauritius the cat who got us into housesitting

There’s a possibility to link to our Airbnb and LinkedIn profiles. While I don’t think LinkedIn is that useful for when you go live in other people’s homes, Airbnb certainly is. We also have about 100 positive Airbnb reviews, so this plays to our strengths.

There’s also a field for ‘external references’, which can be anyone outside the platform. We sent this to someone we rented apartments from in Mauritius with a message via WhatsApp to let her know what this was about. She sent us a review rather quickly to verify that we’re real people. Although it was not about pet care, it was still good to have.

Around this time, my sister who lives in the Netherlands also was looking for a housesitter for a long weekend. We looked at the dates and it would fit when we’re back in Europe after traveling in Africa. So our first scheduled catsit would be in the Netherlands and not via THS. This is good because family is an easy way to get some catsitting experience. My sister would also write an external reference for us after we took care of her cat Ulicoten (main picture📸 of article) for a few days.

Now that our profile was the bare minimum complete, we set up notifications for catsitting assignments. We cast a wide net; no specific country, just a map search on a zoom level that includes almost all of Europe and northern Africa. Then we applied our filters: cats, fish, poultry, and small pets. No dogs—for now; maybe we want to do that in the future or when there’s a filter for small dogs only.

Our search also filtered for housesits longer than a week and with the starting date for the search set when we return to Europe in late February 2023. It’s possible to set up a starting date without a final date, which is great.

Applying for our first sit in France

Within a few hours, we got a bunch of notifications—mostly in the United Kingdom. While we had a good time looking at cat pictures, we didn’t have a hard plan to travel to the UK. But it was good to learn about all the different kinds of profiles that are out there and how much effort the pet parents put in.

Then a few days later when we arrived in Ethiopia, we received a notification for a catsit in southern France: one beautiful black cat named Toffee, above the age of 10. We read the entire profile and the reviews from previous housesitters, looked through the pictures of the house and of the adorable void, and discussed if we can make it work with the dates (yes). The only question mark was the fact that they had ticked the box ‘Sitters Need A Car’, though the profile had a detailed description of how to get to their house by train. In our experience, car owners often aren’t super aware of how doable things are without a car. We decided to click Apply to sit.

Together, we wrote an application to take care of Toffee for two weeks. We included the tidbit that we wanted to go to southern France to go to Andorra either way. The profile also mentioned something about preferably spending the majority of nights at their home in a small village and not in the big city nearby. We found this a bit strange but mentioned that we wouldn’t spend nights away. Besides taking care of the cat, we’d love to just work remotely and enjoy the area. We also mentioned that we’d take care of my sister’s cat Ulicoten before their sit.

We ended the message with our willingness to do a video call.

Our first application video call

Two days later, we received a message back. The pet parents of Toffee had read through our profile and liked it. They had multiple applicants for this sit as well, so now they were doing video calls to see who is the best match. They asked us when we’d be available for a Zoom call. We said either still on the same day or two days later. They replied quickly as well and said it would be better two days later.

Before the call, we prepped our hotel room in Addis Ababa to look a little cozier. We tried some different spots in the room to see where we’d have the best light. We really wanted to get this sit, even though the chances of getting it were pretty low being new to the platform.

All of us were on time. We introduced ourselves and listened to their holiday plans. They had questions about how we’d get to southern France and we had questions about Toffee’s little cat habits. The vibe was really good, but they still had concerns about our lack of a motor vehicle in case Toffee has a veterinary emergency. I said my cousin in the Netherlands is a vet, so I could call her and ask first if something is of concern. I also reassured them that we could walk or hitchhike to the vet if there’s also not a neighbor around.

Afterward, we had no idea how well we had done. The pet parents had also told us that when they searched for a catsitter last year via THS, they received applications from many generic pet people. But this time they had only applications from cat people like ourselves. While that is good for them, it does make the competition harder for us—especially if the other four applicants have intra-platform reviews already.

Now all we could do is wait.

Getting our first sit (and losing it)

Three days later, while on the bus from Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar, Jonas spotted a notification from THS on his phone. He told me about it and asked if I wanted to read it together. I told him I couldn’t stand the nerves so he should read it. His face immediately changed from concern to delight and said, “Iris, we got it!” and read the message aloud:

First Housesitting catsitting agreement THS

I couldn’t believe it! The first sit we applied for we… got? We’re going to have a Toffee for two weeks?!

Once we replied to the message, Jonas offered me to be the one to accept the housesit. I opened up the catsit confirmation request on my phone and pressed accept. It’s official now: we’re going to be catsitters!

We immediately received access to their THS welcome guide. That’s where pet parents get down to the nitty-gritty about the pet and home care. Upon arrival in Bahir Dar, Jonas set up a WhatsApp chat with Toffee’s pet parents for easier communication. We also received additional guides from the pet parents via email.

Everything went well and we applied for more catsits in the UK after southern France in early May. The idea was to travel to France, Andorra, Euskadi, Galicia, and then take the ferry to southern England. England is where the majority of catsits are at. We got a lot of rejections from people in the UK. I don’t know why. Sometimes they didn’t even send us a message. We also had one video call with someone in southern England with a Maine Coon, but she went with another sitter.

Then in February, one day after we returned to Europe, we sent Toffee’s pet parents a message to let them know we were doing travel planning to France. We asked which day it would be best to arrive at their home. They responded very quickly to our question but also said something personal had come up that might throw a spanner in the works. Two days later, we had a call with them to discuss this. In the end, they had to cancel their holiday and therefore also our catsit. But if there are future travel plans, they’ll first contact us to take care of Toffee.

Getting our first catsits (for real)

Before we lost that one, we had a very good plan to travel through Europe to Andorra and Iceland. On one of our last days in Ethiopia, we had another video call from a hotel in Addis Ababa with a couple with two cats living in Stavanger, Norway. We vibed really well with them and they chose us to take care of their sweet tuxedo boys named Sherlock and Dr. Watson in June/July. This was a few days before we lost Toffee. Our plan was roughly France → Andorra → Spain → UK → Norway → Faroe Islands → Iceland → ?

Losing the first housesitting gig was of course quite an emotional rollercoaster. And it was at this point that our applications went completely off the rails. Just rogue. We sent out 43 (!) applications between January and May 2023. During that time we had zero THS platform reviews, though we did receive one from my sister after taking care of Ulicoten twice and one character reference from Nina. We also updated our profile with pictures of us taking care of Ulicoten.

Out of 43 applications in 11 different European countries over 4.5 months of applying we had:

  • 8 video calls (19% of applications)
  • 5 catsit agreements (12% of applications, 63% of video calls)
  • 4 catsits that went through (9% of applications, 80% of agreed sits)

Chronologically, the catsits we had planned were:

  • Moritz in Germany
  • Willie in Switzerland
  • Ziggy, Azar, Zephyr, and Ari in Switzerland
  • Sherlock and Dr. Watson in Norway

Our first sit with Moritz in Freiburg im Breisgau in Baden-Württemberg was absolutely amazing. We loved how much his personality opened up during the two weeks he was in our care. As this was our first official sit via THS, we were also very nervous about getting a (positive) first review. However, since we handed over the care of Moritz to two other catsitters, we still had to wait another two weeks before receiving a review from Moritz’ parents.

After taking care of Moritz, we immediately updated our THS profile with new info and a few pictures (with permission). We also drafted a review.

Writing + receiving our first THS reviews

Freiburg catsit head bonk bonding time

We waited to post our raving review of taking care of Moritz for two weeks until the pet parents were back from their holidays. This was to make sure that they’d get a notification when they’re back home and in the right headspace to do such a thing; it’s best not to bother people while they’re on holiday.

Meanwhile, we were in Switzerland taking care of a young orange boy named Willie for four days. We tried to review them right after we left for Sion, but THS only declares a housesit over the day after the official end date. The next morning, we saw that Willie’s parents beat us to it: they’d written us an absolutely riveting review.

First TrustedHousesitters Review catsitting

We also posted our review of Willie’s parents and a few days later posted our review of Moritz’ parents and sent them a message to ask how their return has been. Before we knew it, we had two THS reviews after two wonderful catsitting experiences.

Our next sit was again in Switzerland with four cats. This sit with three Sphynx cats and one fluffy type was also absolutely amazing. With three housesitting gigs up our sleeve, we concluded that this is indeed Our Thing™.

After Switzerland, we returned to the Netherlands to take care of Ulicoten again, this time for 2.5 weeks. And after the Netherlands, we flew from Amsterdam to Stavanger to take care of the two tuxedo cats. Sherlock and Dr. Watson were our longest-standing catsit via THS, having been arranged in late February and started four months later in late June. For comparison, our shortest waiting time between application and doing the sit was 3 weeks with the four cats in Switzerland.

All catsits our catsits yielded positive THS reviews, which we reciprocated.

Has it become easier since we had our first THS review?

Geneva housesitting sphynx cat playtime head bonk

After the four cats in Switzerland in May, we didn’t apply for any catsits until late June while we were in Norway. This was because despite us loving all the cats and catsits so much, it is also something that really interferes with our own travel plans. That is logical; the pet parents dictate the dates and places where housesitting help is needed, not us.

Since our first four THS catsits, we have become a lot more mindful of our applications. Jonas set up five ‘saved searches’ on THS without end dates for the following locations: the Channel Islands, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, South East Europe, and Finland + the Baltics. The first three are country-specific while the latter two are a map snapshot. That’s why with Finland + the Baltics, we still receive notifications for northern Germany despite us not being interested in going to Hamburg right now.

With these saved searches set up, we received only minimal notifications. That plus the fact that we’ve become masters at writing applications is also why the comparison of our success rate before reviews and after reviews should be taken with a grain of salt. Of these manageable notifications, we applied for three more catsits: one in Guernsey in the Channel Islands, another in Cyprus (South East Europe), and one in Estonia.

We immediately noticed with Guernsey that we were in the running for a lot longer; lots of pet parents reject easy-to-reject applicants in order to open up their spots for better candidates. There’s room for only five applicants with every sit to not swamp the pet parents with messages. In the end, the pet parents in Guernsey sent us a lovely rejection message saying they were looking for a female sitter since their cat is scared of (strange new) men. That’s very understandable, but also we would not have applied if their listing had mentioned they were only looking for solo female housesitters.

Guernsey was not meant to happen

The second application in Cyprus happened more than two weeks later. We already had a plan to go to Cyprus in autumn or winter anyway, so when we saw the dates it was perfect; Christmas and New Year’s. That’s our least favorite time to travel, so spending that time with a couple of cats seems wonderful.

We wrote a nice application for this housesitting gig and waited. In the evening, we received a message that the pet parents have seen our application and will take their time to look through all of them. Two days later, we received another message with further questions about our willingness to book flights to Cyprus, if their internet speed is good enough for us, and if we have driver’s licenses. We immediately replied and also suggested having a (video) call. A few minutes later, we received a reply with the question if we wanted to be their catsitters.

Wow, just like that! They sent out the housesitting confirmation request and we accepted. Jonas immediately created a WhatsApp group to stay in contact more easily. One hour after we got this sit, another one in Cyprus with overlapping dates popped up. As if all the people based there are planning their holidays at the same time.

And the latest, we applied for a catsit in Tallinn, Estonia. Since they were new to the platform, they didn’t see our application at first. Their first message to us was very positive, but we couldn’t do a call for more than a week because we went to Svalbard and were offline there. Despite the long wait, we had the call after our return to lower latitudes. During the call, they told us they had basically already chosen us based on our nice application and our reviews and asked us on the call if we were interested in the sit. We confirmed immediately and they sent the request shortly after the call.

In conclusion, we don’t have definitive proof that our THS reviews convinced Cyprus, but I’m fairly sure they read them. I don’t think they rejected applicants to open up new spots, so perhaps the competition just wasn’t that tough and they mostly had other people applying for the destination and the dates, not the pets. Still, the stats and one specific mention of our reviews so far say that with some positive THS reviews, we have one rejection and two acceptances, i.e. 67% of applications yield a positive result.

Lessons we’ve learned: Who gets a sitter, where are sits, and what’s the most important thing?

After spending so much time on THS looking for sits, communicating with people, and finally doing the catsits, we have learned quite some things. I’ll be focusing on the demographics, the locations, and the most important thing you can do to get a catsit via THS.

Who is looking for a housesitter?

Freiburg housesitting for an older cat dinner time

First of all, the common denominator of pet parents on THS is people who truly love their pets. They want what’s best for them and don’t just abandon them while they go on holiday. They want their pets to be loved, fed, entertained, groomed, and given medicine on the pet’s usual schedule. Beyond that, I’ve learned about four major categories of pet parents on THS:

It’s a platform that’s mostly popular in the United Kingdom. Probably because it’s been founded there and if you’ve been to the UK, you know there are oodles of dogs there. However, the UK was also the toughest place to get a sit as non-UK-based sitters. Not sure why. Perhaps Brexit? Anyway, all profiles state that they prefer a housesitter over putting their cat in a cattery—a very British term. And they prefer to get a free petsitter over a paid one even though there are many professional petsitters in the UK.

In other countries, the number of pet parents on THS is much lower. But the demographic is still that most of these users hail from the UK, now living abroad such as in Spain, France, or Cyprus. They often chose to move to a remote and quiet location with sunshine. Many are older retired couples who must have been referred to THS by fellow Brits and not by a TikTok video. Since they are foreigners in a foreign country themselves, they have no qualms about inviting a foreigner into their house to take care of their pets. Professional petsitters might also be hard to find locally despite living there for years and having a network.

Then the third category of THS pet parents is expats/immigrants of any nationality. They often don’t have a neighbor or friend who can come over to take care of their pets. Their community is often limited to fellow transplants who also work very hard and don’t have time to give love and attention to their pets. They know that moving to a foreign country for work can be very stressful for humans and pets alike. They want to not stress out their pet (again) by putting them in a pet boarding kennel. For many, their pets are their emotional support anchor and they are very, very attached to their furbabies. They’re looking for a sitter with lots of attention for the pets and want to receive (daily) photos.

The final THS pet parent type is anyone else who doesn’t fit in the categories above; locals who just couldn’t find a neighbor or family member to do it, former travelers who have done housesitting before themselves, people who have stumbled upon THS via social media, etc. Our first housesit in Freiburg was like that: the pet parents usually had neighbors to take care of the majestic Moritz, but those neighbors had to move. The neighbors have a family member who could come take care of Moritz, but only for half the duration of their vacation. That family member and her partner are on THS as housesitters and referred the pet parents to THS to find housesitters (Jonas and I) for the other half of their vacation.

Where are the majority of housesits?

In short: expensive (Anglophone) countries.

If you’re thinking “Well duh, only rich pet owners can afford to go on vacation and Anglophone countries tend to be rich”, I don’t think it’s that simple. People still try to find someone offline most of the time from inside their own community. If that doesn’t work, people go to platforms like THS.

If we take out the UK – which is an expensive Anglophone country but also skews the data – the next one is the USA, followed by Australia. There are also many open sits in Canada and New Zealand.

But if we take out the Anglophone countries, we’re still left with mostly expensive countries: Switzerland, Norway, the UAE, sporadically in Japan, Taiwan, Iceland, and South Korea. The silence in Latin America, Southeast Asia (excluding Singapore), Africa (excluding South Africa), Central Asia, South Asia, and the MENA region (excluding the UAE) is deafening.

It makes sense that there are many housesits in expensive countries because that means that pet hotels and paid housesitters are often expensive as well. Having to pay for pet boarding in addition to your vacation can rack up costs significantly. But the THS exchange doesn’t only make sense as a cost-saving method for pet parents; accommodation for travelers is also expensive in expensive countries. Traveling housesitters such as us might not have considered going to Norway or Switzerland if we had to pay 100% of accommodation ourselves. It saves us hundreds of € per night in Switzerland, but only tens of € per night in Portugal.

Most housesits are in expensive countries

Then there’s the factor of urban versus rural housesits. There is not much of a pattern here, as there are many housesits that are very rural and then also many that are very urban. Sometimes, it’s hard to judge whether it’s one or the other as people input a city like Rome, but actually, it’s somewhere in the suburbs or a satellite town.

Urban sits get taken much quicker than rural ones, which makes sense; it’s easier to travel to a big city than to the countryside, more people search for sits in popular cities and towns around the world, and more housesitters have experience with city-friendly pets such as indoor cats and dogs rather than rural pets such as horses and sheep.

The few times we tried to apply for a catsit in Amsterdam, it was gone within two minutes. Amsterdam is notorious for being very expensive accommodation-wise. Meanwhile, some sits we’ve applied to in rural France can take days to reach its five-sitter capacity.

The only exception to this urban vs rural rule seems to be Iceland; no matter where it is in Iceland, far away from the capital in bumfuck nowhere, any petsit in Iceland will be gone in under one minute.

What is the one thing I should do to get a housesitting gig?

Be fast and clear in your communication. It’s that simple.

People with pets who want to go abroad have the stressful dilemma between booking their holiday or finding a petsitter first. It’s very stressful to be looking at airfare prices going up and the days counting down to your holidays while you’re not sure yet if anyone is coming to take care of your elderly cat. Being that person who can quickly reply that you’re willing to come over and commit to the dates makes you stand out over the ones that dilly-dally.

We’ve had it before that a pet parent chose us as their sitters despite our lack of reviews because their first choice stopped responding to messages. So don’t be that person. Also, take the communication off THS and onto something more reliable for both parties as soon as the sit is confirmed via THS; sometimes Jonas and I got logged out of THS on our phones and we’d not get notifications.

Once you have the sit confirmed, periodically check in with the pet parents at any major decision-making moment. Message them before you book your plane/train ticket to their sit. Ask them what time they are expecting you at their home to meet the pet and learn the pet’s routine. This all shows you’re committed to the task.

Is Housesitting Right for You?

Why do housesitting while traveling?

Look, just because housesitting equals free accommodation doesn’t mean it makes sense to search for housesitting opportunities. First of all, you’re signing up for a host of responsibilities you must execute. You must not only love pets and/or plants but also know how to take care of them or be willing to learn it from the host. It’s not like you’re staying in an Airbnb for free. You’re providing a service.

Just like hitchhiking, housesitting makes a lot of sense in wealthier countries where people are easy to trust one another.

Combining housesitting with a digital nomad lifestyle

Housesitting can be an excellent way for digital nomads to spend time in a country that is normally out of their financial reach. We went on sits in Switzerland and Norway this year. If you’re working from your accommodation, it can also be a great selling point that you’ll be able to spend a lot of time at home with the animals in your care.

As an additional bonus, many people have nice home offices with comfy chairs and monitors these days, which definitely beat 99% of all Airbnb “workspaces” with their tiny tables and hard kitchen chairs.

Just be aware that you’ll not always be able to secure a sit at your desired location. But if you love animals, housesitting can be a great additional tool for your digital nomad lifestyle.

housesitting catsitting home office digital nomad cat the Netherlands

Home office with stand-up desk and all the bells and whistles during one of our sits.

The way to your first confirmed sit on Trusted Housesitters

Creating your account and choosing a membership plan

Click on this link to get 25% off your membership for the first year (check out my secret tips to get it even cheaper). You can choose between a Basic, Standard, and Premium membership. I don’t recommend the Basic membership, because you won’t be able to get push notifications for new relevant sits. The Premium membership might give you a small edge because of the badge in the profile, but you should only go for this if the higher price doesn’t make much of a difference for you.

The range of trusted housesitters plans when using my promo link

Don’t be too dazzled by the various insurances; they all have pretty tough conditions and it’s quite unlikely that you’ll ever use them. For most people, the Standard membership is the way to go.

Making your profile shine

In order to be considered for sits, your profile has to stand out from the other sitters’ profiles. Pet parents want to get to know you before putting their beloved family members in your care. This starts with pictures. You can upload up to 12 pictures and you should use all of them. Some pictures should show you interacting with animals, others can show you doing your favorite thing.

Next, you have various text sections, where you can talk about yourself, your motivation, and your experience. Make sure to fill all these out in detail. If possible, don’t just claim to be a great, reliable, and caring person (everyone claims that), but talk about what you did in the past that shows what kind of person you are. Rescuing animals, volunteering in a shelter, that kind of thing. And of course, mention any housesitting you did before.

Also, don’t be afraid to niche down. If you’re mostly into cats (like us) you can totally make your entire profile about cats and only apply to cat sits. This can help you stand out against generic sitters.

Your profile also has some more standard fields like your profession and an identity check. Trusted Housesitters will guide you through this. Just make sure to fill everything out.

Setting up your THS profile

THS will guide you through the steps

You can also link your Airbnb- and LinkedIn profiles, which is a good thing to do if you have these. They show that you’re a real person. Your Airbnb reviews can additionally show that you are leaving places clean and tidy.

The importance of (external/internal) reviews

Reviews are the most important thing to get chosen as a sitter. While you obviously don’t have reviews yet, you can get external reviews from anyone. If you’ve ever taken care of a home (and ideally animals), you can send that person a special link where they can write a review for your profile. They don’t have to sign up for an account to do so. While these off-platform reviews are not as valuable as reviews from other THS members, external reviews are way better than a blank space.

If you don’t have any prior experience, you can also just ask people you know for a character reference or maybe former (Airbnb-)landlords who can confirm that you left their house clean. Anything is better than having absolutely zero real people vouch for you.

Find your first potential sit

While you wait for your external reviews to come in, you can set up a search for potentially interesting sits. Install the Trusted Housesitters app (Google Play + Apple Store) on your phone, log in, and set up your search. It’s important that you set up your search in the app; you’ll receive push notifications the moment a new sit gets published. Every sit is only open for 5 applicants before it gets automatically closed. Without setting up notifications, the most interesting sits will already be gone by the time you learn about them. You will only receive notifications for searches you set up with your phone. You can filter by location, animals, dates, etc. I would recommend to keep your criteria relatively wide. Once you’re happy, make sure to save the search, to get the notifications for new sits.

It’s also a good idea to already prepare a template for applications. It would be a lot of work to write every application from scratch, but you should also not just send the same application to everyone. Having a template that you can customize is a good middle way. Make sure to use the name(s) of the pet(s) and the pet parent(s) in your application template. Talk about how you will take great care of the animal(s) and the home and how you will keep the parent(s) updated. It’s also nice to already suggest a video call.

Lean back and keep an eye on your phone for new sit notifications.

Your first application

If you get a notification about a new sit, check it out immediately. Only 5 people can apply to a sit before it’s closed and popular sits can be gone within minutes. Use your application template as a base, put in the names, and expand your application based on details in the listing if possible. Show the pet parent that you actually read their listing and that you care. Send your application and wait for a reply.

From application to confirmed sit

Don’t be disappointed if your first few applications just get denied without even a message. You’re new to the platform and most people prefer sitters that already have reviews. If you’re having a hard time, try to apply to shorter sits outside of popular cities. The competition tends to be less tough on these.

If a pet parent is considering you as a sitter, they will usually ask for a video call to get to know each other. Make sure to answer immediately to their message and be available for a call as soon as possible. Some pet parents will simply go with the sitter that is the fastest to set up a call. How you respond to these messages is the first impression of how reliable you will be as a sitter. If you agree on a time, take into account if the pet parent is in a different time zone from you.

Just before the call, you should re-read the entire listing. You should be able to use the pets’ names without having to look them up. It’s also a good idea to already note a few questions you might have about the sit. Some good standard questions are how well the animals react to new people and how regularly the parents want photo updates. You should also ask when they want you to arrive and leave. Some pet parents like it if you arrive a day before they leave. The dates they put in their listing might or might not include this day of overlap.

Try to make sure you’ll not be disturbed during your call and test your camera, microphone, and internet connection beforehand. Test if your face is visible. Join the call at the agreed time.

The atmosphere in these calls is usually very positive and the purpose is just to get to know the person behind the profile. While the pet parent already knows a lot about you, it never hurts to introduce yourself again. Don’t assume that they remember everything from your profile. They’ll usually do the same. Ask all the questions you have. Another nice thing to do is ask if you can see the animals.

During the call, you should also confirm the exact dates of your arrival and departure. Many people like it if you already arrive at their home the day before they leave, so you have enough time for the handover. It can be a lot of information to process, so if the home has enough space for overnight guests this is generally a good idea. Some homeowners will put this extra day already in their listings while others won’t so make sure you all agree on the exact dates.

Most of the time, the pet parent will not make a decision on the spot but will let you know within a few days if you got the sit. Keep in mind, that this is also a time for you, to re-think if you really want to do this sit. If you got weird vibes from the pet parent, it’s still totally okay for you to back out at this point.

If you are chosen, the pet parent will send you a message and an official invite via Trusted Housesitters. You still have to confirm this invite and then your first housesit is official!

Arriving at your temporary home

In the weeks leading up to the sit, it makes sense to contact the pet parent every now and then. This way, both parties can be reassured that the sit is still happening. Especially when you’re about to make commitments like booking transport tickets or accommodation before or after the sit, you can drop the pet parent a quick message if they see any reason to still hold back on this.

A few days before the sit, you should double-check at what time the pet parent needs you to arrive. It’s great if you can be flexible on this. Keep in mind that the pet parent is likely under a bit of stress while packing and preparing for their trip. Having someone hang out in their house for too long at the same time can add to this stress. But having to explain the sitter everything within 5 minutes before leaving can be stressful as well.

On the day of arrival, it’s nice if you keep the pet parent updated that you’re on the way. Many people are anxious that you might not come or arrive too late and they can’t go on their trip. Try everything in your power to arrive on time and immediately notify the pet parent of any delays.

On arrival, you’ll usually get a house tour, meet the pets, and learn everything you need to know about your duties as a sitter. There can be quite a lot of information in a short time, so don’t hesitate to note things down, take photos, etc. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if anything is unclear. This is also a prime time to bond with the pets. Many of them will be more confident while their parents are still around. And the pet parent will obviously appreciate your interest in their babies.

Eventually, the pet parent will leave and the actual sit starts.

Settling into your sit

Morning cuddles while catsitting housesitting look of love

I recommend taking photos or videos of the setup of the home after the pet parent left. This will be helpful at the end of the sit when you might not be sure how certain things were set up or if you’re wondering if any damage or dirt was your doing or not. It also gives you proof in the unlikely event that you’re blamed for any damage you didn’t do.

It’s generally okay to move furniture around a bit, but you should make sure to put it all back the way it was before leaving. This also includes kitchen items. You might find it not intuitive where the homeowners put their spices and you can totally use your own system, but try to remember (with the help of your photos) their original place and put them back when you leave. It can be very frustrating for the homeowner not being able to find stuff in their own home.

We like to keep a checklist during the sit, where we add everything we should not forget when it’s time to leave. This also includes not forgetting our own stuff that is easy to miss like a Chromecast in the TV or a charger in an obscure location.

Most pet parents love to receive updates and pictures from their pets, so we try to send them daily. You can usually gauge from their response how much they appreciate this and can adjust the frequency accordingly.

At pretty much all of our sits, small mishaps happened. We broke a key chain or noticed some scratches on the kitchen counter that might or might not be our fault. Whenever something happened, we would immediately snap a quick picture and send it to the pet parents. In 100% of cases, they told us to not worry about it. It’s not comfortable, but it’s better to not wait with this until the end of the sit or you might end up with a seemingly long list of things you broke. And definitely don’t stay silent about it; people know their homes and will feel like you broke the trust they placed in you. That’s how you end up with a negative review.

The same applies if you notice anything about the pets. Just let the pet parents know early and most of the time they will tell you that it’s all good and that you don’t need to worry. We were initially a bit concerned about ‘ruining’ people’s holidays, but we had the impression that it was rather reassuring for them to see that we’re immediately letting them know if anything is wrong.

Wrapping up and leaving a sit

Geneva catsit staycation goodbye pets

Make sure to be on the same line with the pet parents when exactly you are leaving the house. Sometimes you’ll still meet them for a handover in person and sometimes you might already leave a few hours before they’re back. Or you might even stay another night if they’re coming back in the evening.

It’s generally expected that you return the home as clean and tidy as you received it. Sanitize all surfaces, especially in the kitchen and bathroom, vacuum and mop the floors, and put clean sheets on the bed. If there is enough time, you should also wash your bed sheets. Make sure that the pets are happy and all their needs are met. Use your checklist to put everything back the way it was.

If you’re leaving before the pet parents are back, put the keys at the agreed place and ask them to send you a message when they’ve arrived.

From the day after the sit, you’ll be able to leave a review on Trusted Housesitters. It’s a good idea to do this as soon as possible before the memories fade. The pet parents will also write you a review, usually unprompted.

Congratulations! With your first real review, you’re now an actual trusted housesitter and will have it easier to secure your next sit.

Our Secret Tips for Trusted Housesitters

While using Trusted Housesitters, we’ve found some nifty tricks to get the most out of the platform. These tricks include reducing the membership fee by 40-70% and always getting in your application on time.

Sign up for my newsletter to receive the secret tips.

Want to know how I handle your information? Read more in my Privacy Policy (it's boring).

0. Use my promo link

This one is easy. Use my promo link to get your first year of membership with a 25% discount.

1. Change the currency

When signing up for your membership, you can choose the currency. The prices are quite different depending on the currency. When paying in EUR, you pay EUR 111.75 for the standard membership. When paying in Australian Dollars (AUD), you pay AUD 111.75, which is just about EUR 68 at the time of writing. Another good choice is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD), where you pay NZD 134.25, which is about EUR 75.

The cheapest currency is the Argentinian Peso (ARS), where ARS 12750 will just set you back EUR 43 at the time of writing. But be aware that the value of the Argentinian Peso is very volatile and Trusted Housesitters is changing the prices for this currency a lot. You can’t change the currency when renewing the membership, so I rather recommend going with one of the more stable currencies above.

All these prices are the 25% off promo prices when using my promo link.

Make sure to Google the current exchange rate before signing up in a different currency and check that your bank doesn’t charge you an additional fee.

Trusted Housesitters monthly or yearly plans for housesitting

2. Threaten to cancel auto-renewal

Your membership automatically renews after one year. When you try to deactivate auto-renewal, Trusted Housesitters will offer you a 20% discount on the renewal if you keep it active. Accept this offer and enjoy your cheaper membership fee in your second year.

3. Write your application in peace without worrying about being too late

Every listing on Trusted Housesitters is only open for 5 applications. That means that popular sits can be gone within a few minutes. Not really enough time to read the entire listing and write a good application. But there is a way to take all the time you need.

If you see a listing that might be interesting, immediately tap on “Apply Now”. Once you’re in the application form, your spot is secured without having committed to anything. You can then tap on “View listing” to read the listing in peace and decide if you really want to apply. If yes, the back button brings you back to your application form.

This works both in the app and in the browser. Just make sure to not tap anything else in the app (or close the tab with the application in the browser), or you might lose your spot.

4. (Bonus) Send me your profile for feedback

For people who signed up via my promo link, I’m offering free feedback on their profiles. Just send me a message with your profile link via my contact form.

Please understand that this offer is only for people who used my link and I might remove the offer if it’s getting too much work. So it’s best to sign up and send me your profile today.

Cat Petting Preference Chart

As a tool to stand out from other catsitters, we created a digital Cat Petting Chart™ based on a popular cat group meme. We sent it to several pet parents for a prospective sit, often with a great response. But it’s also a useful tool since it shows us before the sit starts where a cat likes to be petted and which areas should be avoided. And yes, they all have their unique preferences!

Here’s a fictional cat Zucchini, named after our kayak, which was named after a real kitten. Feel free to use this tool for your own catsitting gigs!

CatPettingPreferenceChart cat petting preference chart Zucchini housesitting

Housesitting Resources + Alternatives to THS

Our housesitting recommendation

TrustedHousesitters™ (THS)—this is the platform we use. If you want to join, feel free to use our referral link to receive 25% off your Trusted Housesitters membership! If you sign up via this link, Jonas and I (might) receive two months of free membership for THS.

Facebook housesitting groups

Facebook groups

Note, I’ve never personally used these Facebook groups to find a catsit. There are risks involved with finding housesitting opportunities via Facebook since people can cancel on you last minute and there is no insurance coverage. They also have entry questions before you can join the group that aren’t really digital nomad-friendly, such as “Where do you live?”. And lastly, not all groups are of great quality since some are open groups full of spammers.

Other housesitting platforms

Other platforms

Note: we don’t have petsitting experience via these platforms. If you have experience with them, please comment below with your stories!

Cat in a Flat—free to join (for now). Available in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. You cannot search across countries and have to choose a country first before you’re shown any potential catsits. Also, it has a weird radius based on your home address, which seems weirdly not usable for digital nomads. So far I recommend using the website, but not the app since the latter is very buggy. It seems that the standard on this site is to charge pet parents for your petsitting services.

Housesitting Poland—a Polish-speaking platform that’s currently just a Facebook group named Housesitting i Houseswapping Polska. Free of charge.

Mind my House—a smaller platform that costs housesitters US$29 per year. They say it’s a global platform. From the housesitting perspective, they focus a lot on not paying for accommodation/cheap travel to lure us in. I think the focus should be the pets.

HouseSit Match—a website with fees for housesitters and homeowners alike. Housesitters pay £69 or £89 per year. The currency implies that you’ll mostly find UK-based petsits here.

PetBacker—available in 50 countries. It seems that homeowners pay for housesitting services. They also have an app.

Did I miss a housesitting platform you love? Comment below!

Am I missing a website or a Facebook group that you’ve used successfully to get a housesitting opportunity? Please comment below with a link so I can add it here!

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2 thoughts on “Why We Started Catsitting + How to Start Housesitting to Travel

  1. Hi. A question about cat sitting on THS – can you indicate in your profile that you prefer cats only? I’ve been considering joining THS and would also only want to cat sit (just not a dog person), and wasn’t sure if you can say that you want to sit cats only, or if that would look strange in your THS profile.

    • Not weird at all! Just put lots of pictures with you and only cats in your profile and write your bio and experiences only about cats (even if you’ve taken care of dogs before). But the main thing is to set up your notifications well. Because it (almost) never happens that a pet parent invites a catsitter over, but you as a catsitter have to apply. We set up our notifications only for cats, small pets (such as rabbits), and chickens, and then also a geographical filter for where in the world we want to go for those dates

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