Caring for Animals: Property Caretaking, Housesitting, and Pet Sitting

Caring for animals can be a fun job for RVers. Many housesitting jobs aren’t truly house sitting. They are babysitting pets or caring for farm animals on the property. These positions usually don’t take up a lot of time, but they do require a commitment.

Taking Care of Other People's Animals

Over the years I’ve taken care of numerous animals. They've including horses, goats, rabbits, sheep, pigs, dogs, cats, chickens, fish, ducks, a litter of puppies, and bottle lambs.

The kind of animals, the number of animals, and their ages dictate the amount of time needed each day to care for them. But, usually, when tending others' animals it gives me most of the day free for other pursuits. 

Here are some important things I’ve learned from my experiences.

Animal caretaking chickens are eatingThese chickens are happily eating scratch we fed them while caretaking.

You should be comfortable with the animal you are tending. Animals can sense if you’re afraid and react differently towards you. If you aren’t at ease with the animal, maybe you shouldn’t be responsible for it.

Know what food, how much, and when to feed the animal. Varying an animal’s diet can be detrimental and cause a wide array of problems. So can too many treats. Animals need clean and plentiful water.

Watch for changes or anything unusual. Animals can’t say, “I’ve got a belly ache.” You, as the caregiver, must see it.

Keep things clean. A horse in a pasture has different sanitation requirements than a horse in a stall. A dog in a kennel is different than a dog in a yard. A house cat is different from a barn cat. A clean environment is a healthy environment.

Know who to contact in case of an injury or illness. Who is the animal's veterinarian? Get a release form signed by the owner that allows you to get medical care for the animal.

Pot bellied pig we cared for while RVing.It looks like this pot bellied pig is taking Bob for a walk. Caretaking pets isn't always dogs and cats!

Be financially prepared for an emergency. The animal's owner can make advance arrangements with the vet. Or, the owner can leave money left with you to use in the case of an emergency. You may agree to pay for emergency medical care, with the promise of being paid back; if that's the case, be sure to know how much money the owner is willing to spend. The financial aspects will be handles should be clear before there's an incident.

Attention and exercise are more important to some animals than others. Some dogs need regular walks. If you can’t, or don’t, give them their exercise, they become rambunctious, loud, and look for other distractions. Many times, this can be chewing and destructive behavior. Some dogs just need some attention.

Learn all you can about the needs of the animal you are caring for beforehand. But, watch and learn as you care for it to really know what it wants. Some cats thrive on attention, while some shun it -- unless they feel like it. The animal’s owner may tell you the animal doesn’t need much attention, not realizing they pet and scratch it several times a day without thinking about it.

Caring for a litter of puppies.Petsitting sometimes is caring for an entire litter of puppies. There are six in this batch, and their mama.

A consistent routine helps let the animal know what to expect. If they know and expect to be fed and walked morning and evening, they are less likely to misbehave during the day. (A consistent routine works for most children, also.)

Taking care of animals is often enjoyable. They could be cows, pigs, horses, donkeys, goats, chickens, or any number of other farm animals. Or, they may be an aquarium full of fish, a dog, cat, rabbit, or other family pet.

We’ve enjoyed property caretaking and housesitting over the years. They've provided us wonderful places to stay while RVing, as well as food, numerous amenities, and pay. Many of them involved pet sitting and other animal chores. We’ve always enjoyed the animals we’ve cared for, and we’ve met some lifelong friends.


Coleen, the Workers On Wheels editor, comments: My husband, Bob Nilles, wrote this article about caring for other people's animals while RVing. He is right that it is a fun job -- and one that involves a lot of responsibility.

More property caretaking articles for RVers.

More articles about working with animals.

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