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Pet sitters are usually self-employed. They advertise in local papers and on billboards, set up schedules, make phone calls, and do all the grunt work required to run any small business. It's hard work, but it's also rewarding.

Although it might sound like fun going from house to house to check in on your favorite animals, pet sitting is not always glamorous. Pets get sick. They go to the bathroom on the floor. Sometimes dogs try to fight with other dogs when you take them for a walk. You might have to walk a dog in the middle of winter, in the freezing cold. Pets will lick you, get dirt on you, and shed their hair on you. If you don't like to get dirty, don't even think about pet sitting.

As a pet sitter you'll often spend time taking care of the pet owners’ houses as well as their pets. For instance, they might ask you to pick up their newspapers in the morning, retrieve their mail during the day, turn on their lights at night, and water their plants. They might even pay you to spend the night to make absolutely sure all of the pets as well as the home are safe and sound. If an owner is gone for a long time—a month or more is often the case—you might begin to feel like you actually live in his or her house.

As far as the actual pet sitting goes, you'll have to be good at following the owners' directions. Usually they'll leave you notes describing everything they want you to do, or you'll talk with them before they leave to go over all the details. You'll have a list of phone numbers you'll be expected to call in an emergency—the vet, friends and neighbors, family, even the plumber, electrician, or housekeeper. Typical duties might include feeding, watering, walking and exercising, cleaning cages and kitty litter boxes, and giving medications to animals that need them. You'll be a pet's companion while the owner is away. You'll be responsible for the pet from the moment the owner walks out the door to the moment he or she returns.

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