Australia’s pet owners have embraced a global trend for professional pet sitting, preferring to let their furry friends relax in the comfort of their own homes while they travel or work says Melbourne’s largest pet sitting and dog walking network.
According to Justin Cofield, Director of Melbourne-based Lonely Pets Club, the trend to have animals ‘pet sat’ by qualified carers has been booming in America and the United Kingdom for the past 15 years; the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that the number of ‘animal caretakers’ (a category that includes pet walkers and pet sitters) would increase 38 percent between 1990 and 2005.
Justin says it was only a matter of time before Australian animals enjoyed the benefits of pet sitting, too, noting that the reason it’s been embraced Down Under is simple.
“Pets are part of the family and we love them like part of the family,” Justin says. “You’d hire a baby sitter to look after your child at home, why not extend the same level of care to your pet?”
In fact, 91 per cent of pet owners in Australia report feeling 'very close' to their pet, reinforcing that dogs, cats, rabbits, birds and co. are integral members of the family unit. Australia has one of the highest incidences of pet ownership in the world at 64 per cent, with Melburnians alone owning 574,754 dogs and cats.
“Until now, there weren’t many options for pet owners who went travelling, for pleasure or for work; they either felt guilty passing the responsibility on to a family member, friend or neighbour, or felt just as guilty sending them to a kennel or cattery,” Justin says. “People often cannot take their pets with them when they travel; now they can just leave them in the comfort and familiarity of their own home.”
According to a recent Lonely Pets Club survey, the main reason pet owners use a pet sitting service is because they believe their animals are happier at home: 98 per cent cite this to be ‘very important’ or ‘important’.
According to Justin, other benefits to having animals pet sat include: not having to transport them to and from a boarding establishment; pets are less at risk from contagious diseases and parasites, which can be picked up at kennels and catteries; and pets experience less stress by staying in their own familiar environment than by boarding. Owners can also stop feeling guilty.
To highlight the pet sitting boom, between December 2004 and January 2005, Lonely Pets Club looked after 891 pets and made an incredible 4,201 individual visits to clients' homes in Victoria. This more than doubled the previous year’s figures over the same period.
Pet Sitters International, an educational association for professional pet sitters, has nearly 6,000 members across America, Canada and countries including Australia. At Lonely Pets Club, carers can also collect mail, tend rubbish bins and water plants as required.
Lonely Pets Club’s screening process for new staff consists of police and reference checking and a two-stage interview process. Lonely Pets Club prides itself on employing only happy, honest, reliable, pet loving people. Clients also get to meet their carer prior to a pet sitting job commencing.
While its head office is in inner-city Brunswick, Lonely Pets Club is the only pet sitting company servicing the whole of Melbourne.