Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The PetsitUSA Blog

The PetsitUSA Blog

Pet sitter interview: Cindy Nevarez of Creature Feature Pet Sitting

Posted: 11 May 2010 12:47 PM PDT

Mesa pet sitter, mes pet sitting Cindy Nevarez is the owner of Creature Feature Pet Sitting in Mesa Arizona. She has been caring for animals all her life and opened her first pet sitting business in 1992. Her company cares for dogs, cats, parrots, reptiles, caged pets, aquariums, elderly or special needs, live-stock and horses.

What prompted you to start a pet sitting business?

I’ve had an affinity with animals since I was old enough to walk…everyone in my family noticed it. I figured it out myself when I captured a Wood-house Toad in Wisconsin when I was 8, and kept him for a summer catching flies for him everyday. I grew him to 3X his original size before I let him go at the end of that summer so he could go and hibernate.  In the 80s people I didn’t know began calling me and asking me for animal-related advice. In 1992 I started my first pet sitting business in California. I always felt that if I could help people get on the right path with their relationships with their animals that more animals would live longer, and less would end up in shelters. I figured having a business related to my knowledge wasn’t a bad idea.

What do you find most challenging about operating a pet sitting business?

I find that there is often a misconception by the general public about what pet sitters do, compared to the actual level of service we provide. A lot of the time, we get people who just don't understand that taking care of people's pets is our job . . . not something we do for “spending money.” Another thing that is challenging is getting new clients, or even some old clients to understand why we have the policies we have. We don't write these policies to annoy our clients, we write them to keep their homes and pets safe. I think that before a client decides to side-step or contest a policy, they really need to put themselves in their pet sitter's shoes and ask why it is they have these policies in the first place.

What do you think a pet owner should look for when they’re looking for a potential pet sitter?

Policies! Don't be put off when you are looking for a pet sitter and you find one with a contract five pages long. That usually means that this pet sitter has thought through important information that (s)he needs to know in order to do their job well. Also, are they Pet CPR/1st Aid certified? This is very important for just general knowledge of your pet's body. For example, if a pet is acting strangely: we need to know what is going on . . . the first things we do are check the color of the gums, check to see if they're dehydrated, look at their stools if possible, and feel around the belly to see if the pet is bloated. We learn these important basics in Pet CPR/1st Aid classes. Also, many pet sitters work alone, and don’t have anyone to partner with, or give them back-up when an emergency arises preventing them from going to their sits. This is something that is imperative for pet sitters to have in place. Many potential clients always ask the usual about being licensed/bonded (there is no pet sitters’ license, by the way), but never ask anything about these important issues.

How do you screen your potential clients to make sure you’re a good match for each other?

I always have a moderately lengthy initial phone conversation with a potential client IF they are one who is not just price shopping . . . that price-shopping client will call back for their own reasons when they are ready. For the serious clients I let them ask the questions they need to ask. Then I ask about their animals. Usually something will arise in that course of conversation allowing me to add a suggestion, a bit of helpful information, or just acknowledge a problem they are having. This almost always opens the door for more informal conversation. By this point I will know if the customer is A-list CFPS potential client. In the cases where a match is not possible, I am usually the one to tell them that before they say it to me.

A lot of people who want to start a pet sitting business think it’s going to be a fun, easy way to make a living. What would you say to people with this mindset?

Sometimes it's not fun, and a lot of the time it's not easy. Depending on your area and how you advertise yourself it may be awhile before you even make enough to live on as well. Are you good with managing your time? Can you handle working nights and weekends all the time?  How about holidays . . . is it important for you to go to your mother’s house for the two holiday weeks in December in another state every year? If so, don’t become a pet sitter because you will be working those two weeks every year . . . even if you are a mediocre pet sitter! And sometimes those two weeks are the best money you’ll make all year! Can you stay level headed in an emergency? What if you make a mistake, what would you do? Can you say no, and stick to your policies? How much animal experience do you have, really? This business is not just about scooping poop and feeding the dog. You need to be able tell any potential client that no matter what happens (even when one of their animals dies) you can handle it in a way that is professional, with the client's needs first, and that their pet(s) will be safe. If you can't believe that 100%, then you need to get more business and pet related experience under your belt. The three biggest mistakes we see in this business are (1) Beginning pet sitters underestimate how much time management they will have to do, (2) overestimate how much pet (and emergency) experience they really have, and (3) they are unable to stick to the policies they set when people ask them to do things they don’t need to be doing. This always creates Burn-Out very fast. Plus, it’s a recipe for a bad pet sitting service.

What is the reward or pay-off for you from running a pet sitting service?

Well, it’s certainly not the money, as my husband tells us every tax season! We do of course enjoy working with everyone’s animals. Beyond this we have 100% control over our schedules, and don’t ever allow it to get overwhelmed, so in that sense we work when we want to. We do however get particular joy out of that client who upon first calling us potentially was the most anal, paranoid, nervous and scared person on the face of this planet. Later after the service this client gets on our Testimonials page, or on Yahoo Reviews and writes a glowing review about our service, and will usually say the most wonderful personal things about us!

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