Elaine, an elementary school teacher in an international school in Ho Chi Minh City, was in need of a pet sitter for her dog after unsuccessful attempts to find pet care centers for her canine companion.

According to Elaine, her dog, a Vietnamese rescue, is shy and nervous. The older dog has had a tough life on the streets since being separated from her owner, Elaine told Tuoi Tre News.

Initially, Elaine tried a shared space for her dog, but the dog didn’t want to interact with other dogs and preferred spending time with humans instead. Additionally, the dog experienced anxiety when returning in the evenings.

Due to her working hours, it was difficult for Elaine to take her dog to pet care centers. Thus, she preferred a more personal and individualized pet care service.

In Ireland, when Elaine’s family goes away, they also rely on a private sitter for their family dog.

Thanks to recommendations from friends and colleagues, Elaine was able to find a pet sitter who has been taking care of her dog in Ho Chi Minh City for the past three years.

The pet sitter walks Elaine’s dog and plays with her from Monday to Friday. During school holidays, the pet sitter also stays overnight to look after the dog. Elaine praised the pet sitter for her knowledge, love of animals, and professionalism.

Amanda Cornelissen, an Australian living in Ho Chi Minh City, also requires a pet sitter for her four cats as she frequently travels.

Cornelissen explained that cats prefer to stay in their own home environment and do not like changes in where they live. Therefore, having a pet sitter in her home is essential to ensure her cats’ happiness and reduce their stress.

With many pet centers in Ho Chi Minh City, it can be challenging to determine the level of care and one-on-one attention that each pet receives.

When Cornelissen is away, the pet sitter visits her cats twice daily and sometimes stays overnight, depending on her schedule. Cornelissen appreciates the pet sitter’s professionalism, reliability, and regular updates and videos of her pets.

Qualities of a pet sitter

Mai Dung, the pet sitter who takes care of Elaine’s dog and Cornelissen’s cats, has years of experience in the job. She also manages a team of pet sitters who typically serve pets in District 1, 2, 3, and 7 of Ho Chi Minh City.

Many pet owners prefer pet sitters over pet hotels due to concerns about their animals’ stress levels and exposure to diseases in unfamiliar environments.

Although staying in their own homes provides comfort for the pets, owners must be willing to accept the presence of strangers in their houses.

Therefore, in addition to their love for animals and attention to detail, pet sitters need to be honest, according to Dung.

Dung explained that the cost of pet sitting services varies and can be significant, especially when owners are away for extended periods. If owners are willing to pay a substantial amount for pet care, they expect the sitter to care for their animals as if they were their own children.

Currently, Dung’s service fee starts at VND150,000 for each pet visit, lasting from 45 minutes to one hour. For overnight stays, the fee starts at VND300,000 per night. ((US$1 = VND24,572)

A photo provided by Mai Dung shows her and a dog she pet-sits.

Before accepting a pet sitting order, Dung collaborates with the owner to establish a list of requirements and safety measures. This includes the amount of time the sitter spends with the pet and the pet’s vaccination status, among other factors.

Dung also arranges a meeting with the pet beforehand to ensure that she and her team are capable of taking care of the animal.

A growing market

Almost four years ago, Dung’s American friend, who is a veterinarian, was planning to travel but didn’t know what to do with her cat. She asked Dung for help in taking care of the cat and offered a significantly higher salary compared to what Dung earned from his part-time job at a restaurant.

After successfully handling the first order, Dung and her pet sitting service gained popularity among the expat community through word of mouth.

About 75% of Dung’s customers are foreigners, with the remaining being Vietnamese.

According to Dung, pet sitting provides a decent but inconsistent income. Some days have no customers, while others require working 10-12 hours a day, especially during Christmas or Lunar New Year when foreigners tend to travel.

Occasionally, Dung has encountered challenges, such as customers being dishonest about their pet’s condition to save on care costs, being blamed for losing a pet, or being mistaken for a housekeeper.

In recent years, the pet sitting market in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi has grown significantly. It is not only young Vietnamese people who are interested in this job, but also some foreigners in Vietnam who undertake it during their free time or as a part-time occupation.

“Although this job is often considered easy, it is actually not,” said Q.N., a pet sitter in Ho Chi Minh City. “I need to ensure the dogs and cats feel comfortable and let the owners know that their pets are being well-cared for.”