Instead of sending pets to hotels or pet care centers, many owners hire pet sitters so that the animals can stay in their beloved home.
Elaine, who works as an elementary teacher in an international school in Ho Chi Minh City, wanted a pet sitter for her dog after failing to get the canine to pet care centers.
“I have a Vietnamese rescue dog who is shy and nervous. She is an older dog and seems to have had a hard life on the street once separated from her owner,” she told Tuoi Tre News.
“I did try a shared space but Bi didn’t want to interact with other dogs and prefers time with humans. She was also anxious when she came back in the evening.
“Getting the dog to pet care was hard due to working hours. So, I prefer the care of a more personal service.”
In Ireland, Elaine’s family dog also uses a private sitter if the family is all away at the same time.
Thanks to recommendations from friends and colleagues, Elaine was able to find a pet sitter who has taken care of her dog in Ho Chi Minh City for the past three years.
“She walks my dog and plays with her Monday to Friday and stays to pet-sit during school holidays short and long,” she said, praising the pet sitter for her knowledge and love of animals, as well as professional procedures.
Meanwhile, Amanda Cornelissen, an Australian who lives in Ho Chi Minh City, also needs someone to take care of her four pet cats as she frequently travels.
“Cats do not like changes in where they live, they prefer to stay in their own home environment otherwise they can become very stressed being in an unfamiliar place,” Cornelissen explained why she wanted a pet sitter in her home.
“There are a lot of pet centers in Ho Chi Minh City, it's hard to know the level of care and one-on-one attention given to your pet.”
When Cornelissen is not home, the pet sitter offers twice-daily visits or sometimes overnight stays depending on her schedule.
“She is very professional and reliable and communicates well,” Cornelissen said.
“I believe that she genuinely loves my cats and gives them lots of love and attention when we are away.
“I really like the fact that there are regular updates and videos of our pets, which allows us to be able to relax fully when we are traveling.”
What makes a pet sitter?
Mai Dung, 27, the sitter who takes care of Bi and Cornelissen’s cats, has years of experience in the job and also runs a team of pet sitters who normally look after pets around District 1, 3, 2 and 7.
Many of her customers do not prefer pet hotels, Dung said, because of the risk of stress and diseases their animals may be exposed to.
Being able to stay at home comforts them; however, owners must accept having strangers in their house.
Therefore, according to Dung, besides love for animals and thoroughness, pet sitters need to be honest.
"The cost for pet sitting service at home is not high but not low either. However, if the customer is away from home for a long time, about two months for example, the amount of money they have to spend is hefty,” Dung said.
“If they pay that much for a pet, it means they expect me to take care of that animal as if I were taking care of their children.”
Currently, Dung's service fee starts from VND150,000 for each pet visit which lasts from 45 minutes to one hour. ((US$1 = VND24,572)
|A photo provided by Mai Dung shows her and a dog she pet-sits.|
For those who want a pet sitter to stay overnight to look after their animal while they are away for a long time, the fee starts from VND300,000 per night.
Before accepting a pet sitting order, Dung will work with the owner on a list of requirements and safety factors, including time spent with the pet, vaccination status, to name a few.
She will also request a meeting with the pet first to see if she and her team can take care of the animal.
A rising market
It all started nearly four years ago when an American friend of Dung's, who is a veterinarian, wanted to travel but did not know what to do with her cat.
She asked Dung to help take care of the feline and offered a much higher salary than what he was earning from his part-time job at a restaurant then.
After succeeding with the first order, Dung and her service have been widely known among the expat community thanks to word of mouth.
About 75 percent of Dung’s customers now are foreigners, with the rest being Vietnamese.
According to Dung, pet sitting provides a good but not stable income.
There are days with no customers, but there are also months of working 10-12 hours a day, especially during Christmas or Lunar New Year, when foreigners tend to travel.
Occasionally, Dung encountered some 'accidents' such as customers being dishonest about the dog or cat's condition to reduce care costs, being blamed for losing their pet, or being mistaken as housekeepers.
During the past years, the pet sitting market in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi has become increasingly vibrant.
Not only young Vietnamese people are interested in this job, some foreigners in Vietnam also take it up when they have free time or when they do not have a full-time job.
"This job is often considered easy, but it's actually not,” said Q.N., a pet sitter in Ho Chi Minh City.
“I need to make the dogs and cats feel comfortable as well as let the owners know how good their pets are being cared for.”