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A Free Nights’ Stay – Seriously.

This app-based service provides free accommodations in exchange for pet care.

Whether it’s a short weekend trip or a weekslong getaway, the cost of a vacation for pet owners ticks even higher when factoring in the expense of a sitter or boarding. According to a newly released cost of cat and dog ownership report from Rover, known for its pet sitting app, a majority of pet owners are now motivated to book a pet friendly vacation to avoid costly boarding or sitters. While a number of hotels have begun opening their doors to fur babies, another option allows people to leave their pets at home without paying a dime for responsible pet care.


Trusted House Sitters is an app- and web-based platform that introduces those with pets to those with wanderlust. Through the membership-based program, prospective pet sitters looking to go somewhere new can browse hundreds of sit opportunities across some 130 countries. “It’s a unique lifestyle,” says Trusted House Sitters Community Manager Angela Laws. “There’s no money that changes hands.” 

That’s because in lieu of payment, the guest cares for the host’s cat, dog, horse, rabbit, or other pet – a nearly zoo-like variety – in exchange for a free place to stay. Stone villas in the Spanish countryside, bungalows on the San Diego coastline, and ranch properties with stunning mountain views are just a few of the types of homes listed on the app. Since its launch in 2010, Angela says more than 4 million stays have been booked through THS. That includes more than 200 bookings in over five continents by Angela, alone. “I traveled for six years without a home,” she says. “My husband and I just went from one home to the next. In L.A., we stayed at the home of a woman named Eileen and watched Stella. That was eight years ago.” In 2022, Eileen and her husband visited the United Kingdom, where Angela and her husband currently reside. “So, we got together. We’ll be friends for life.”

According to the new study from Rover, over 60 percent of pet parents choose pet friendly vacations in order to cut down on pet care costs. Taking a pet along on a trip can save money, but the tradeoff can be stress for the animal and limited freedom and flexibility for the pet owner. Alternatively, the cost of overnight care via traditional sitter or boarding is higher for dog owners than cat owners – averaging about $50 per day for dog owners. The average length of a stay on THS is 11 days – that’s about $550 in saved pet care expenses. Plus, the peace of mind with a verified sitter who has undergone a background check and has references to boot is priceless.

And it’s not just a value for the pet owner. Travelers looking to visit a new town and explore as a local get a free stay and a furry tour guide. For this writer, a holiday stay of four days at a 3- story home on Malibu beach presented remarkable morning walks with a labradoodle named Harley. Waking up to the sound of crashing waves and strolling across the sun-bathed sand with a playful pup in tow makes for a soothing start to the morning. AirBNBs on this same street cost $600+ per night. But a few walks, three daily feedings and nightly cuddles on the couch with this senior dog made the stay free of charge.

“This service fulfills my three passions: pets, people, and places,” says Angela. “It’s about keeping the animals safe and comfortable in their homes. Pet parents aren’t left in any doubt because they have consistent communication with their sitter and our sitters have access to a 24/7 veterinarian help line for triage information.” A review system operates like a combination of Rover and AirBNB, allowing the sitter to remark on the environment and the pet sitting experience. Likewise, pet owners can review the sitter on characteristics such as communication and attention to detail.

The service now has over 110,000 members; 60 percent are pet owners and 40 percent are travelers, though many of them act in both capacities. Various levels of membership enable additional support like lounge passes at the airport, sitter cancellation insurance, and sit cancellation insurance.

“At the end, the sitter is no longer a stranger – more like friend or, in some cases, family,” explains Angela. “A lot of our users do repeat visits. The community and relationships that are
built are lifelong.”

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