What are the top options for pet care in Austin?
When exploring options for pet care when you travel, the top choices are sending your dog to a boarding kennel or hiring a pet sitter.
How do you know which option is best for your dog?
Lets examine the pros and cons of each...
Dog Boarding in Austin Pros:
Cost – the rate for basic care for one dog ranges from $25 per night to $80 depending on the boarding kennel. That said, most kennels require you to pay extra for longer play time, larger kennel space, walks, special food or supplements and medications.
Socialization – hanging with other dogs can be fun for your dog. This is a plus for highly social dogs, or dogs who prefer dog company over human company.
Vacation – some time away from home could be good. If you think about it, a boarding kennel is like summer camp or spring break for your dog – they’ll get a change of scenery for several days while you are on vacation.
Dog Boarding in Austin Cons:
Cost – unless your pet is a simple, anything-goes kind of dog, odds are you will be paying a lot of money for “extra care” such as particular food, adequate exercise breaks, large boarding room, walks, camera monitoring, etc. Kennels may seem reasonably priced at first glance, but when you really look at all of the needs of your pet, those service costs can quickly surpass the cost of a pet sitter.
Separation Anxiety – a chaotic kennel environment can exacerbate behavior issues or separation anxiety symptoms. Dogs will boycott food, feel stressed and act out which can lead to potential problems or illness.
Vaccinations – most boarding facilities require proof of current vaccinations and current flea/tick and heartworm treatments.
Onsite Staff – many kennels are not staffed by someone overnight. This is not ideal for pets who may be receiving medical care or who are used to sleeping near humans.
Kennel Cough and parasites – dogs are prone to illness and disease when confined for periods of time with other dogs, and possibly unsanitary conditions.
Risk of Injury – no matter how careful a facility is about behavior assessment or evaluations, the fact is dogs are pack animals that will try to establish dominance when in a group. This can lead to outbursts of aggression from minor scrapes and muscle strains to life threatening bites.
Feeding Schedule – most boarding kennels feed at specific times. This policy can be detrimental to dogs who are sensitive to changes in routine or who require supplements or other snacks outside of strict meal times.
So, what about a pet sitter?
Austin Dog Sitter Pros:
Personalized care – dogs (and cats) will be getting a lot more people interaction than they would in a kennel. A relationship is formed between pet and pet sitter which can ease separation anxiety, build trust and make it easy to monitor eating and bowel habits (and unusual animal behavior) more readily.
Price – a good pet sitter sets an all-inclusive price. That means if your pet gets special meals or treats a few times a day, it’s not an extra charge. A good pet sitter understands that these things are included in the overall rate and is a part of good dog care. Beware of pet sitters who want to nickel and dime – they are businesses foremost and not true animal caretakers. Pet sitting in households with multiple pets is often cheaper than using a boarding kennel.
No Place Like Home – allowing pets to stay in their home provides them with the familiar and comforting smells and surroundings they are accustomed to. Many older dogs prefer this type of familiar environment versus the rowdy summer camp feel of a boarding kennel.
House Care – a bonus of having a pet sitter is they will take your trash to/from the curb, collect your mail, shipments and newspapers, remove flyers & business cards from the front door (a tell-tale sign alerting others that you aren’t home), water foliage, rotate blinds/lights, and be a constant at your property.
Austin Dog Sitter Cons:
Illness or 24/7 Care – most pet sitters are not able to provide 24/7 care (yes, we have a life to attend to as well). We are also not medical professionals. If your dog has recently been ill or has a chronic serious illness, choosing a veterinarian boarding kennel that is staffed 24 hours to monitor your dog’s health, or hiring a Vet tech to pet sit for you might be a smarter choice.
Cost – pet sitters can get very expensive. In Austin, the cost is anywhere from $60 per night to $110 and beyond depending on how many pets you have. Typically, people with multiple dogs or cats benefit most from the use of a pet sitter. Services like Rover.com can be a good alternative to a professional pet sitter – but be sure to do a meet and greet and screen carefully!
Many pet sitters dismiss boarding kennels completely. I’ll admit that I used a boarding kennel for my late MinPin Jiminey Cricket years ago when I went away on a weekend ski trip. I carefully screened the kennel beforehand. It worked out fine (seemingly), but that was the only time I used a kennel. I think younger, healthy, non-aggressive, extroverted dogs do best in kennels, and even then I wouldn’t recommend using a kennel for longer than a week at the most, and ideally just for a weekend at a time.
Ultimately, you know what is best for your pets’ needs. Take time to make the right decision for yourself, your pet and your budget.
Have you had good or bad experiences with boarding kennels or pet sitters, or do you have an Austin boarding kennel you love or hate? Feel free to put your two-cents below in the comments.
Years ago I dated someone who worked at an insurance company. This was back when I was working in a corporate office and pet sitting was just a side hustle. When I told him that I stay in people’s homes with their pets, he immediately asked if I had ever been bitten by a dog. I told him that I had (only one bite at that point in time). He was emphatic when he explained that millions of dollars per year is spent on homeowner’s insurance claims for dog bites. He said it is one of their most frequent payouts.
(UPDATED March 2021: more reviews added below)
Original Post: April 2017
I have been reliving my earlier days as a pet sitter over the last few months because I am in the process of finishing a book about my pet sitting adventures, and well, my misadventures too. I’ve been doing a lot of cringing as I remember some of the “learning experiences” I had while pet sitting. It is interesting to look back and see how far I’ve come both personally and professionally over the last 15 years.
This week I decided to take the opportunity to compile all of the positive reviews I’ve received from clients both past and present. I felt like I needed to dig up some warm-fuzzies to remind myself of the reasons I am good at what I do! That said, nobody wants to read a boring book about how great of a pet sitter I am, so I figured I’d compile all the sweet sentiments I’ve received throughout the years in this post just to remind myself (and ya’ll) how I got on that tiny list and stayed there! (see photo above)
The comments below are clipped from past and present google, trusted housesitters, nextdoor, rover, and facebook. Enjoy!
Fantastic job! Yvonne updated us with great walks and photos. She took immaculate care of our four animals as well as home. We would love to have her again anytime. One of the best sitters we have had thus far. - Daniel A.
Custom Critter Sitters is amazing! We had to take a trip when our puppy was just 10 weeks and couldn't take him with us. Yvonne came and stayed at our house and took care of our pup and home while we were away. From the initial phone call, I got a great vibe from Yvonne and then during the meet-and-greet, I knew our pup would be in gentle, loving hands. She sent me pictures every day, and I'm pretty sure they played the whole time we were gone. I couldn't have asked for a better pet sitter! - Jocelyn E.
Yvonne was available to stay with my standard poodle, Georgia, at the last minute when we had other plans fall through. She even adjusted her work schedule to accommodate our plans as we had a very early flight and knew that Georgia would need a potty break fairly early in the day. Yvonne stayed in our home for the weekend and even took Georgia to her favorite dog park for an outing. We got photos and updates throughout the weekend, which was a relief, as this was our first time leaving her with anyone that wasn't family. I highly recommend Yvonne for dog sitting--she is responsible, responsive, and obviously has a way with animals. - April M.
Due to our hectic jobs and, at times, very long working hours, we needed a plan A, B, & C to make sure our pups were always taken care of and in the very best hands when we can't be there. We found Yvonne completely by happen-chance (random online search), and wow do we feel like we hit the jackpot!!!! We were nervous & skeptical at first, but Yvonne was 100% professional and offered full disclosure about her experience, etc from the start. She provided a list of diverse references (I contacted all of them and they all gave absolutely glowing reviews!), the meet and greet went great, and she went above and beyond from day one in understanding what our needs are and how to carry them out so everyone had a great experience (our dogs require critical meds, one has special physical needs, they both have multi-day walking requirements, both use food puzzles, and they're basically 2 spoiled dogs with a strong tendency towards diva-ness). And, most important, it was evident from day 1 that CoCo and Casper LOVE her! They gravitate towards her and I could tell they genuinely enjoy just being around her. We've used Yvonne multiple times now and her level of professionalism and the respect/care she shows our furbabes and our home is absolutely top notch. Yvonne has made us believers that in-home care is the right option for us, and we feel so incredibly thankful for her. If you're looking for someone in Austin, no need to look any further - Yvonne is amazing and we're so incredibly grateful she calls ATX home, too!!! - Antonetta A.
Yvonne has been a fantastic pet sitter and house sitter for us for the past several years. She always gives our many animals the love & care they deserve while we are on vacations or short trips. We have 2 mini-goats & 3 chickens (yes in the middle of the city), many fish, and 2 small dogs. She takes care of all of their various feeding routines, and makes sure they have fresh water (she even washes their bowls). She probably takes better care of our animals than we do, now that we are parents of real human children. The dogs cry for her when they hear her car pull up in our driveway. That's how often we use her and how much they love her. We highly recommend her & 100% trust her in our home. - Kellie T.
Trustworthy, accommodating & friendly to both us and our pets. Yvonne ran her own house/pet sitting service in her previous hometown of Albuquerque, and she is quite the pro, able to handle everything from our elderly (15) year old lab with medications, to our "middle aged" yet still a puppy at heart lab, to our 1.5 year old Shih-Tsu that's named Dumdum for a reason. You can relax and enjoy your trip with Yvonne keeping the livestock at home well cared for. - Evan P.
I am very satisfied with Yvonne's services. She was wonderful with my 2 dogs. She came over before my trip to learn how to dress Daniel's foot. She did a great job! The house looked great when I got home. She kept me informed about the dogs. I felt very comfortable leaving the dogs with her while I was gone. I would highly recommend her. Thanks for loving my dogs, Yvonne! - Kathy L.
Yvonne was a great sitter for Onyx. She is very thorough in her interview questions to make sure she can learn as much as possible about your animal and how you prefer the animal to be cared for in your absence. Onyx was on medicine from a spine injury and Yvonne took great care in playing with Onyx and making sure she was happy without risk of more injuries and made sure she had her daily medications and walks as prescribed. Already planning to book her for another stay. - Robin H.
Yvonne is the best sitter you could ask for. Our 3 yr old baby boy Winston who we rescued a yr ago had a very hard and abusive life with his former owners. He is a very sweet and loving boy but very sensitive as well. Yvonne took care of him as if he was her own.winston loved her and Yvonne was so wonderful and sweet with him. We told her that we sometimes howl with Winston and she sent us a video while we were away of her getting down on the floor and howling with him as well as many updates and pictures of our little boy. She also went out in the yard with him when it was dark and he had to do his business because he is scared of the dark. Winston was very happy with Yvonne and we were ecstatic with her as well. Yvonne took great care of our little boy and our house. We fell in love with her from our initial interview. She is a very sweet and loving person and good luck finding anyone who loves dogs more than Yvonne. Many dog sitters say they will take good care of your dog but we have found that to be lip service as the others we used it was obvious didn't take good care of our precious little boy. If you are looking for someone who will love and treat your dog as well as you do , then look no further than Yvonne. She is the sweetest, friendliest and most loving person and your dog will lick you to the high heavens for hiring her. We will use her everytime we go away. We have tried the rest , but in Yvonne we have found the best. Thank you again Yvonne for taking such great care of our little Winston. - Shawn K.
Yvonne was the perfect pet sitter for our cat! We were out of town for a little over a week and received periodic pictures and updates on how she was doing. We came home to a happy and calm cat and we had a relaxing trip knowing that Yvonne was here with her! - Amanda W.
I leave for long stretches without a care in the world. I know my beloved pets are in the best hands. She has stayed with us three times and now I wouldn't consider using anyone else. Dogs (multiple), fish, even chickens. She cared for and loves on them all. - Kelly R.
Yvonne provides the BEST service anyone can ask for. We had 3 dogs, each with the own issues (i.e. one was a frail senior, the other is scared of everything, & the other is hyper/crazy all the time) & she cared for them as we do. They were all happy to be with her, & we are just as happy. I've never had ALL 3 of my babies love someone as her, especially my scared boy. Please use Yvonne, she is truly the best. - Chris K.
Yvonne has taken care of my pets since 2014 and I trust her head and shoulders above anyone else! She has a great understanding of animals and is genuinely excited to see them! She is great with "special needs" pets who may require medicine or extra care. She also does stop by visits, which is purr-fect for my kitty when I'm out of town. When I return he is in a great mood and I am reassured that someone is also popping by to check on my place and bring the mail inside. Yvonne is a very kind, trustworthy and genuine individual. She sends me pics and updates each day, and tells me the mood of kitty too. It's nice to hear that he's being playful or hear a video of his meow while I'm away. Most importantly, animals are at ease while under her care. - Marie M.
Yvonne is first and foremost an animal lover. She WILL make sure your animal comes first! She is experienced, knowledgeable, professional, kind, and wraps it all up with a wonderful sense of humor. Look no further for your pet sitting etc. You have found your destination. - Bonnie B.
You couldn't find a more reliable and loving person to leave what's very important to you, your pet and your home. - Linda O.
Yvonne was a wonderful dog sitter for our two chihuahua fur babies! My only complaint...I think they loved her more than me! - Cynthia H.
You won't find a more reliable, caring and conscientious person than Custom Critter Sitter owner Yvonne. Your pets are in very good hands! - Chris R.
She is the best!!! A very responsible caring person who has great respect for those she is taking care of!!! - Marcus C.
I have known Yvonne for 17 years, and she is one of the most trustworthy and dependable people I've ever worked with and known. She takes excellent care of pets and houses, and you will be assured that you're leaving your furry family members in capable, caring hands. I highly recommend Yvonne Feltman as a house- and pet-sitter. - Donna R.
I was a client of Yvonne's "Abode Attendants" company in ABQ, NM. I used Abode to provide monthly checks on my vacation home while I was gone. Yvonne is very professional, thorough and trustworthy. She always provided regular status reports - with photos of any potential problems. I really lucked-out finding her! - Jeff R.
Yvonne is conscientious, loving, patient, responsible, hard working, She has very high standards and always, always goes the extra mile. She does what she says she'll do. She loves animals. She is also funny and fun. - Penny T.
Yvonne provided excellent pet and house sitting services for us over a 2 year period. She's personable, well-organized, and took good care of our two small dogs. - Trish S.
Yvonne is extremely competent and friendly. I would (and do) trust her completely in my home. She has stayed in our house for up to 2 weeks and handled everything that arose with efficiency and competence. - Mark B.
Yvonne Feltman has taken care of our pets (2 dogs and 1 cat) and home for over 2 years. She is absolutely the best, and I can give her the highest recommendation in every respect! - Charlsa B.
Yvonne is the perfect someone to love and care for your pets as you would when you're away from home. - Cory H.
Yvonne is the best pet and house sitter there is. Period. She places your pets above all else, providing them with love, care and affection - probably more than they've ever been subjected to before! She's so good she can even be trusted to look after her ex-boyfriend's ex-girlfriend's dogs. That is to say she's chill and compassionate and responsible with a good sense of humor and will take excellent care of your pets and property alike. - Aaron H.
I have known Yvonne for many years, she is 100% trustworthy and dedicated. Her attention to detail is impeccable. She has a genuine love of animals that translates into prioritizing the happiness of your pets. HIGHLY recommend!! - Mike H.
Update: September 2020
I started graduate school! So guess what that means? I am open to new pet sitting clients and increased pet sits! COVID has been detrimental to many things this year, including travel, but my hope is that you will start to book safe trips upcoming and book me to stay with your furries! I not only need the business, but I am reallllllly missing hanging out with my furry friends.
If you already have firm travel dates, book me early!
Original Post: 9/13/2019
You may have noticed that I took the "pets" off my Instagram account handle earlier this year. What used to be yvonne_loves_austin_pets is now simply yvonne_loves_austin. Do I still love animals? YES. Am I still pet sitting??? The simple answer is yes. The long answer is....
I thought I was done with pet sitting when I moved to Austin six years ago. I put the side-hustle to bed for a fancy job at Mood Media but through a series of events including the death of my dog in 2015, I found myself drawn into a thriving pet sitting business yet again. The main reason I fell back into it is because animals bring me immense joy and frankly, this business makes me feel "useful" in a more meaningful way than a corporate job ever did.
That said, my personal relationships have suffered. For years I have been gone on overnight stays for 50-75% of the year for $60 a night – a rate and profession some scoff at. Somehow, I gather that others would find it more acceptable if I were earning $300 per night instead. But I'll leave that rant for another day.
Since I published my pet sitting memoir in 2017, more doors have opened up for me writing-wise. I have been able to freelance and make a lean living. But after the deterioration of my 4+ year relationship late last year, the pull for me to stop pet sitting and to get a dog or cat of my own has been stronger than ever. I miss having a constant reliable companion in my life, especially an emotional support animal. Ha. We all joke about needing or having an official service animal but the truth is, at least emotionally, they ALL are service animals. I'm not wrong.
But with animal ownership comes healthcare costs, pet sitting costs, and other expenses... I have started a fund for my future pet(s), so I don't have the agony of expense-shock if something costly should arise like a Vet bill or a long vacation where pet care is needed. So that is another reason I am pursuing other more lucrative endeavors – I want to have the (money) means to care for my health and my pets care without a second thought. Dog needs a $4k surgery? No problem. I want to go away for 3 weeks so I need a pet sitter for two pets that costs $700? No problem.
I also want to buy a house in this century. Have you seen Austin home-prices? Housing costs in Austin are far higher than the national average. There’s a reason why, when I went to donate plasma for the first time on a recent Wednesday, the parking lot at BioLife looked like a Target parking lot on a Saturday in December. I turned around and left, opting for a better strategy. Maybe 6am next time?
So to make room for more abundance for the things mentioned above, I have been tapering my pet sitting business. I still pet sit but only for select clients, friends and select referrals. I am practicing saying "no". Does this mean I only pet sit for my fancy clients? Heck no! I often prefer smaller places. Plus, location matters. Quiet matters. Pets matter (no assholes!). Amenities matter (comfy bed, privacy, strong shower, good WIFI, gifts, ice cream, sweets, etc. hee-hee).
And no, my business didn't flail after I published my tell-all novel in 2017. It certainly didn't explode, but it stayed strong and steady. I will continue to ride that wave while I get my first big fiction novel published. I am in the very early stages now and it will take me far longer than it took me to write my first novel. This time it'll be fiction and under a pen name - so whether people love it or hate it I can be totally anonymous.
So yes, I am still pet sitting but not for the masses. My focus now is earning more elsewhere and saving more so I can have the life that calls to me, while I am still young enough to fully enjoy it.
Fireworks, like thunderstorms, can be a true phobia for many pets. With America’s favorite summer holiday less than two days away, I figured it was timely to revisit the topic of fireworks and pets.
Many animals, both wild and domestic, panic when they hear the loud sky-shattering cracks and explosions of fireworks; For all they know it sounds like bombs going off – the opposite of what is really going on for us humans – a celebration of this country’s independence.
This results in escaped pets, wildlife ending up in strange places (garages, under cars, hiding in nooks and crannies in your backyard, etc.). Pure chaos. I know a friend who drives outside of the city limits with his dogs each year because they live close to a fireworks display in town and it is pure terror for his pets year after year. At his wits end, he finally found a good solution.
But if you choose to forego escaping town this year and are in earshot of any fireworks displays, you’ll want to make an effort to minimize the effect fireworks can have on your pets.
First and foremost, try to be empathetic to you animal or any pets that may have gotten out of their confinements. It is also a time to be very careful when coming across lost pets – they can be very fearful and on edge and could bite out of fear, when they normally wouldn’t.
Instead of re-writing what I wrote in year’s past, or reliving that horrid fireworks chapter in my book, I figured I’d point you to these great sources for help:
Finally, if you have hired a pet sitter during times of fireworks or thunderstorms, make sure you inform them if your pet is fearful during these times. Knowledge can prevent havoc and can keep your pet and sitter more calm, and safe.