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Stay for Free Around the World, Just for Playing with Animals: The Petsitting Sites | Frommer's Mohamed Hassan/Pixabay

Stay for Free Around the World, Just for Playing with Animals: The Petsitting Sites

These websites can help hook you up with a free place to stay in exchange for taking care of pets. But which one is the best one for you?
Taking care of a Golden Retriever while exploring the French countryside? Snuggling with a cat on the tropical island of Penang, Malaysia? When other people go on vacation, they sometimes need someone to watch over their pets—and if you fill that role, you can stay for free. 
It’s just another thing that the web has made easier to arrange. For a membership fee, several sites help matchmake pet owners with petsitters looking for free accommodation as they travel. Most of the time, the money saved on lodging with a single booking will make up for the membership cost.
The arrangement isn’t ideal for travelers who want to sightsee all day or who want to plan overnight getaways here and there, but for vacationers looking to stay in the same spot and live like a local for a short time, it can work well.
But be careful: There are pros and cons to each of the most popular housesitting and petsitting sites out there. Nearly all of them have options that allow you to filter searches by location, length of stay, and type of animal. Most will also send daily email alerts for new opportunities. As for the rest, the choice depends on what suits your needs. 

The most well-known and widely used site, with an array of listings around the world.
• It’s the largest pet- and house-sitting site, with more than 70,000 users (pet owners and sitters).
• It lists thousands of sits in 130 countries across the globe.
• It sends daily email alerts for recently posted listings.
• Employs a full-time customer service staff and includes an online chat feature so you don’t have to pay to call.
• Offers a free and unlimited “Vet Advice Line” with veterinary experts for urgent pet questions. 
• Displays how many people have applied for each housesit.
• Allows sitters to volunteer to submit their documents for a free criminal record check, which increases their chances of being selected by a pet owner. 
• It’s the most expensive of the petsitting platforms: $119 a year.
• There are so many members, you have to act fast when you see a new listing and write a compelling pitch for why they should choose you.
• You can’t give references unless they come from other members of the site. 
• It can be difficult to get responses if you have no previous housesits or reviews.
A fairly priced site (est. 2014) with flexible options such as paying quarterly instead of annually and the ability to offer short hosted stays to other members.
• You can apply for three sits before paying the annual fee ($89).
• If you just want to try the service, the quarterly fee is $35.
• Includes a Stopover program in which homeowners can offer any other member a free stay in their home for one or two nights while they’re traveling in the area. 
• Property and house sizes are supplied in the listing preview.
• You can view the response rate for each member.
• Homeowners can find and contact sitters even without having posted a vacation listing.
• You can’t give references unless they come from other members of the site. 
• Search results can be confusing.
• It has the second-most-expensive membership.
• Disproportionately lists opportunities in France, and some listings are only in French.
• Visually unappealing website and messy interface.

The longest-running petsitting site, with a majority of listings in North America.
• It was launched in 2000, making it the first site in the petsitting niche.
• The annual fee is just $50.
• There’s not a lot of competition when applying for sits. 
• It has a good inventory of listings in North America, Europe, and Australia.
• Its customer support team usually replies within 24 hours.
• Applying doesn’t require extensive background checks.
• The site's outdated design can be difficult to navigate.
• Homeowners don’t pay for a membership, which can make listings less reliable and owners less responsive.
• It has few to no listings in Asia, Africa, and South America.

This is the most affordable housesitting site, but there are few options outside of North America and Europe and responses aren't always great.

• It charges a cheap annual fee: $20.
• You’ll find plenty of Europe and North America opportunities.
• You won’t face a lot of competition when you apply for sits. 
• The site is easy to use.
• Ultimately, there are fewer listings (around 300 is common) than other sites have.
• There’s a lack of options in Asia, Africa, South America, and the Middle East.
• Some members have complained about poor customer service and poor response rates.
• Homeowners don’t pay for membership, and without skin in the game, they're less likely to respond (a frequent complaint with this site). 
• Dates for sits are not clear until you click into the listing, which makes the site harder to use.