Safe Exchange Guide

Many of us love sharing-economy business like AirBnB and Lyft/Uber. As a new PetFam member, you can begin connecting in the same way (only with no money to discuss!) with trusted fellow pet owners to safely swap in-home sitting, no matter what your schedule or pets’ special needs.

“Thanks to PetFam, I get to spend a marvelous week with this little goober. Pipis is having fun but
I’m sure he misses his momma Clarice S. while she’s on her Mexican cruise!”
PetFam member Jay E.


Free pet care nirvana in 5 seriously simple steps


1. Fill out your PetFam profile

Introduce yourself and your pet! Detail any special needs, medication, cautions or things of note. (Remember: you are likely not the only one on the planet who can deal with their challenges. With loving devotion, you somehow figured out how to manage your pet’s specific needs or bad behaviour, and there is a good chance it can be done by other true animal lovers that care as much as you do!)

  • Describe the specific kind of care you’re looking for, and frequency. In your home or theirs? Long or short term? Pop bys, sleep overs, daily walks?
  • Are you willing to swap care, or are you looking for a member offering part-time pet time? (This is a thing! Lots of people can’t have their own pet but would love to spend time with one.) What are the terms of your arrangement?
  • We highly recommend stating that you require a minimum of three reference names and phone numbers, preferably a combination of character and work references. NOTE: Taking a few moments to check references is critical. It is the only way to alleviate concerns about whether this complete stranger will provide loving care for your precious pets and property.
  • Add cute, friendly photos of you and your pet! We all like to get a visual on what we’re potentially agreeing to, and it helps to show exactly what your breed is.
  • Optional for extra peace of mind: state that you require a criminal record check and if exchanging care, offer to provide your own. (Google it to find out how. It’s super easy.)


2. Phone interview

Once a few messages roll in, reply ASAP to set up phone interviews.

  • Start by asking what Member’s current life situation is. Why do they want to sit or exchange care?
  • Ask what experience they have with your pet’s particular needs.
  • If swapping, what’s involved in caring for theirs? Do pets have incontinence or property damage issues?
  • Discuss schedules and frequency of care. Does one pet require far more than the other? Will that be an issue?
  • If all sounds like a good match, ask for those reference numbers. Be bold. This is the loving care of your baby we’re talking about. Don’t be afraid to insist, and be prepared to offer your own references. Only fair, right?
  • Let them know you’ll be in touch within a few days, and stick to it. Set a precedent of trust from the start.


3. Reference checking

Always call if possible, rather than email, to allow your spidey-senses to tell you whether the reference truly believes the sitter to be trustworthy and responsible. Remember! Most people on this planet are big hearted, animal loving humans just like you. Millions safely use services like AirBnB and Uber daily because other members’ testimonials put our minds at ease about sharing a perfect stranger’s home or car. You’re doing the exact same thing by diligently checking references.

Establishing trust is all in the details, so have a chat, ask plenty questions and rest easy.

A few sample questions:

  • how do they know the sitter?
  • has this sitter ever cared for their home or pets?
  • what was their experience?
  • would they hesitate for any reason to recommend them for your needs?
  • any other thoughts or concerns that would be important to know?


“I recently had Josh K. sit my Senegal parrot and Goldendoodle dog for eight days in my home. It
was very comforting receiving textsand email updates with many photos showing how happy my
pets were. Moreover, the house was spotless when I returned. He really went above and beyond,
was very trustworthy and genuinely cared for my pets and place as his own. I look forward to
showing his kitty and home the same care.”

PetFam member Alisa S.


4. In-person interview in your home (and their home, if exchanging)

If the Member seems great based on their references, it’s time for you and your pets to meet!

  • Relax, drink tea, get to know each other. Ask for greater detail about their current situation and any other questions you might have. Ask yourself, “Is this a neighbourhood, house, pet and/or person for whom I actually want to sit?” (Also, if pets have incontinence or property damage issues, do you want to have to deal with that?) Remember, never feel obligated to say ‘yes’ if your guts tell you ‘no’ at any point. This is your chance to figure it out.
  • If all seems good, give them a tour of your place. Show them where toys, leashes, food, meds, poop bags, litter, carrier, etc. are kept.
  • Discuss care details in depth, making your expectations of the sitter very clear, thereby eliminating any misunderstanding or confusion later. This is a little legal doc we recommend all exchangers sign in an effort to have what you’ve both agreed to in writing, to protect each other in case of an accident in the arrangement. As it’s a standard doggy daycare agreement form, feel free to change some of the details by hand, depending on the situation. Use this and you’ll rest even easier in any exchange.TIP: You may want to modify the agreement to include that if damage occurs to your property, or clean up is excessively time consuming, costs will be detailed in an invoice, and submitted for reimbursement. You are offering loving care of their pet for free, so this should be a reasonable request.
  • Mention any other tasks that might be necessary like picking up mail or watering plants, or rules you’d like them to observe, such as no other visitors allowed while you are away.
  • If they are staying in your home, discuss related details ie. garbage disposal, laundry, security system, entertainment system, heat/AC, food.
  • Exchange personal details including full names, best contact numbers, email addresses, emergency contacts, places of work.
  • Snap a photo of each other’s identification. I recommend one photo ID and one credit card (do the names match? Better check!) to keep together with contact info.


5. Short trial run

Once everyone is feeling excellent about the whole thing, set up a few solo walks/pop ins while at work, or an overnight stay, depending on what your needs will require.

  • Swap keys and details about whether you should either keep, or return them, each time. TIP: Keep a log of who you’ve given keys to.
  • Print and leave out instructions for home/pet care that includes how to reach you, emergency contacts, veterinary info, etc.
  • If the pet is not used to being around new people, try easing anxiety with a vigorous play session before the hand off, favourite treats to be offered by the sitter and a no touch, no eye contact goodbye with your pet when leaving. Get last snuggles in long before the sitter shows up, then slip out quietly.


A Few Tips for Extra Security

  • Agree to send each other a new photo or video every day of your pets while in care.
  • Consider getting a nanny cam if your sitter agrees to placing it near food bowls or pet beds. Some cams (like this one that I have, very easy to set up:, sends a notification to your smartphone when it detects motion so you can tune in to see that your babies are ok. I couldn’t live without mine. Mostly because it’s sooo cute to see them munching at their bowls when I’m far away.
  • If new sitters are staying in your place, consider asking a neighbour to stop by during your absence to make sure all is well. I’m sure you can come up with some kind of excuse. Give them something they ‘need to return’ while you are away.


Literally – that’s all, folks

If all goes off without a hitch during the trial run, you’ve nailed it! Now try to add four or five more PetFam members to that little circle of pet care. A few weeks before leaving town, simply send everyone a bulk message with your dates, then book whoever is free. I also like to encourage the rest of the circle to get to know each other and swap care in the same way. A little give, a little take – everyone wins.


Recent email from one of my sit swappers: “Tonight Yngwie greeted me warmly, and we had a
little scratch. I topped up the food, he snacked for three minutes and marched off to bed,
yawning.? I am hoping he will want to play more tomorrow! ”
PetFam member Lini H.


Now’s your chance to escape

It goes without saying – we love and adore our pets more than words can describe. Having their sweet, furry, blessed little faces in our lives truly makes us happier, better human beings, and if we could take them everywhere we go we undoubtedly would. However, life often has other plans for us. Fear not. Now you have a simple step by step strategy for making it all work. And if you ever need any help figuring it all out, we will be there for you.

Additionally, inviting your current care givers to sign up to PetFam and join you will allow you to easily send and manage upcoming away-dates with your whole PetFam from one place. This is a community sharing venture and labour of love, so help us share PetFam widely, and it won’t be long before PetFam will help us all find more nearby exchangers than we could ever hope to find on our own.

Welcome to the stress-free future of community pet care exchange!


Just in case it’s not obvious, it’s probably a good idea to let you know that:

(Legal disclaimer) By agreeing to exchange pet care, you are entering into an arrangement that may have legal implications, and agree to be bound by the terms discussed in the course of communication regarding the exchange. You acknowledge that any cancellation can cause dire consequences, including the incurring of non-refundable travel expenses, and will use best efforts to avoid cancelling any exchange. strongly encourages its Members to enter into a written contract in order to more specifically address any rights and remedies, including in the event of cancellation. You understand that PetFam cannot provide legal advice and makes no representations or warranties as to the enforceability of this or any agreement regarding an exchange.

Thanks for understanding!

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???? PetFam Year 1 was a wild success, with 160+ active pet sitting exchange members, and 2200+ subscribers!

Exchanges are now closed as we build the hugely improved PetFam Phase 2.

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