Are bots being used to beat the 5 appl rule?

Some people have suggested before the possibility of bots being used to beat the 5 application rule (as part of the long threads on the 5 appl rule topic). Particularly when receiving completely empty applications, shortly after posting the listing.

So I’m bringing it up as a separate topic, as now ~1.5 year into the not-so-new-anymore rule, I wonder if HOs have seen more ‘evidence’ of this happening?

Reason is the following: this week I caught up in person with an HO that I previously sat for. I’ve stayed in touch with her since that time. She lives in a popular area, and told me that since the 5 app rule was introduced, she now regularly receives completely empty applications as part of the 5 applications before her listing automatically goes to reviewing.

  • The empty applications regularly come from experienced sitters (perhaps counting on their track record to overcome the ‘bad impression’ of sending an empty message).

  • Often there is no swift follow-up after receiving the empty application (which could point to: the application has been automatically sent in the sitter’s absence & they haven’t gotten around to checking the day’s harvest of auto-applications yet. E.g. it was not an accident)

  • Initially she’d go through the effort of writing back to them along the lines of ‘hey, I think you forgot to include a message’. Some never even respond to that. Which could indicate: they let a bot send out applications & at the end of the day, they only follow up with the ones they’re most interested in or for which the flight schedule works best

She now declines empty applications.

So this is of course hypothetical, but it sounds ‘suspicious’ to me -especially as she did NOT get empty applications before the rule was introduced - and it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if some sitters have figured out ways to apply automatically. At the potential disadvantage of sitters who do not have a bot set up to be amongst the first 5!

Anyone having similar experiences?

I actually haven’t been recieving empty applications. However, I sometimes receive what are clearly form letters with cut and paste that don’t always seemelevant. Eg: Someone applying to sit my cats wants to let me know that he’s a big strong guy. (He usually sits large breed dogs.)

As a sitter, I’ll admit to sometimes sending out a one line note with a quick application, but usually I compose the letter and send it within the next 10 minutes.

Over the last two sits I have gotten sitters who applied before they fully read the applications and it turned out the dates didn’t actually work of them, and this after some extensive back and forths. This is annoying and I wish they’d go back and read the application and decline themselves!

I also have started to get a few: “I can’t do this date but just wanted to say hello.” Which is fine, but I find getting in touch with people with new dates is usually a waste of time, so the person would still need to favorite and track new sits rather than hoping I’ll go back through the impossible to delete emails and find theirs.


Thanks Marion for the reply. As a sitter these days I sometimes send a one liner because of the rule, as I don’t always have enough time available immediately to properly look at flights/trains etc & it’s not always an option to leave the application window open ‘for later’. Although even when sending a one liner, at least it’s me sending it while being lucky to refresh the site before a popular sit fills up to 5, not a bot who can respond 24/7!

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But it is certainly possible. I know someone who is working as a temp in healthcare. A friend of hers had written a computer programme that keeps an eye on the website of the temp agency and gives a pling when a job becomes available.

I think I could do something like that with the THS website: just keeping an “eye” on a Saved search and sending a notification when new dates showed up. It would be faster than the “instant notifications” that I get from THS. And then I would also try if I could make that program to open an application window.

Unfortunately with the 5 application limit, 10 minutes is too long to take to write an application. Popular sits will reach that limit in 3 minutes, which is often even before I’ve even received the 1st notification of the sit. Homeowner’s do themselves a disservice by eliminating a “form” application without at least looking at the sitter’s profile & reviews.


Our most recent sitter sent an empty application for the first message and he was hands down the best sitter we have had.

I think it was either a human error or a glitch. I messages just to ask if he’d meant to send an empty correspondence and he replied with a full response. That was maybe the second or third instance where that has happened and I’m pretty sure the others were lazy applicants which I auto-rejected, “I’m assuming this was sent in error as your message was empty but if not, lmk.”…not sure why I decided to change up for this last one but very glad that I did!

Setting up a script to auto-reply is possible but I’m not sure how likely it is that there would be enough sitters with that level of technical skill to do that to the point that it would be evident (could totally be wrong though!)

I’ve heard of bots being used to apply for jobs on large sites like LinkedIn and Indeed, but kind of doubt it would be used on a platform like THS.

With the application limit, I think some people seeing a listing on their phone, don’t have time to write out a message, so they apply and move on.

And I think people may be getting exhausted applying for various things - sits, jobs - and not getting replies. I’ve heard of people applying to 300 jobs and getting maybe 10 positive replies/interviews. So that may be carrying over. Taking time to write personalized messages and cover letters for so many things and getting rejected without any response will get to people.

I’ve had a few declines on THS without a response to my note or reason for the decline. As someone with great feedback and lots of pet experience, it’s jarring and rude. I get why some people feel it’s not worth the time and energy to write personalized messages to HO’s.


Agreed. Per what I wrote, I don’t wait 10 minutes to apply. I apply with a one line, letting the petparent know I’ll write more and send within a few minutes. Then I write again usually within ten minutes. It’s rare that a petparent would even read see the application before the note is in. The issue that homeowners have and that maybe makes them wonder is when they only receive the application with no note.

Hi @bakindoki
I think that there is currently a glitch.
I sent off an application the other day together with a message. The application went but the message disappeared.
The week before that, I ticked the dates to save my place so that I could take my time writing the application. The application went before I could write my message

Are you aware of any glitch as detailed above? I am using the website, not the app

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A sitter hopeful can click Apply and leave it open while they carefully review the listing and craft their application. Even if a sit has hit 5 applications, the sitter will still be able to click Submit once they’re ready. I’ve used this several times successfully and it doesn’t require me to send a one-liner.

Is it possible that the click of the Apply button submits an empty application immediately or after a short period as a way to keep that spot open? It would be poor if it does, but it does make me curious.

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I don;t think I’ve had that happen… e.g. I click Apply and sometimes it takes a long time before I finally hit Submit. I don’t think an auto-application is being sent.

Of course, being able to hit Apply in the first place does mean seeing the listing before it fills up to 5. That alone can be challenging enough, and since some listings literally fill up within minutes that would add ‘reason’ to the question asked - as in: what tactics (bots, something completely different?) do people use?

Or is it as simple as: due to the 5 limit, just hit the Submit button right away with an empty message - only read the listing thereafter & see what you think? E.g. shoot first, talk later??

I used to click on the dates and leave it open while reviewing as you say @lifephasenext .
However, as I stated above, this seems to have changed. I clicked on the dates and it went off to the HO before I could even start my message. So, an empty application.

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Yes it feels like people are sitting up 24 hrs for their favourites. Also think 5 applications is too low for both HO and Sitters.


Ah, I didn’t catch that on your message. I just executed one of those successfully a couple of days ago so hoping it hasn’t changed.

Hello @Itchyfeet That sounds frustrating, there are no reported glitches at the moment, but please check with Membership Services as they will be able to see your messages and inbox and see if anything went amiss.

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I don’t think it’s bots to be honest. I can apply for the vast majority of sits I want to. Eapecially if I’m in the right timezone and they don’t come overnight.

I think it’s that many people these days are either on their phones all the time or have them next to them. So I very frequently check for THS notifications and pretty quickly click through to see what they are, even if I only have time to send a holding application.

Obviously this feels very unfair to people who aren’t often checking their phones or aren’t able to for whatever reason. But I’m not sure what the solution is beyond expanding the application numbers. At the start of my sitting “career” the application limit probably worked in my favour as a less experienced sitter who was quick off the mark to apply. Nowadays I think I could manage to stand out in a bigger crowd but who knows.


I personally don’t have the capacity (neither desire) to check THS say 60 times a day. That’s probably the very minimum it would take to sort-of stay on top of sits within my timezone (e.g. 15 hours a day, every 15 minutes).

Before the rule, after the rule, I probably manage(d) 15-30 times a day on average. That used to be enough; it’s not enough these days. Nonetheless, that’s a different topic - I was trying to find out where the empty applications that arrive soon after a sit getting posted come from.

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Are they real profiles? If so I’d guess they are people like me who check their phones often and sometimes send holding messages if they’re in the middle of something. Maybe they forgot to follow up or decided the dates/sit wasn’t a good fit but felt too awkward to cancel the application. I always send a full application or withdraw but I can imagine some people don’t

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I can only speak for this HO, who I’ve known for 2+ years now. Yes, in her case real profiles -often experienced sitters with plenty of reviews.

If I get around to programming a bot, I would of course use my own profile to send my application.

All you need is a program that checks if there are any sits on for example Iceland. And that then would produce a pling to alert me. That cannot be too difficult.

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