To Be or Not To Be (at home when the owners return)

I know this is something that should be discussed between parties before the sit commences, but both sits I’ve been on it actually hasn’t been discussed. Do HO prefer to come back to an empty, clean house or are you expected to be there when they return? What about the other way around, is it acceptable to leave a sit on the day of return, slightly before the HO arrive home (obviously not leaving the pet for too long on its on)?

Both scenarios happen and are best decided between the host and sitter. Everyone’s different and circumstances and logistics differ. There’s no one-size fits all. There’s also no reason you can’t raise the question if the other person doesn’t.

Personally, I’ve done both as a sitter and both have worked well.


I’m sure that many HOs would prefer to return to an empty, clean house, and no sign that a sitter had even been there, but I think that welfare of the animals should always take priority. Personally, I wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving a sit until the owners were safely home, unless it was somewhere that I was prepared to travel back to if needs be, ie. I didn’t later receive confirmation from them that they were back. So if it’s somewhere that’s an hour down the road, I know I could go back in an emergency. If it’s somewhere that’s 3 hours from home I think it’s safer to wait until the owners are home, have a quick chat and then head off. It also depends on the animals – a cat that comes and goes as it pleases and has constant access to food and water is obviously very different from a dog that is crated when left home alone. Think about what would happen if, due to unforeseen circumstances, the owners don’t make it home as planned, and come to an agreement with them based on that scenario.


How did those details work out then?
How did you know when to arrive and when to leave?

I’m not following…

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We always discuss, and confirm, the details of arrival and departure with HOs in advance. We have experienced all types of handover setups and it really depends on the circumstances. Sometimes we (are invited to) arrive the night before or stay on a night- depends on all our scedules and what works best for everyone. E.g most often we will leave before the HO returns as we’ll usually be heading on to another sit. Sometimes if the gap between our leaving & them returning is going to be a little too long for the pets we always make sure arrangements are in place e.g a neighbour popping in during the gap. Our intention is always to make smooth transitions so every one is happy.
For this current sit we will overlap with the HO family for a night as they arrive back in the afternoon and our next sit starts the following day so they invited us to stay the night. Some hosts enjoy the interactions and others would prefer returning to a clean & sitter-free home! We have rarely stayed on just to meet the hosts briefly and then leave- we’d only do that on special request and only if it works with our onward schedule.
As with everything else to do with housesitting Communication is Key!


I always discuss arrival logistics beforehand (because otherwise how would we know when to turn up) and will agree leaving times if the homeowner brings it up. Otherwise I just get a feel for it and how they seem. We do always stay at least until the homeowner has got off their flight if they’re getting one but my preference is to leave before they get home. Just because they’re probably tired and want to relax. And also it always makes me cry to see how happy their pets are to see them and that’s a bit embarrassing…


Good point – I’m usually crying when I have to leave the pets!


All the hosts I’ve had who’ve returned after I left, it was straightforward to ask them: What happens if your flight is delayed, etc.? They’ve always had a neighbor or someone else nearby who had a key and could feed, water, walk as needed.

I don’t understand how any sitter can leave without having such discussions, unless they’ll be there on the host’s return.

Personally, I always ask when they’re going to leave and return. How else would I know when to arrive and depart?


@ScottMich I always discuss arrival and departure information on the video call before accepting a sit, so that we can make our travel arrangements with confidence. I also reconfirm prior to the sit. Most of the time, the hosts prefer to return to a vacant house and have a neighbor, friend or relative act as a plan B in case they are delayed. On a few occasions, the hosts were returning late and preferred us to stay until the next morning. We did all of our cleaning, showering and laundry prior to their arrival. We brought our own sheets, so we just took them home to clean them. Communication is key. But also sitters should be comfortable asserting their needs too. This is an exchange that should work for both parties. For example, if a host is returning very late at night and expects us to stay until their return and then vacate the home and either get a hotel at our own expense or travel late at night, I would not find this acceptable. But since this would be discussed in advance, I would likely just decline the sit since the host would not seem very considerate. Note: We only do sits where we can use the guest room. We have been lucky and never had issues.


Yep, all those things you’ve mentioned have been discussed - I know which neighbour has the key and when they’re arriving back. That wasn’t my question, but appreciate the feedback.

As a private sitter before joining TH, I always left the home a few hours prior to their return, so that they don’t need to tend to me when they are returning from travel (I imagine tired, wanting to rest, be at ease in their own home, etc.) So I do the same on TH and let the HO know this - and most of them are more than happy with that. I just think for myself, I’d definitely not want to have to tend to a sitter upon returning home from travel, but would rather walk into a quiet home, greet my pet, shower, eat and rest in the comfort of my home! And I often am heading to my next sit the same day, so I let them know all this up front or in the video call.

Unless a pet had a high maintenance need, I don’t see why the HO would want me there upon their arrival. And I don’t do high maintenance anyway :slight_smile:


The pleasure of company? When we have met before they left, had dinner and drinks and spent an evening chatting. And then a few weeks sending messages.

Then I have had several sits where we had another dinner and more drinks and then I left next morning. They want to talk about their trip, and they like to hear about my experiences in the village etc.

Also, they may want me there to accommodate possible delays and disruptions in their travel.


For me it is good enough to see on Flightradar that their flight has taken off. Then I can assume that they are on it (otherwise they would have told me). Of course it happens that planes turn around halfway etc but that is rare. And if that happens, again: Flightradar.


Some hosts are more hospitable than others and some have more space than others. Like I’ve been offered the opportunity to come days early and stay days later.

Personally, I don’t host on THS, because my rescue dog needs professional care, but if I hosted, I wouldn’t mind if folks stayed longer or came earlier.


I’m going to guess here that there might be some variation between catparents and dogparents. I’ve been on catsits where the catparents were not even going to be home till the next morning and prefered sitters leave the afternoon or evening before with everything in order, so they could get home early and probably rest after a long trip, and not have to be social and scoot someone out the door!

As a petparent if a sitter is nearby and can pick up the keys before a sit, there’s some leeway about when they can arrive, but if I have to coordinate key pick up with a neighbor, we need to set a time. Leaving: I let them know when we are getting home so the expectation is they’ll either be ready to leave and say a quick goodbye or already gone by that time. However, as with a hotel, they can leave luggage in our apartment and pick it up later in the day.

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Agree that cats can generally be left alone longer and that can influence some folks’ decisions. Space also is a big factor. Like I think you live in NYC, where many people don’t have guest rooms or suites, or ADUs (accessory dwelling units) or granny flats or such, because real estate is expensive.

For some hosts, their homes are big enough that guests aren’t under foot. Like I’ve sat in homes where I could choose from among guest rooms and/or the guest rooms were on another floor. And some folks don’t mind close quarters. Like I was offered a NYC sit where I was welcome to stay on a sofa bed even after the host’s return. (I didn’t take them up on that.)

Some hosts on THS have also been or are Couchsurfing hosts — those folks are simply hospitable even when they don’t need pet sitting or home sitting. Some folks like to meet people, especially fellow travelers, including folks from abroad.

Personally, my family are hospitable. I remember when I was a kid and my mom invited a lady to stay with us for days, after they met on a plane. We even showed her around town and treated her to many meals and such.


Exactly. I’ve actually offered the couch the night before to at least one sitter who was going to come to NYC and already had a hotel reservation, but she preferred to just shorten her reservation and spend the night in the hotel as she was arriving late in the evening and didn’t want to disturb us. I confess to being relieved she made that choice.

Yup, I think many people are hospitable or want to be, but we all have different senses of personal space.

Good points and I think the extroverts would probably agree with this. For me, being quite the introvert, it’s less stressful for me to just pop out before they arrive, even if I did meet them prior (which I have many x and all have been lovely folks.) Plus, also being a digital nomad, I typically book a sit the same or next day, so I’m off to my next sit and the HOs know this. I always make sure they have a neighbor local who could feed the kitties/check in incase of travel emergencies (we only do cat sits, so this does make it a little easier to leave.)

But yours are good points too!


Thanks, that all makes perfect sense. Appreciate the feedback.