Going out of town for any length of time can be very hard on pet owners and their beloved companions, who grow accustomed to the daily love and care they receive.


Thankfully, people like High Desert residents Jennifer Houston and Marie Parrino offer in-home pet sitting services aimed at easing separation anxiety for both humans and their animals.


For a reasonable fee ($17 to $22 per visit), Houston and Parrino will make a daily visit to their client's home and tend to pets of all varieties. Along with serving meals, they also will engage animals in exercise, clean their cages and shower them with lots of attention.


"There are plenty of kennels where you can leave your pets but having someone come into the home is far less traumatic for them," said Carrino, owner of Mrs. Greenjeans Animal and Plant Care Service. "People who call on me can leave town with peace of mind that their animals are being well taken care of."


Along with a pet's normal needs, Houston says many require medication, which she is skilled at administering. In addition, some animals are high-strung and become extremely nervous when their owners are gone, Houston said.


"A lot of dogs freak out when they are home alone," said Houston, who holds a bachelor's degree in business administration and finance from Cal State Long Beach. "To put them at ease, I will get down to their level and talk very softly to them. It's amazing how just being gentle with them like that will soothe their nerves."


While some people may be leery to hire a pet sitter they don't know, Houston says those who are reputable should be licensed, insured and bonded. She recommends thoroughly interviewing a pet sitter before hiring them to learn about their qualifications and experience.


"Be sure to always ask for references," Houston said.


According to Parrino, pet sitting services are in greater demand during the summer and at Thanksgiving and Christmas. For that reason, Parrino says it's important to try to schedule a pet sitter as far in advance as possible during those periods.


Other ways to prepare for a pet sitter are to make sure pet food is well stocked and stored in a central location. Houston and Parrino also suggest writing up a list that details pet care responsibilities, as well as emergency contact and veterinary information.


"It's so much easier for pet sitters when they can find everything in one place," said Houston, who established her High Desert Pet Nanny service more than 10 years ago. "We want to be able to spend our time with the animals and not waste it trying to figure out where all the food and supplies are being kept."


According to Pet Sitters International, an organization that offers training and certification in the field, the pet sitting business is one of the fastest growing in the United States. In 2012, it was named the No. 1 home-based business by the Small Business Opportunities 2012 Get Rich At Home special edition.


Houston said she isn't surprised that more and more people are becoming professional pet sitters. She says nothing is more rewarding than having the chance to dish out compassion and unconditional love to our amazing animals.


"The best part about being a pet sitter is being able to bond with the pets," said Houston. "My clients know they can always count on me to treat their animals just like I do my own. That's a great feeling for everyone involved."


To contact Parrino, call 760-244-3107. Contact Houston at 760-963-7602.