I've started a series on Instagram about what it is like being a cat sitter. There will be some funny stories along the way. Here are the first few episodes.
Lesson #1 Building Relationships with the Pets
This week I had an alternate first Cat Sitting Tails planned but I changed my mind while doing a cat visit.
Seeing the pets and saying hello is always my first priority on a cat sitting visit. Building love and trust up with the cats is amazing. It melts my heart when cats decide that I’m safe.
Last week, I went to visit a family of three cats that I visited in September. The first set of visits were over a a couple of weeks. Each cat always reacts differently to seeing a new person. In this house, two cats were wary to start off with, but happy for cuddles and soon were purring on the first visit.
Mei, was a different matter. Each visit I talked to her gently and offered treats from a distance. It took a week of visits before Mei was able to come out from her hiding places and stay in the same room. So when I went to visit her this week, I wasn’t expecting her to remember me. (I thought I’d be lucky to see her.)
She surprised me as after I sad hello and she ran away, she came back! Not only did she sniff all the new toys I’d taken, she sniffed me too! Then let me fuss her. She played and purred. I find it hard to put into words how happy this made me feel. Building relationships with the animals is the best part of being a cat sitter.
Some cats, such as Mei’s brother and sister, just loved company straight away and on every visit. This is amazing too.
Lesson #2 Expect the Unexpected
The most important thing I have learnt, is that anything can happen. Even on visits where I’ve been many times before, and the cat knows me, I know the house – anything can happen still. This can range from problems with the door lock, alarms, food being moved, lights not working, dead prey being left in strange places or even seeing live prey being brought into the house which I then have to catch.
The worse thing is when the cat doesn’t come home. Even if this is normal behaviour for the cat, it is worrying for me. Shaking treats or wiggling a pouch is my first go to. I’ve trained some cats to come to me when I shake my keys coming up the drive.
However, this doesn’t always work and I have to go back later. This happened on Christmas day when the cat needed to be shut in for the night. I called and jangled my keys, but he didn't jump over the fence. I went back after my next visit and sure enough, he came running to me when he heard my keys. (He was too busy exploring to do it an hour earlier.)
Lesson #3 Packing Bags for Visits
Due to Covid, I started leaving a bag of everything I needed at each house. This reduced the risk of transporting germs etc between houses.
Even now, I continue this practice, as it means I have everything with me and reduces the risk of sharing germs etc.
Packing my bags can be a time consuming process as I try to take different toys to the previous set of visits. Plus Bean hears the drawers open and comes running to help and see if there are any toys he wants to steal.
Lesson #4 Invisible Houseplants
I always ask owners if they have any plants that they need watered. I’m not a plant person but I know not to water orchids or cacti.
Some houses leave very detailed instructions – for which I am very grateful. Who knew that plants were so varied? Needing different amounts of water and in different places!
Also it was helpful to have explicit instructions. I hadn’t noticed that there were that many plants in the room! They were invisible to me.
I have been known to water some very realistic fake ones and only realise at a later date.