Do you want to travel the world? Perhaps you’d love to but can’t afford it or would find it hard to live without pets. Here, Pet Problems Solved hears from a travelling house and cat sitter, Madolline Gourley…
Hear from a travelling house and cat sitter
While pet sitting for strangers isn’t anything new, doing it for free might be. I’ve been a live-in cat sitter for just over one year. Now I’m not claiming to be a licensed pet sitter — because I think that’s a thing in some places —but I have cared for people’s cats in their homes in exchange for a place to stay when I travel.
Taking a leaf out of Brittnay and Jayden’s book, I began house and cat sitting in December 2017 after hearing about it one day at work. My first house and pet sit was in San Francisco. This also happened to be the first sit I’d applied for.
I’ve gone on to do 11 other house and cat sits since looking after the San Franciscan rescue cat, Harvey. One of these sits was looking after Harvey again. In August 2018. This sit was my fifth house and cat on a two-month trip across the US. I’d planned the trip around sits in cities I wanted to visit: Seattle; Boston; Cincinnati; Washington, D.C; and Hillsboro (it was close enough to Portland to warrant visiting). This all worked out really well because I only had to pay for three nights accommodation in between sits in Cincinnati and D.C.
Funnily enough, the Airbnb I ended up staying in also had a cat. Now if we’re looking at how much it would have cost to stay in each of these cities as a solo traveller, it’s definitely something a lot of people couldn’t afford. It’s probably something I wouldn’t have been able to just either despite earning a nice wage as a government contractor back in Australia. To stay in Harvey the cat’s San Francisco neighbourhood for 10 days over the summer would have cost a fortune.
All the cats ‘n’ kittens
I’ve looked after kittens and cats up to the age of 18. Two of the cats I looked after on my first trip to Seattle both passed within months of each other. Lily, 18, and Leo, 19, have left this Seattle couple empty nesters. A recent recommendation left on my cat sitting blog’s Facebook page read: “When the time comes to find new cats … she will be the first person we contact [to house and cat sit].” How sweet.
Remember rescue cat Harvey? He’s actually a feral cat. He was captured on the streets of Oakland as a young adult. Harvey’s the second feral cat I’ve looked after. Kitty Rumi, from Santa Fe, is the other street cat. She seemed a lot more comfortable around strangers compared to Harvey. But I like to think Harvey and I have become good friends since our first meeting in December 2017.
Then there were two Siamese kittens in Cincinnati. The owner had only just adopted them before I arrived. They were so tiny. I don’t recall any of my kittens being this small, but I also haven’t had a kitten in over 15 years. The lady commended my kitten photography skills saying she wasn’t able to capture moments like these.
And now for the naughtiest cat. Well, there’s two. Two young rescue cats living the high life in a waterfront apartment in downtown Boston, brothers Fitz and Henri. I once came home to Fitz chewing on my Cornflakes box. They also liked to knock my vitamins off the counter each day and unravel the toilet paper if it wasn’t kept in the drawers. They even chewed on the paper bag my takeaway Thai came in in the seconds I had left to get a glass of water. The lady warned me they’d attack anything and everything, but I didn’t believe her. Now I do. Despite their naughtiness, they were very entertaining.
But my favourite cat sitting experience was looking after Nika. Another rescue. Nika was adopted from the Humane Society of Boulder Valley. Her owner said she couldn’t leave her behind—she just had to get her. And I can see why. Nika is the most affectionate cat of the some 20 I’ve looked after over the past year and a bit.
Other benefits of house and cat sitting
What other good things have come from this kind of lifestyle? The friendships you form with the pet owners. I still speak to about four or five of them regularly. When I was in their homes as a sitter—not quite yet a friend—these people were happy to share their local knowledge, suggesting great places to eat in the neighbourhood and attractions you mightn’t have known about. The Frye Art Museum in Seattle comes to mind. That same couple has travelled all over the US and were able to give me tips for what to see and do when I was sitting in Cincinnati. I wouldn’t have found out about Graeter’s Ice Cream otherwise. I caught up with them again when I was back in Seattle in December 2018. It felt like I had known them forever, not just a day or two. Then there’s another girl, she’s a bit closer to my age, and we share cat pictures all the time. And our cats follow each other on Instagram.
Then there’s the added sense of feeling at home when you’re a travelling sitter. It’s nice to have a proper fridge, one with filtered water is even better, and access to a free washing machine and dryer. I despise having to pay $3 to wash my clothes and another $3 to dry them. I also appreciate sleeping in a bed that hasn’t housed thousands of people over the years.
This house sitting thing also gives me a sense of responsibility. You have to look after this person’s house and keep their pet healthy. And while most people like to relax on their holiday, I like having that added responsibility of looking after something (a house) and someone (a cat). When you travel solo, which is the only way I’ve travelled since starting out as a house and pet sitter, it’s nice to have a cat to come home to (they do love us, apparently!). It stops me from missing my own cat, a rescue Ragdoll, too much.
And now you’re probably wondering, ‘Has anything gone wrong?’ Nope. Not yet.
So, where will house and cat sitting taking me next? Nashville. In June. Before I head over to Austin, and hopefully Tucson and Birmingham, for more cat sitting adventures. I might consider destinations in Europe next, but there’s still so much I want to see America. And thanks to a conversation at work one morning, house and cat sitting for strangers has made this all possible.
About the author:
Madolline is an Australian writer and editor making her way around the world house and cat sitting for strangers. Follow her journey on her Facebook page, One cat at a time. She’s seeing the world one cat a time.
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