6am in a quiet village in France. All is peaceful, all is quiet, until…
Who needs an alarm clock when you have a cat?
You trudge dutifully downstairs out of bed, and prepare the cat’s breakfast: just how he likes it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my time as a cat sitter, it’s that cats can be almost as fussy as children.
Some cats take a little dribble of medicine with their wet food; others want you to stand by their bowl with a fork in hand to pile their food into a pyramid every few minutes. Some cats need to eat their food in a different room to the others so that they don’t fight. Some run outside as soon as the door opens, so you just need to scoop some dry food into their bowl so that there’s something to eat when they eventually come home.
To work as a cat sitter you need the memory of an elephant, the organisational skills of a drill sergeant, and a heart as big and warm as the sun. It’s not just a case of turning up to feed, water, and empty the litter box. You become the cat’s new friend, until their family returns.
This isn’t always easy. Cats can take some time to get used to new people. I’ve looked after cats who hid under the couch every time they saw me coming, and I just had to accept it. Then again, I’ve also looked after cats who insisted on getting under the duvet with me at bedtime.
I’ve been taking on catsits – primarily through Trusted Housesitters and also through people who find me through Twitter and Facebook – for close to two years now. Every assignment has been different but worthwhile and there aren’t any that I wish I hadn’t taken on.
When you work as a cat sitter there are plenty of things to keep you occupied during the day. Making sure the litterbox is fresh, and looking out for signs of worms, is the least pleasant part. The best part is stopping for an afternoon break and having a bit of fun with your new furry friend. Cats love to play, and a simple game involves taking a long piece of garden twine and running around the garden.
As well as keeping you both fit and healthy, you’re also exercising the cat’s hunting instincts: meaning less chance of him bringing you any nasty presents!
What the evening entails depends on the cat. Some owners are happy for their cats to sleep outside. If this is the case, your evening will probably be pretty quiet as the cat prowls through the underbrush. If the owner would prefer the cat to be kept in at night, you may spend a few minutes at twilight shouting for the pet and shaking a box of treats to entice them inside.
Usually in the evening the cat will want to spend time with you, curling up beside you on the couch or lying on top of you. Although cat sitting can be hard work, there’s nothing more rewarding than the first time your surrogate cat jumps onto your knee and starts purring contentedly.
James has ‘cat sat’ in the UK, France and Portugal. You can view his pet sitting profile here or follow him on Twitter.