Cat sitting is a wonderful way to see new places; especially if you're into slow travel, and on a budget. The past 2 years, I've been regularly cat sitting, and for the last six months, even full-time. As I often receive questions about how I organize these cat sits, I decided to dedicate a blog to it.
Six months ago, I returned to the Netherlands after my two-year nomadic journey through Europe, with the intention of finding a place of my own fairly soon. But the reality is that 1) it's been hard to find a fun, well paying job, and 2) in the Netherlands, there is a lack of about 400.000 homes! Insane, I know, don't get me started... Thus, I found myself with little choice but to persist this nomadic lifestyle. And I must say, a part of me still enjoys the temporary exploration of new places, although I also really long to have my own space, sit with my own belongings and create my own energetic bubble.
Anyway, before I start ranting about the housing situation in the Netherlands, let's just say: thank life for cat sitting! Or pet sitting, or house sitting. Since I am most familiar with cat sitting, this blog is about that. I'm however sure, there are valuable take aways in this blog, also if you take care of other pets.
Where to find pet sits
Network: Being active on social media, and regularly sharing about my cat sitting experiences, was helpful for people to know that I am fulltime cat sitting. I find 99% of my cat sits through my network. As I came back mid June, right before the holiday season, it was the perfect time to cat sit. Without putting much effort, I had consecutive sits, each time for 1 month, alternately in The Hague or Amsterdam. A stay of one month (or longer) is perfect for me as shorter stays give me too much unrest. Sometimes you also have to have courage. Whenever it came up in conversations that people had a cat, even if I barely knew them, I'd ask if they might be interested in a cat sitter.
Paid websites: There's a ton, such as Trusted house sitters, Petinaflat, Pawshake, and many more. Personally, I haven't tried these paid services. I heard mixed stories in terms of the efforts it takes to find a cat sit. Apparently, as it's gotten more popular over the years, there is quite some competition out there; and a trustworthy profile with good reviews is necessary. I once found a cat sit on Workaway. This website is also paid, but still pretty affordable (39,- a year). If you're also interested in working in exchange for food and accomodation, I'd recommend this website.
Free websites: There are many facebook groups, which work pretty well. Just search for cat sitting + the city/country you want to stay in. Also search in the native language of the country. There's also worldwide pet sitting groups.
Preparation: what to pay attention to?
Before I commit to a cat sit, I usually try to visit the house beforehand. Since you're in someone else's home for a while, I'd like to feel at ease with the energy and interior of the house, the cat, and the owner. There's also a set of questions I make sure to ask the owner. Here's a list of the main topics I discuss:
- What is the arrangement? I usually look after cats in exchange for free accommodation. I feel this is the most common deal. I've also seen people getting paid for their cats sits, or the opposite situation, where the cat sitter pays additional rent (less common).
- How is the cat? Any illnesses, peculiar behaviour, dietary restrictions? Do they stay quiet in the night or do they meow a lot? Do they need to sleep in the bedroom, or not? How frequently does the owner clean the litter box? Can you leave the cat alone for a night on a rare occasion? Ask anything related to habits, and the general care.
- What to do in the case of an emergency? In the rare case the cat is in a life-threatening situation, and the cat needs to be put down, in Holland it is legally needed that the owners approve. I once read an awful story of a cat that was terribly suffering, but the vet could not do anything because the owners were not in reach to ask to put the pet down. So, preferably there's already such a statement signed ahead by the owners, especially in the case, the owners are hard to reach, or the cat is really old.
- Are there any neighbours, friends, family who can come in case I am gone for 2 days? This could be due to an emergency, or in my case, if you pet sit full time, you also want to sometimes have a break or join friends on a spontaneous weekend trip. If you're honest and clear about it upfront, this is usually not a problem.
- In what cases and in what frequency do the owners want to be contacted? Most prefer a regular photo from their cat, but some might have different preferences, always good to check up front.
Besides the cat particularities, I also check:
- How's the WiFi? (since I mostly work from home)
- Do I have to be particularly careful with any furniture?
- Is there anything broken/are there any devices that are difficult to use?
And whilst you usually discuss all the above in person or on the phone, it's common the owners leave an instruction with all the information related to the cat and the house.
I feel I discussed most of the important aspects of cat sitting. Are you excited yet? In my opinion, cat sitting offers a wonderful opportunity for an affordable getaway, a chance to explore new cities or neighborhoods, and, of course, to occasionally bask in the joy of fluffy companionship, all without the long-term responsibilities of having full-time cats of your own.
Any tips, or questions? Feel welcome to leave them below.
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