First of all, just to get this out of the way. I LOVE BEING A CAT SITTER. I do. I love my life style, I love my human customers, I love my cat customers, I love that I am doing something I am passionate about every day to the point that I never feel like I am working. But having said that, I am sick of people thinking I am getting paid to cuddle cats all day, so I decide that writing a post about what are the pros and cons of being a cat sitter is in order.
Pro 1. Flexible hours – apart from some cats who need to get their food or medication at specific time, most cats are quite flexible. As a result, I rarely have to deal with rush hour traffic. I can mostly start my day whenever I want. If I feel I am under the weather, I can start my day half an hour later or an hour later. I don’t need to report to anyone. The cats won’t mind, haha.
Pro 2. Get to see sunshine – I am not trapped in the office like I used to! Some days I can even sunbath with the cat together!
Pro 3. Cat cuddle – ok, there is a bit of truth about the cat cuddles…
Pro 4. Amazing customers – 99% of my customers are amazingly lovely people. Anyone who has worked in customer service will tell you 40% weirdo are the normal rate. But cat lovers are some of the best people in the world so I don’t have that problem at all. In fact, many of them have eventually become my friends. In the 8 years of my cat career, I have only ever handle half a dozen difficult people or some of them are just strange. But the beauty of being your own boss is, you can just fire them. You don’t need to take customers you don’t like.
Pro 5. Financial freedom – I control my destiny. I work however much or however little I want. If I need more money that month, I can always do more cat sitting or promote the sales of some cat toys or run a cat workshop etc. I will never ever be layoff ever in my life again!
Pro 6. Read a lot of books – I do spend a lot of time in traffic or sitting with a cat, so I end up reading a lot of books. I love reading and studying so this one is an important perk for me.
Pro 7. Stay healthy – the job is actually very physical. You end up walking a lot. Bending down a lot, lifting things a lot. Goodbye to the office life of sitting all day. There is no need for gym membership! haha
Pro 8. Get to see a lot of interesting places – I have seen hundreds of house of Dublin at this stage. Sometimes the job will take me to neighbour of Dublin I never knew existed. Every day is an adventure.
Pro 9. I get to do what I love! This is the most important point. For the past 8 years, I have never had one day I feel ‘oh man, I have to get up to work….’ Some days it’s difficult because I am doing 14 hours day for 10 days straight. I am tired but I never feel ‘the drag’ to go to work. I am happy to go to work EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Pro 10. Every day is different – no two days are the same at cat sitting. Every job is different, because every cat, every human and every house is different. If you are like me who gets bored easily, hate repetition, love challenges and problem solving. Then cat sitting is for you.
Pro 11. Affordable AND peaceful off season break – since we work a lot during weekend and major holidays (we will talk about Cons number 1 in a minute), we tend to take time off mid-week or off season. I usually take time off in February and November. The advantage is hotels and tickets are cheap and the places are usually peaceful. However, it can be a bit difficult to find somewhere interesting to go in those months as weather tend to be horrible in those months…
And that takes us to the cons…
Con 1. Anti-social hours – cat sitter works a lot on the weekend and major holidays as those are the prime time when people are going away. I end up having to say no to a lot of (I mean a lot!) social engagement. Christmas parties are usually a huge logistic nightmare for me. I need to wake up at 5am sometimes to be able to go to a party. And your friends WILL NOT know how much effort you made just to show up. We also work a lot in the evening. Even though we meet most cats during the day, we meet most humans in the evening when we sign up new customers at meet-and-greet. I constantly feel guilty that I don’t get to see my son when he comes home from the creche.
Con 2. Not as fluffy as you think – we are dealing with cat poop, cat pee, cat vomit. Sometimes even blood. It is not as glamourous as you thought. We are often crawling under the bed to look for a cat, sometimes I am even under a car, or under a brush. And I can imagine sitters who work with dogs will have to handle even more less-than-glamourous stuff…
Con 3. Cat or human emergencies – when there is an emergency, you are stuck with the situation until it is resolved. Bella here had a cat bite, you can’t see very well here but her right eye is swollen. I remember I didn’t go home until after midnight that day. I was in vet emergency with her for a long time. Sometimes you can also have human emergencies. Flights are delay and extra visits are needed last minute.
Con 4. Cat dies – yes this one is very sad but it’s inevitable. Here Mr Jenkins is a very very special cat (I will write about his story one day, follow this blog to make sure you don’t miss it!) He has since passed away. I get very very upset every time when a customer informs me a cat dies, but it’s part of this job.
Con 5. Can’t really call in sick – the cat needs to eat every day. If you are ill, unless you can call in a back up very quickly, you can’t really call in sick.
Con 6. Work at all weather – as I said above, cats need to eat every day. So the same thing applies when the weather is really bad. In winter, we are very often soaked to the bones. Here are some examples of what kind of situation we can be dealing with.
Con 7. Sit in traffic…a lot! Even though we are mostly able to avoid peak hours, but we can still be stuck in traffic a lot. We are spending a big part of our day going from one place to another. It’s inevitable that we will end up being stuck at some point. And then sometimes, you can run into some freakish situation like you can be blocked by Westlife, Queen of England (story will come up soon), or President Obama (story come up soon too).
Con 8. Loneliness – we don’t get to see human very often. If you don’t like water cooler conversation, then this job is perfect for you. But sometimes, you can go on days without speaking to human at all. Plus, another form of loneliness comes from the fact that very few people understand this job. So most people don’t understand when you said you are ‘stress at work’. They just laugh and think you are joking. They don’t understand you can be upset because a cat dies or you are working 14 hours day because it’s bank holiday weekend.
Con 9. Very physical work – cat sitting is a lot less glam than you thought. Most days your clothes are covered in hair, cat poop, cat vomit, etc., our hands are usually in very bad state. Especially in winter when a lot of customers turn their heating off when they are away, we are washing the cat bowls in freezing cold water. (This is my go-to hand cream by the way…)
Con 10. It is actually a very stressful job! This might come to a surprise to you. Yes, we cuddle cat and read books, but those are the good days when everything works as plan. And I am telling you my friend, those days are not the majority! Most of our days will have at least one of the following things happened (often more than one, sometimes all of them!) – cat is sick, road diversion, human’s flight got delay, key doesn’t work, human forgot to buy cat food or litter or both, can’t find the bin bags to take dirty litter out, can’t find the garbage area to put the bin bags (!), cat won’t take medication, cat won’t eat, cat won’t poop for 3 days in a row, human’s family member suddenly show up and throw a party without telling anyone in advance, human got their travel date wrong and you nearly run into them coming out from the shower naked, the roof of the house falls in (I am not joking, this is a true story that I will tell in a future post)…I can go on and on! Plus, it’s a HUGE responsibility to be entrusted with someone’s property and an important member of their family. Compassion fatigue is a big topic in the pet sitting industry. So if you are looking for an easy and relax job, then you are looking in the wrong place. If you love a challenge, then yes this job is full of them!
Con 11. You don’t actually make that much money! This is the ultimate point! A lot of people imagine us rolling in money cuddling cats. But we are not! We spend HUGE amount of time doing unpaid work. Meet and greet, picking keys up, dropping keys back, marketing, charity work, answering email, etc etc. ALL of these unpaid. The only time we are being paid is when we are physically with a cat. So when you even out the hours, we are being paid very little.
As I said at the beginning, I absolutely love what I do and every day I am grateful to work in something I am genuinely passionate about. In fact, I suspect I might continue to cat sit even if I win the lotto. However, I want to show to public that like most jobs in the world, there are downsides to it. Cat sitting maybe a ‘purrfect job’ to me, but it’s not a dream job like people imagine me cuddling cats and doing nothing much.
If you have any question about how is it like being a cat sitter, please don’t hesitate to ask! I constantly got ask lots and lots of questions about my job whenever I meet new people. So fire away, I will answer the best I can!
Christmas cat sitting challenge is on full speed tomorrow, which means I will be on the road from 6am to 6pm or even later. I might have limited access to shops and need to be comfortable for long duration of being outdoor.
Therefore, Catsmas sitting require special packing. I will write another post to show you my normal gear after New Year.
In this picture, you will see (from left to right):
Hand cream – we wash our hands many times a day and often with cold water in winter because customers tend to turn off the boiler when they are away. I happen to have this one right now but my favourite one is La Roche-Posay Lipikar Xerand Hand Repair Cream (you can read the review here).
Filofax – I can’t live with my Filofax. My Filofax is my brain. I wrote about it here.
A shopping bag – always handy to have in case we need to buy cat food or cat litter. Crazy enough, customers often forget these things!
Roots backpack – best backpack in the world for pet sitter! If they discontinue I don’t know what to do, unless they come up with something better!
Food – shops are usually closed, there are some sandwiches, biscuits, cakes and fruits in this bento box.
Not in the picture:
Good rain resistant coat – crucial for winter in Ireland
Good pair of water resistant shoes – again, crucial for winter in Ireland! I usually go for Birkenstock or Ecco.
Good woollen cardigan – keeps me warm even if I am soak
Jeans – doesn’t show dirt if I am dealing with cat vomit or poop
Phone – can’t be in the picture as I was using the phone to take this picture
Wallet – with money and very importantly a Leapcard with enough money as it might be difficult to find a shop to top up the card over Christmas
I am now all set to go and let’s hope the weather is not too bad tomorrow and that there is no cat emergency!
People don’t realise how much planning we have put into so to do our jobs over Christmas. We usually start planning Catsmas sitting since September!
Want to know more about my life as a cat sitter? Follow my blog so that you can get to know more about all the ins and outs of my very special job!
And with that, we also close and LOCK a lot of doors.
So Trick of the Trade to share with you today –
ALWAYS lock all the doors behind you.
Whatever the door is. Front door, back door, side door, shed doors, everything. If the doors were lock when you came in, lock it back when you close it. Make it your habit if you are a cat sitter.
Firstly, it is good for your own safety. So that you know no one can just walk in on you. Secondly, you are protecting your customer’s property.
As a cat sitter, I do pick up a lot of ‘trick of the trade’.
Some of them I learnt from mistakes…(oh yes, I do make mistakes and I don’t want to think about them right now…)
But my mistake is your gain.
Trick of the Trade (TOTT) is a series where I will tell you all about them. Some of them can be useful to your own cat(s), while some of them might be (hopefully) entertaining to you to brighten up your mid-week. FOLLOW my blog so you won’t miss any of the tricks!