Oscar – the dodgy builder story

by | Oct 6, 2014 | Cat Sitting | 0 comments

Most people don’t realise being a cat sitter is a lot more than just to feed cat and play with cat. (I was hoping after reading the last post, you will have a better idea…)

One thing about being a cat sitter is, you need a lot of problem solving skin to handle the unexpected.

Not only are we on the road all day, hence we need to handle traffic, crazy people, weather condition, etc; but also we are working with one of the most unpredictable animal in the world.

On top of that, life is complicated and shit happens (all the time).

Oscar is a lovely ginger boy. Well he is more like a ginger grandpa at this stage. He is an elderly cat with a very gentle personality. We loves sitting with people and never give us trouble. He is one of these jobs I consider to be straight-forwarded. (I do have to remember he likes to drink water out of the two pint glasses reside permanently in the kitchen skin and make sure to clean them and top them up every visit though…)


I have been sitting Oscar for over a year when his mom informed me there will be some work done in the house on her next trip. She warned me that, so that if I happen to run into the builder, I won’t scream and call the cops. (I do require all my customers to inform me if other people have keys to access their house for insurance and liability reasons, so if anything happen, I won’t be blamed). Though she said the chance is I won’t be seeing him at all as he should have finished the job by my first visit to Oscar.

This particular booking was for one week. After each visit, I did check with Oscar’s mom and let her know that the building work seems to be ongoing as the equipment was still everywhere (so as the dust, yuck!) I never did meet the builder but he definitely wasn’t ‘finished’ with the work by looking at the state of the house.

One week passed and we still weren’t sure what was going on with this builder, though builders don’t finish work on time is not someone unheard of, so we didn’t give it too much thought. That is until the disaster on my final visit to Oscar…

The moment I stepped inside the house on my final visit, I was hit by a very strong smell of solvent. Oscar’s mom mentioned the builder would polish the floor at some point, so I immediately knew it was the smell of the polish. I started calling ‘HELLO? ANYONE HERE?’ Nothing. I went inside to check. The house was dark so I knew there was no one. The builder has obviously left. I was only in the house for 5 minutes then, and my eyes started to water. My first thought was – ‘How about Oscar? Is he okay?’

I tried to run in to check on him but by then my vision is so blurry by all the tears that I had to run back outside of the house to catch some fresh air and clear my eyes. I did it quickly because I really started to worry about Oscar being trapped inside this cloud of solvent smoke!

I went in and there he was, chilling out in his bed. He looked okay, so I called his mom immediately.

My customers know if I call them during their trip, it is for something serious and urgent as I usually only update them by text and email after each visit. So when I make one of these calls, the other side of the phone is usually in panic mode, they don’t even bother to say ‘hello’ most of the time, they usually go ‘WHAT IS IT? ‘

‘It’s the builder…’ I told her the situation, the toxic fume, my eyes, and how I worried about Oscar, etc.

Oscar’s mom was almost in tears and started swearing out of anger. She is usually a very elegant lady. So elegant that I never thought she is capable of swearing! That’s just to show how upset and angry she was at that point! She was almost in tears and asked, ‘what should I do, Alice? I don’t know what to do anymore…’

I calmed her down and recommended putting Oscar in one of the room. I would stay with him while trying to open all the windows in the house to air the whole place. She agreed, ‘do whatever you think is best for Oscar, I trust you.’

And that’s what I did. I had no idea how long would it take to air the house, so I was prepared for a very long night…

Thankfully, it actually didn’t take that long for the condition to improve! After 30-45 minutes, I could walk around the house and my eyes feel okay. So by then we know the builder didn’t air the house AT ALL. He probably just polished the floor quickly knowing Oscar’s mom is due to be back and left immediately to avoiding running into me. How can someone trapped a cat inside with solvent fume and not thinking about the danger is beyond our understanding…

Before I left, I decided to move all Oscar’s stuff – litter tray, food and water bowl to the most airy room of the house, so in case Oscar wants to stay there, he didn’t have to walk around the house if the smell is still too much for him.

When Oscar’s mom came back, she called and thanked me again and again. That’s one of those moment when I was reminded why I enjoy my job so much. I was entrusted with people’s house and their important member of the family. And they are always very grateful for my service.

I thought this story was over upon Oscar’s mom return, but not so.

A few days after this incident, she called again and informed me she had to change the lock and wanted to meet me to give me the new key.

She said she complained to the builder about the quality of service and it didn’t end too well. The builder never gave her back her key and she spotted his van on her street just the day previous. She decided to change the lock just to be safe.

So what’s the moral of this story?

1. Being a cat sitter need to handle crisis at times and need to make quick decision for the benefit of the cat.
2. I will need to be very carefully when I get a builder to get work done in my house!

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I started this blog on 2014.
After working as a cat care professional for several years, I realised that I am in a unique position meeting a lot of interesting cats and their incredible humans.
This blog is their stories.
I also share some tricks of the trade and educational information.
I hope you enjoy.

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