In the past 7 years of my career, one of the common things I have come across is people contact me and tell me they need to ‘get rid’ of their cats because they are now pregnant.
‘Pre-mother me’ wanted to yell at these people, but I felt I wasn’t qualified to criticise them.
Then I had my baby…
Now it has become my new mission in life to educate these people.
To top it off, I have since qualified as a doula. So…yes, I know quite a bit about babies and about the difficulty of being a new parent, etc. I think I am now qualified to talk on this subject matter. In fact, since the words got out that I am a cat behaviourist AND a doula, I have been getting many calls on cats vs baby. It has accidentally become my speciality!
(If you are one of these people who need advices, talk to me! I do house call all over Ireland, including Northern Ireland. I also do Skype consultation internationally.)
Here is the bottomline…it is CRAZY to think you need to get rid of your pet.
Babies have been living with animals since the beginning of human history…
I realise there are so many urban myths when it comes to pets and babies. Even medical professionals often suggest pregnant women to get rid of their animals without actually knowing why and without giving a scientific reason. So I decided for once and for all, I am going to talk about this subject matter head on and explain everything.
When I had my baby, I decided to keep a photo record of the interaction between my baby and my two cats, so that I could write an article like this one day. The photos are taken from when my baby was 1 hour old to yesterday (he is now 2 years and 9 months). I might update this post with more photos as he grows but I think from newborn to nearly 3 years of age is PRETTY good illustration that the cats still haven’t killed the baby.
What will the cat do after I have the baby?
(Disclaimer: every cat is different. I am not suggesting every cat will behave the same. Without seeing your cat, I cannot possibly know your cat temperament and what exactly will happen. Having said that, I have worked with many cats vs baby situation in the past 3 years to draw the following conclusion. But it doesn’t change the fact that your case could be an exception. Reading a blog post is no replacement of a one on one consultation with a behaviourist to get advice of your specific cat in your specific family.)
1. The cats are not going to kill your baby
2. They are probably too scared of the ‘thing’ to even be in the same room with the baby. The loud noise, the sudden movement, the strange smell are all the things cats don’t like. If you are a cat lover, you already know that, right? So how can the cats even get close enough to the baby to do anything to the baby?
3. The cats are not sure what that ‘thing’ is, they think you have probably got a new pet, and it’s a monkey
4. Their anxiety level is going to be high. (Heck! The anxiety level is high for human dealing with a crying baby!) They might retreat to hiding, loss of appetite, overgrooming, marking behaviour, all the stuff that comes with anxiety
5. I know it’s an impossible task for the new parent to even think about the cats, if you can spend time with them, it will help, if you can’t (I know you can’t, I am a doula remember?), get your family members who are also cat lovers to help out. Family tends to visit the new baby or might stay over to help out in the house, get them to help with the cats. The cats need help, they are freaking out.
6. SUPERVISION! I need to put it in capital because I can’t emphasize that enough. I always ask people this question – will you leave your 2 year old with the newborn and you go to the kitchen to make tea? No, you won’t, because you know 2 year old might accidentally do something to the baby out of ignorance. So yes, your cat is your 2 year old, ok? A cat COULD trip when he loses his balance walking near the baby and could accidentally scratch the baby during a fall. So yes, accidents COULD happen. Hence, supervision is gold. But no, your cat won’t be plotting a plan to murder the new human, no.
7. You really shouldn’t leave the newborn baby somewhere else in the house and then go off anyway, accidents could happen even when they are alone in the room. Get a sling! Or bouncy chair or other container gadget so you can bring the baby with you to the kitchen. If you don’t have anything, use a laundry basket! Even that is better than to leave the baby in the room alone especially when you have pets at home. Put a few towels or baby blanket at the bottom of a laundry basket, put the baby in, you can carry the baby to the kitchen. It is also handy when you have to go to the toilet! They feel secure when they know you are nearby and you REALLY have to go to the toilet.
8. No, those net thing to put on top of the cot is not going to work. Not only it won’t work, it could potentially be a dangerous idea. So let me run this with you, you will see. So you put a thing on top of the cot…what does cat do when they see a new soft surface?
Yes, they are going to think it’s a hammock. So yes, they will sleep in it on top of the baby. Whoever invented that probably didn’t talk to a cat behaviourist.
9. You might need help in preparation to introducing the baby to the cats. Read this book. There are specific advice in the book about new baby.
***I am writing another post – Preparing your cat for their new best friend: Introducing the baby to your cat. And it should come up next week. Follow my blog so you don’t miss it.***
Bottomline is this, try to google ‘cat kills baby’, see if you can find anything. You can find anything on google, but you can’t find this. I tried.
I hear you ask “how about the cat poop? Isn’t there a disease or something for pregnant woman?
Ok, let’s talk about that
We are talking about toxoplasmosis.
What is toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) is a single-celled parasitic organism that can infect most animals and birds. It is a parasite, it is not a disease. So it’s not air borne. That’s very important to remember that. You have to touch the parasite to get that on you, ok?
Come into contact with cat feces that contain the parasite.You may accidentally ingest the parasites if you touch your mouth after gardening, cleaning a litter box or touching anything that has come in contact with infected cat feces. Cats who hunt or who are fed raw meat are most likely to harbor T. gondii. (italic mine)
Eat or drink contaminated food or water. Lamb, pork and venison are especially likely to be infected with T. gondii. Occasionally, unpasteurized dairy products also may contain the parasite. Water contaminated with T. gondii isn’t common in the United States.
Use contaminated knives, cutting boards or other utensils. Kitchen utensils that come into contact with raw meat can harbor the parasites unless the utensils are washed thoroughly in hot, soapy water.
Eat unwashed fruits and vegetables. The surface of fruits and vegetables may contain the parasite. To be safe, thoroughly wash all produce, especially any you eat raw.
Receive an infected organ transplant or transfused blood. In rare cases, toxoplasmosis can be transmitted through an organ transplant or blood transfusion.”
Did you see the italic? You need to ingest the parasites to get infected. That could happen if you touch your mouth after gardening or cleaning the litter box.
So here is the thing:
–> Why do you touch your mouth after cleaning the litter box?
And even if you get rid of your cats, you are still not safe. If you have a garden, other cats can still come into your garden, if you touch the soil then touch your mouth, you can still get infected.
So getting rid of your cat can’t solve the problem, being careful and have common sense is what solve the problem! Also, going back up to the cause of infection – Use contaminated knives, cutting boards or other utensils, eat unwashed fruits and vegetables – are also risk factors. So as long as you are not stopping eating altogether, you STILL need to be careful.
The bottomline is this – WASH YOUR HANDS and BE CAREFUL WITH FOOD PREPARATION!
If you have litter trays at home or if you garden, WEAR GLOVES!
You really shouldn’t be doing litter trays much longer anyway once the bump gets big and starting to be in the way. Get other family members to do the trays.
The crazy thing is, you might not be at risk at all!
If you are infected with toxoplasmosis before, you are already immune it. So you don’t have to worry about getting infected. You already have been!
How do you know if you are immune? Talk to your doctor and midwife.
You can either get the test done before you even get pregnant just to have peace of mind. Or you can do a blood test once you are pregnant. It’s a very simple blood test and then you can be in peace knowing one way or the other.
Another crazy thing is, even HSE tells you not to get rid of the cat!
“I own a cat. Do I have to give up my cat while pregnant or if I am in another ‘at risk’group?
If you own a cat, there is no need to give up your cat while pregnant, if you are planning to become pregnant or if you are in another ‘at risk’ group, but the following extra precautions can help reduce your risk of exposure to Toxoplasma:
Provide a litter tray for your cat to minimise utilisation of areas such as garden soil and sandpits
It is advisable to change the litter tray daily because the parasite does not become infectious until 1 to 5 days after it is shed in cat faeces (italic mine).
If possible, have someone else change your cats litter box. If you have to change it, wear disposable gloves and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water afterwards.
Feed your cat commercial dry or canned food. Don’t feed cats raw meat because this can be a source of Toxoplasma infection.
During your pregnancy try and keep your cat indoors and away from dead animals and birds.
Prevent cats hunting birds and other prey, e.g. by use of a bell collar.
Do not get a new cat while you are pregnant.”
Did you see here again my italic?
–>You really shouldn’t have days old cat poop lying around the house. Unless you garden, then it is possible to have old poop. Otherwise, why would you?
And this post on Three Million Dogs sum it up really well. I extract here the bullet points but go there to read the full article to get all the facts.
“6 Facts About Toxoplasmosis That Prove You Shouldn’t Get Rid Of Your Cat When Pregnant
Fact 1: Cats aren’t the only ones infected and capable of transmitting toxoplasmosis.
Fact 2: Not every cat has the risk to become infected with toxoplasmosis.
Fact 3: The chances of your cat transmitting you toxoplasmosis is very low.
Fact 4: Petting your cat or getting scratched or bitten by him won’t give toxoplasmosis.
Fact 5: There are other things that can pass toxoplasmosis onto people.
Fact 6: There are ways to prevent getting toxoplasmosis (whether you have cats or not.)”
If you still need more information, further reading on toxoplasmosis here and here. All scientific facts there with source to original researches. You can’t get more factual than that. No urban myth, no scaremongering, just FACTS.
If there is one thing you take home with you about toxoplasmosis is this:
–> Getting rid of your cat is not your solution…at all.
How about allergies? Will having cat hair lying around cause allergies to babies?
I am not a medical professional. But I do suffer asthma and allergies, so I visit an allergist regularly. (He has already agreed to do a formal interview to add to the post here in the future.) The advice I got from him is, early exposure to animal is actually going to LOWER the risk of future allergies. There are many researches supporting this view now. A quick google search show us this, this, and this. You might want to do your own research. You can also talk to my amazing allergist.
And watch this video…
Photo record of Cat vs Baby
So now, you are happy to know you won’t get some weird disease from your cat, so what will happen after you have the baby? Here is a photo record of what happened to us when we had our baby. The photo record is taken between baby 1 hour old to he is 2 year and 9 months. Get yourself a cup of tea. It is going to be long…
(Disclaimer one more time: every cat is different. I am not suggesting every cat will behave the same. This photo record is to show you what happened to MY cats, MY baby and MY family. Thank you.)
One hour old…
We had a homebirth so the cats have been there the whole process. At one hour old, baby is already in bed with me, we are resting and cat is wondering what was that thing that just came out. Cat Number 2 – Fafa, is nowhere to be seen. As predicted, she went to hide to be away from all the strange sound and noise.
For 2 days, both cats didn’t come near the bedroom. They were scared of the ‘monkey’.
Larmlarm (the relatively brave one) came to check out the baby for the first time. All of this are done under SUPERVISION. I can’t emphasize this enough. USE YOUR COMMON SENSE!
Cat Number 2 Fafa won’t be seen in the bedroom for weeks! So you won’t see her until you scroll down…a lot.
Larmlarm came to touch the baby the first time. Then sit next to him. As you can see, my husband and myself (I am taking the photo) are there to supervise the whole process.
Larmlarm came to the bed to sleep. You can see he kept a distance. He couldn’t be farther away from the baby, he nearly fell off the edge. He was still unsure about the ‘monkey’.
Larmlarm slept a bit closer today. As I mentioned earlier, I WILL NOT be leaving them in the room alone and went off to make tea or something. ALWAYS SUPERVISE.
Husband is back to work, he fell asleep watching video on computer. Everyone was tired. (This is doula Alice speaking: I was watching the baby, and the video! You shouldn’t leave the baby lying like this while adult doze off. Check out Safe Sleep Seven on baby sleeping guideline. )
Larmlarm is getting comfortable with the baby. Fafa still nowhere to be seen.
Larmlarm starts to show friendliness towards the baby. He probably started to wonder if this ‘monkey’ is staying?
We also noticed Larmlarm continued to stay on the far end of the bed so we put up a comfortable pillow for him so he could have his own ‘spot’ as a gesture of reassurance that the monkey is not taking over everything.
Larmlarm definitely started to be more and more curious towards this new member of the family. I think he realised the ‘monkey’ is probably a human..
2 months and a half
Larmlarm started to exhibit similar behaviour towards the baby as if he is one of us.
2 months 3/4
Larmlarm continued to show interest to make friends with the new human.
And finally one day, he showed the first sign of playfulness with the baby.
3 months and a half
Larmlarm continued to enjoy the company of his new friend. Fafa still wouldn’t be anywhere near the baby.
3 months and 3/4
At nearly 4 months since the baby was born, Fafa FINALLY was brave enough to be near the baby. So no, it’s very unlikely she would do any harm to him. See my point?
Larmlarm continued to enjoy the company of his new human…
4 months 3/4
Business as usual…
Then something interesting happened. A customer of mine was stuck in a housing crisis. He bought a house but due to lawyer’s error, he couldn’t move into the house for weeks. So we took on her very friendly cats who are already familiar with babies to stay with us temporarily.
See? Same. No problem.
And Fafa FINALLY came back into the bedroom again…
And the baby started to show sign of interest to the cats as well. You can see he tried to play with them…
and both were shocked when I was spying on them…
At 5 months, Fafa finally tolerated being in close proximity with the baby and didn’t mind when the baby touched her. I was also pleased that my baby started to be a cat lover! Look at the way he admired Fafa?
5 months and 1/4
And then this happened…<3
5 months 3/4
At nearly 6 months, you can see the cats and the baby both really enjoy each other’s company. There was a lot of ‘mutual observation’ – are you the pet or am I the pet? ha!
At this point, you will also have to deal with ‘grabbing’. Babies generally start to have some eye hand coordination at this developmental stage. It’s a great educational opportunity to start them young to teach them to be gentle and respect animal’s boundary, etc. (And this is “mother me” speaking: I also find it a very good opportunity to start the ‘consent talk’ – No no, when someone doesn’t want to be touched, they are allowed to say no and we have to respect that. I am going to raise a boy who understands consent since the very beginning and this is a good opportunity to do that.)
Even Fafa was getting braver and braver and seem to start enjoying the company of this new human.
More grabbing. And I was there to tell the baby to be gentle. Hence, he turned his head.
Fafa wasn’t running away anymore when being grabbed at this stage.
After some coaching, baby seems to understand how to give cat face rub. As you can see on the photo, Larmlarm approved.
7 months and 1/4
Something interesting happened. I had to bring baby with me for one cat sitting job, with the permission of the customer. They have two beautiful friendly Maine Coon who love children. So they had a blast. It was Halloween in case you wonder why the sheep outfit. And you can see on the photo, another interesting development is baby started crawling.
7 months and a half
Crawling was in full on! And there was no stopping them playing together. Of course, I still had to supervise the whole proceeding. Can’t emphasize that enough. And yes, sometimes they played and fell asleep together…
Baby by now was a confirmed cat lover!
7 months and 3/4
Baby started to learn to stand…Larmlarm didn’t seem to mind.
At 8 months, Larmlarm showed grooming behaviour towards the baby the first time.
And Fafa also started to like this human. You can see she was showing playful behaviour here.
Now to answer the question – will the cat try to sleep with the baby? The answer is yes. So again, SUPERVISION! The black and white paw print pyjama pants on the bottom right corner in the photo was me. I was in bed with the both of them the whole time.
8 months and a half
Best friends forever! Isn’t it the most joyful thing to see a child enjoys an animal’s company and vice versa?
See? This is the kind of thing I was talking about when I mentioned accident at the beginning of this post. A cat could be standing on the railing of a cot and accidentally lost his balance. If the baby was sleeping in the cot, I wouldn’t have let Larmlarm continued to stand there. But baby was standing and playing so it was ok. See? Supervision and common sense.
8 months and 3/4
Larmlarm came and checked out the little Santa…haha
9 months and a half
9 months 3/4
10 months and a half
10 months and 3/4
1 year and one month
1 year and 2 months
1 year and a half
Baby..not a baby anymore. Toddler started to take an interest to help out with litter trays…
At this stage, there is not much to talk about really. The toddler understood cats very well, had a general concept of taking care of them and how to interact with them.
When we visited our friend on our holiday, he even helped out with their cat! Here it is him giving Joseph the cat some treats.
Here he is coming along for cat sitting jobs.
2 years and a half
On the photo on the right hand side, if you click on it and zoom in, you will see there is a cat sleeping inside a hiding space. We were at Kassikohvik Nurri – a cat cafe in Estonia. You can see toddler understand very well cat is sleeping and we need to respect their space.
2 years and 9 months
Do I need to say anything about this picture?
So tell me about your stories. Do you have a cat vs baby situation at home? How did you handle that? Leave me a comment below, I would love to hear from you.
After this saga, you would have thought we learn our lesson. But no, we didn’t, we were still convinced that we were smarter than cats and we could get them under control.
Of course, Monkey knows better and was determined to show us how wrong we were (again).
After the ‘Monkey gone missing’ incident, I had a long discussion with Monkey’s mum and asked how we should proceed going forward. We decided we will continue to let cats out, it’s a beautiful summer after all, but I will make sure to be in the garden with them at all time. The idea is, I shall be able to stop her immediately if she attempts to jump over the wall again.
Or that’s what we thought we could do.
Problem is she didn’t use the same tactic this time. She didn’t need to jump over the wall…
Monkey probably thought, ‘huh? Sure! I haven’t even lifted my paw yet to show you human. Oh well, I suppose I have to put things right this time once and for all.’
Did our plan work out? No. Not even on the first day.
But you might ask ‘what can go wrong?!’
A gap in the garden…
A gap so narrow we never pay any attention to.
Oh but Monkey knows…
On the first day since the ‘new plan’ is put in place, I arrived to the house as always. It was a lovely morning.
I let the cat out like I did before. The cats did their usual thing, dashed out like lighting only to stop after 3 seconds because they got distracted and forgot they were supposed to dash out.
We walked around the yard. Jake smelt the grass, went to the corner to go to the loo. Freddie disappeared into the neighbour’s garden immediately. Monkey walked normally around the garden.
But she looks too “normal”…
On hindsight, she was almost pacing herself to make sure I won’t suspect anything. Almost going ‘la la la la, I am acting as causal as possible…la la la la…’
After half an hour, I told the cats it’s time to go back inside. Jake went straight back not a problem, but Monkey stood there hesitated. So I stepped in her direction, but I was too late!
She dashed into this little gap and disappeared into darkness.
I have never noticed this gap before so I wasn’t sure where this gap lead to. As it turns out, it doesn’t lead to anywhere, but it doesn’t matter, Monkey has her own plan in mind.
She knew I usually only stay in the house for one hour, she KNEW if she wait it out, I would leave the house eventually, then she could have her freedom to roam the garden, then jumped outside the garden like she did a few days ago.
She had smelt the taste of freedom; there is no going back.
She would get to do whatever she wants to do during the day. Nothing, NOTHING is holding her back!
I tried to coax her out with food, but soon I realised I got myself into a war of attrition. It’s meaningless. I have to let go.
I called Monkey’s mum, and she agreed that there is nothing we could do.
If you are wondering if a cat can plan the whole plot all along, I’d like to believe she could. She probably figured out the gap is too narrow for human to access.
And another thing she knows if we were going to get into a war of attrition to ‘wait it out’, she would win, because after a few minutes of me trying to coax her out, she decided to close her eyes to take a nap to pass her time.
Since that fateful day, Monkey has been given (not really given but we have no choice…) freedom to roam during the day. She always comes back just before sunset. And she always demands to be served her dinner immediately…in her majestic style as always.
Moral of the lesson? One needs to be humble when one is to work with animals. The longer I work with cats, the more I realise I don’t know anything about cats. Monkey is one of the most memorable cats I have ever worked with because she always put me back in my place whenever I get cheeky.
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One of the things I love about being a cat sitter is – I learn so much from the cats I sit.
Monkey is a very very smart cat. In fact, she is probably THE smartest cat I have ever met. At least, she is the only one who has successfully tricked me – the so-called ‘cat expert’ – to the point of surrender.
And the thing is, I am sure she KNOWS she is smart and is not afraid to just SHOW YOU.
How smart is she? Remember I mentioned in my introduction that I got trapped in a house for 6 hours? Oh yes, that’s Monkey’s doing…
Monkey is a fluffy long-haired tabby cat with a permanent half-angry face and squinting eyes, quite big in size for a female cat. She carries herself in a conqueror-like manner; she knows she has the whole world and its humans under her paws. Sometimes, she might pity you and come rub your legs shiftily. But once you think she has finally accepted you as her confidant, she jumps back up somewhere high, looks down at you and hisses ‘you are nothing but my humble subject…back off!’ She then paces majestically to her throne (it’s really just a cat bed, but it’s a throne in her eyes) to lie down, purposely staring back at you with half closed eyes that say ‘The Queen needs to rest now, you are dismissed…’
Monkey took herself seriously, yes she does.
And my mistake was, I didn’t take her seriously enough.
On that fateful day last summer, I learned to respect her….the hard way.
Monkey lives with Jake and Freddie, an elderly friendly black cat and a teenage tuxedo cat. They are the poor cat subjects in Monkey’s cat-dom. I was requested by their human to go see them twice a day. Most of my customers ask me to see their cats once a day, but I do have such requests from time to time, usually with cats who have medical needs or are too old or have a very demanding personality. In this case, Jake is diabetic and needs insulin injections twice a day, so I obliged.
I don’t usually like ‘twice-a-day’ jobs because it basically stretches my workday to a 12-hour day. I have to either go home midday or find something to do to occupy myself between the first half of my day and the second half of my day.
But with this family, it didn’t bother me too much. Firstly, Jake, Freddie and, to some extent, Monkey are such lovely cats. Secondly, their most recent booking came during the peak of summer; I got to play outside in the garden with the 3 cats when the weather was lovely. That’s what I call the ‘good bit’ of being a cat-sitter – enjoying the great outdoors, playing with lovely cats and getting paid doing it.
Five days into the booking, I went in to see these cats in the morning as usual. On this particular day, I didn’t have many bookings in the afternoon, so I decided I was just going to hang out with these cats in the garden. My customers are usually happy if they get the ‘extra hours’ of me being in the house with their cats. Contrary to the myth that says cats don’t care about humans, cats do get lonely when their humans are away for too long, and I see this every day. There are cats who go off food, cats who comfort eat, others who stare out the window waiting for their human to come back, etc. These particular humans were going away for 2 weeks to the U.S. to see their family, so extra company for their cats was most welcome.
My instructions were – let Freddie outside to wander around during the day, because he is a ‘punctual’ kind of guy. He always comes home when you call him for dinner, so no worry there. And let Jake and Monkey out to play in the back garden while I am in the house, and get them back in before I leave. Their human figured, since both of them are older and have never attempted to climb the wall to get out of the garden, they would be safe and it should be easy enough for me to get them back in when the session is up.
So I did as instructed.
The moment I opened the door to the back garden, the cats dashed out like three furry arrows, except they stopped suddenly just after they started (like most cats, they get distracted as soon as they are outside and sort of forget they were supposed to dash off somewhere…) and proceeded to smell the ground in front of them. Freddie jumped straight up on the wall and disappeared into the neighbour’s garden.
It was an extraordinary sunny day. I attempted to play with Jake and Monkey a little bit, but they much preferred to be left alone to sunbathe, go to the toilet, smell every single blade of grass in the garden, and do other ‘cat stuff’ they like to do without human interference. So I retired back into the sunny kitchen, sat myself down with a book, being really pleased with myself having the best job in the world, looking forward to a lovely afternoon ahead of me.
Or so I thought.
It turned out to be one of the worst cat-sitting days of my life!
I started reading, but periodically looked up to check that Jake and Monkey are doing fine. Honestly, I shouldn’t need to be bothered. Their human said they never leave the garden, right?
Except this was the very day that Monkey decided to put her long-prepared escape plan into practice.
See? I told you she is smart. She didn’t try on the first 4 days, just so that she could give me a false sense of security. Or maybe she saw that I was reading? Whatever it was in her head, she decided, ‘today will be the day…haha.’
About half an hour in, I looked up again. I saw Jake sunbathing on the grass, taking in the lovely summer. And then… ‘uh, where is Monkey?’
I put the book down, went straight to pat sunbathing Jake, and started to look into the bushes in the garden.
‘MOOOONKEEEEY!!!! What the hell? Did she go back inside the house?’
I went inside to start looking. Maybe she had enough of the sun and went back in. You never know with cats, right?
I went up and down searching the whole kitchen, but honestly there is really nothing to search. The kitchen was one of those modern minimalist kitchens, there is nowhere to hide.
I thought to myself, ‘wait till I find you, I will tell your mom and you will be grounded.’
I went back out to the garden and went on all fours to look behind and under the shed. Jake came over out of curiosity, wondering if I was trying to imitate a cat. He proceeded to headbutt me.
‘Not now, Jake, not now.’
I started to panic, so I called Cat Man.
‘I think Monkey escaped!’ My husband knows all the cats under my care by name, because we talk about them every night. Ah yes, we are boring people.
‘What are you talking about?’
‘Monkey is gone, she’s not in the garden or anything.’
‘Have you tried the house? Maybe she went back inside?’
‘I DID! I tried everywhere!’
Frustrated, I hung up and started calling my customer. She didn’t answer the phone. So I proceeded as per standard procedure, I called the ‘Emergency Contact Person’. (I recommend all my customers leave me the details of an Emergency Contact Person, in case of…well, an emergency.) The Emergency Contact Person didn’t pick up the phone either.
I went to the front of the house and started looking for Monkey in the rest of the housing estate.
I shook a can of cat treats, and went ‘Mooooonkeeeeeey……’ Shook the can of treats some more, and went ‘Moooooonkeeeeeeeey…..’ I went on all fours to peek under all the cars, in the bushes, behind the rubbish bins, everywhere.
Thanks to the panic and the heat of the one hot day in the year in Ireland, I started sweating.
I’m pretty sure I looked like a crazy woman.
One neighbour looked over the fence from his garden, ‘er…hi! What are you doing?’
‘Well, what do you think? I am looking for a cat!’
‘oh…haven’t seen any cat. Sorry, can’t help you. ’
I thought to myself, ‘You know what would help me? Leave me the fuck ALONE!!!! I am shaking a can of cat food, calling ‘Moooooonkeeeeeeeyyyy……’ at 5 second intervals. Sometimes I go on all fours peeking under things. What ELSE can one be doing if not looking for a cat?’
I called Cat Man again…
‘She’s not anywhere!’
‘Okie…um…do you need help?’
‘Come here immediately!’
Cat Man has always been very supportive of my work (note to self: I am a lucky woman), plus he is a great cat lover himself. He showed up in half an hour.
We looked for her a bit more. Exhausted, we sank into the sofa in the kitchen. Jake gave us more headbutts.
You might wonder, ‘why are you guys so freaked out. I mean, geez, it’s not your fault. Their human said you could let them go outside in the garden, well, you did and one is gone, what’s the big deal?’
Well, you are not wrong. I know it sounds cliché but I genuinely treat them as my own during the period they are under my care, so of course I was freaked out that my cat was gone when she never left the garden before!
I tried the U.S. landline number that their human left me and this time someone picked up.
‘Monkey is GONE!’
‘er…since when?’ the human tried to sound very calm, but I knew she was not.
‘For a couple of hours now. I tried ALL your numbers, no one picked up.’
‘We were on the beach. Haha, it’s typical cat, isn’t it. They have to choose the only day you get to lie on the beach to relax with your family overseas to do tricks like this.’ My customers all have a great sense of humour and manage to see the funny side of things.
But then again, if you don’t have a great sense of humour, you can’t live with a cat or they will drive you mad.
She continues, ‘well, she did that before many many years ago in another house we lived in. She has never done that in this house, I thought she couldn’t manage to jump over the wall of this garden…’
‘Listen, I have to go on to my evening rounds for some other cats. If you don’t mind, I am going to leave my husband here to wait for Monkey. He can wait here for a few more hours.’
‘Oh, cool, if he doesn’t mind. And look, if she is still not back by the time you guys have to wrap it up for the day, leave it. I am sure she will wait for you at the door in the morning when she’s hungry. Oh one more thing, don’t try to look for her. The more you try to look for her, the more she will try to avoid you. She’s like that…’
And we just spent the past few hours doing exactly that.
So I left for my evening rounds.
But I called Cat Man every 15 minutes, ‘Is she back yet?’ ‘No.’ ‘Is she back yet?’ ‘No.’ And so on.
At 21:30, ‘Is she back yet?’
By then, it had been 6 hours since the beginning of the saga.
‘Oh well, I guess you better go home, it’s starting to get dark.’
‘Ok…see ya.’ he hung up.
Cat Man is a man of few words and has the patience of a saint with cats.
So we officially gave up. We declared our unconditional surrender to Her Majesty The Queen Monkey.
One minute after the declaration, my phone rang again. It was Cat Man.
‘She is back,’ Cat Man announced calmly. He never panics. I don’t think he has the ability to. I am the one who does all the panicking in the family.
‘Yes. I was going to go home like we said. I opened the front door, she dashed right in. She ran straight to the kitchen and stood in front of the food bowl asking for food.’
Not only did she jerk us around for 6 hours, she now complains the lack of speedy customer service in serving her dinner.
‘Oh well, I have to feed her now. She said she is hungry. I’ll call you back.’ He continues being calm and I don’t know how he manages.
I texted her human immediately, as I knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep that night.
After 6 hours of being trapped in this house waiting for Queen Monkey to show us mercy, here is the moral of the story:
Do not underestimate the intelligence of cats. They can outsmart you easily; they just don’t…most of the days…because they are too lazy.
In case you are wondering, no we didn’t charge the customer extra for all the waiting time involved. We did it out of our own concern. She didn’t ask us to stay and wait, we would have done it anyway no matter what.
Plus, I would like to think in scenario like that, it shows my customers that I genuinely care about their cats and treat them as my own, which I really do.
And guess what? This saga is not even finished yet. Three days later, Queen Monkey gave us more trouble…(to be continued…make sure you ‘follow’ my blog to read the second part of my struggle with Monkey!)
In the last post, I spoke about my inspiration to become a Cat Sitter and Behaviourist.
However, I didn’t pull the trigger until 6 months later.
It was 2009 then, and I started feeling depressed again. I again got bored with my job (do you see a pattern yet? I get bored very easily).
At first I tried to understand the cause of my depression. I thought maybe I am someone who needs to move a lot. But we only moved to Dublin two years ago. Suddenly a lightbulb went on – maybe it’s my job! Maybe I just don’t like working in an office! The idea of being in a cubicle with a whole bunch of other people typing away in front of the computer under fluorescent light bores me even just thinking about it now. Plus, in a corporate environment, we are supposed to ‘care’ about the corporation we work for. But seeing what corporations have been doing for the past few years, this idea is funny. Don’t get me wrong. I need to do a little disclaimer here. The corporation I worked for was lovely to me, I liked my boss, and in fact they couldn’t have been nicer to me. My ex-boss was especially supportive of me starting my own business at the end. If you are reading this, thank you again. So when I say I don’t like to work for corporations, it wasn’t about the particular corporation I worked for. It’s the idea of being a member of a multinational company, the feeling of being in a factory-assembly-line-like operation that bothers me. If you like, it’s the ideology of it that bothers me. I like to work hard, I don’t mind working 14 hour days. In fact, ‘thanks’ to my Chinese blood, I am a bit of a workaholic, but I don’t want my hard work to contribute to some shareholders, I want it to contribute to me and my family.
Then I sat down to think about all the jobs I had in my life. And I realised I got bored with all the jobs I had after a year or two, except one– the Train Attendant for a French high speed train, when I was a student in Paris. That’s because as a Train Attendant I didn’t have a boss telling me what to do every morning, and every day was different! (In fact, I met so many interesting people and have so many crazy passenger stories that I will probably post on this in the future on my sideline blog here, keep an eye on it.)
So the pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place:
I was a cat hater and turned into a cat lover, thanks to Le Chat
+ My cat is very difficult so I read about cat psychology
+ I couldn’t find a Cat Sitter to take care of Larmlarm so I realised there is a market
+ I got bored with working for corporations
= I started Maow Care.
Just when I made up my mind to start my own business, the Irish government announced we were officially in a recession. I told a few friends about quitting my ‘good job’. Some of them were very supportive, some thought I was mad.
I mulled over the idea for a few weeks, and realised I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So I told myself I would give myself a year. If I wasn’t making a living wage in a year, I would go back to look for a job in a bank (not that banks are ever closing down or anything from the observation we’ve had these past few years, am I right?)
I would like to say, ‘then we lived happily ever after’, but it’s not so simple. Starting your own business involved a lot of hard work, determination, self-discipline, and more importantly, support from friends and family. Uh-no, if you think you can do it by yourself, you can’t. Trust me on this. I am a control freak and I don’t even let people help me when I am ill. But having my own business taught me to ask for help. Look, I am not going to bore you with this if you are coming here to read about cat stories, so if you want to know more about my journey to self-employment, go to my ‘Start My Own Business’ corner here.
But since I became self-employed, guess what? I never feel depressed, not ever, not even a tiny bit. I wake up every day looking forward to the challenges ahead of me. I get to see so many fabulous cats and their interesting humans (just as fabulous). I have also noticed cat people tend to have very similar personalities and have a lot of similar hobbies (scary enough, I do think cat people have a particular profile and this research is kind of accurate…), Cat Man and I ended up meeting lots of interesting people, some of them becoming great friends. Being self-employed also gives you a sense of control over your own destiny, and that is very empowering.
However, don’t think it’s all a fairy-tale like existence. On the contrary! Some days I work until midnight or after midnight worrying about a newsletter to send tips to my customers. If a cat is ill, I worry. There is a lot of laughter in this job, but also a lot of pain and tears, with the occasional blood and poop thrown in.
But I don’t ever feel I am working.
And THAT’S how I became a cat sitter…
This is the final part of the ‘How I became a cat sitter’ series, but it’s only the beginning of my blogging journey. For the last 5 years I am in this job, I have seen so many amazing cats and humans. I love my job and most of the day, I don’t feel like I am working.Next week, I will start telling you stories about My Life as a Cat Sitter. I hope you can join me in my journey and that you can enjoy my rounds as much as I do. Go click ‘FOLLOW’ now! What are you waiting for?
You might think it sounds like a fun idea, but when ‘playing’ is part of your job, it is not as fun as everyone thinks. Plus, cats under my care are cats whose human are away, so they tend to be bored and have lots of energy. It’s my duty to make sure they use up that energy, tired out and get a good long sleep until the next visit. So the ‘playing’ becomes a very serious matter to me.
After thousands of ‘play’ session, I have tried lots of cat toys in the market. And yet, I have not found any toy better than the Cat Dancer toy.
Cat Dancer toy is truly the best cat toy in the world.
Let’s see what they say officially:
Cat Dancer is the original interactive cat toy. Spring steel wire and rolled cardboard create an irresistible lure for cats and great fun for cat lovers. Home-tested by over 8 million cats.
And this is what I say:
Cheap – The Cat Dancer toy is really a no-frill toy. There is no fancy colour fluffy stuff on it. Just a piece of wire and bits of cardboard. So the price is very very affordable.
Resilient – I had mine for 5 years. Enough said.
It WORKS! – When you open the package, you wonder if the cat will like a piece of wire with bits of cardboard attached to it. But before you know, the cat bounce on it and wouldn’t stop for hours on the first day! Honestly, this is the only toy that REALLY works, in my opinion, to use up cat’s excess energy.
Tricky to store – It might actually be a bit of a ‘first world problem’, but I find it a bit tricky to store the toy. I have difficulty to wind up the wire and store it in a neat manner without it getting caught on stuff. I find it particularly tricky if I want to take it with me to jobs coz it always get to tangle with other stuff in my bag. But ‘normal people’ who are not cat sitter shouldn’t have this problem!
People don’t know it’s a cat toy – Again, it might be a bit of a weird ‘problem’ if you can even call it that. Due to the no-frill looks, people don’t know it’s a cat toy. If you have guests or cleaners they might ask you why do you keep piece of wire lying around. Once, I had a cleaner thought it was piece of rubbish and toss it into the bin 🙁
Availability – Not very widely available in Ireland. I know zooplus.ie carries it occasionally. Alternatively, you can order from my online store here.
As you can see, the ‘cons’ are not really cons to be honest. Plus, we cat lovers don’t really care much about any ‘cons’ of a product as long as the cats love it! In this case, I have yet found one cat who doesn’t love the Cat Dancer toy! And I have played with hundreds of cats!
So what are you waiting for? Go get a Cat Dancer now!
DISCLAIMER: I recommend this product not because I happen to stock them. In fact, I stock them because I love it and found it very difficult to purchase in Ireland. After recommending Cat Dancer toy to many of my customers and they had difficulty finding them, I took the initiative to contact the manufacturer and put in a bulk order for the convenience of cat people around me. The money I make from stocking the Cat Dancer toy covers my cost and shipping. But trust me, the money I make is very insignificant and might not even be enough to buy you a cup of tea.
See Cat Dancer in action!
(The standard disclaimer for all the products I review on this blog:
This is my honest review. In fact, I will not review something that my cats haven’t tried. I don’t receive any form of compensation for reviewing a product. I am only sharing my opinion on these products with you because I think some people might find it useful.)