What does it mean to be a cat sitter?

What does it mean to be a cat sitter?

This happens to me all the time.

‘What are you doing in Ireland?’

‘I live here.’

‘You work?’

‘Er..yes.’ (I always wonder if people are asking me this as in ‘are you on welfare? Taking advantage of my country?’ but I could be over-sensitive…)

‘What do you do?’

(I thought to myself, ‘oh gawd…not again.’)

‘Er…I am self employed.’

‘Oh what is that about?’

(‘Here we go again…’)

‘I have a ‘cat business’. I am a cat sitter.’

Then the reactions are usually one of the followings:

– ‘You are WHAT?’

– ‘Can you make money doing that?’ (I have a separate post to address this question. FOLLOW my blog if you want to know more.)

– ‘What do you actually do?’

So today, once and for all, I will tell you what does it mean to be a cat sitter.

It is A LOT more than just putting down food in the cat’s bowl…


Every business need to keep books. A lot of people like to use an accountant. I, however, am a strong believer that small family business like Maow Care should try to find time to do their own accounts. (A post on how to do your accounts will be up for SMOB series. FOLLOW MY BLOG!)

That way you can understand the cash flow of your business better. Plus, it’s quite expensive to pay for an accountant for a small business like mine. So I do my accounts.

Since I have a new baby recently, I am SOOO behind…



If you are a professional pet carer would it be sitter, groomer, trainer, etc, you SHOULD have regular training. There are new stuff coming out in the animal science world every year. I am surprise to see a lot of professional pet carers in Ireland are not actively seeking continuous education.

I suppose it’s a two-way issue. Most customers probably don’t see the importance of that and don’t value the time a sitter spend to learn more. As a result, some sitters might feel, ‘why bother?’

I have an extensive ‘cat library’ at home for my own use.

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I attend cat conference regularly in the UK. I am a curious person by nature and I genuinely love cats, I want to learn as much about them as possible!


I also regularly seek education on the ‘business side of things’. Accounting, marketing, social media, etc. I have no formal business training, so it is important for me to educate myself to help run my business better.

Operation (actual cat sitting)

Now is the fun part – the actual minding of cats. You might not know, but there are soo sooo much more than just putting food out.

As a cat sitter, we are entering people’s home, we have to make sure to respect people’s privacy and make sure their home is secured. We have a lot of ‘trick of the trade’ in this business to ensure that.

Once we make sure the house is secured and cats are safe. We do the actual sitting. We follow customer’s instruction to feed cat, play with cat, change litter tray, give meds if needed, let cat out or let cat in, etc. To be honest, no two homes are the same, no two cats are the same. Every customer’s instruction are different! And I have taken care of close to a thousand cats! Take drinking device as an example, I have so far had, cat bowl, pint glass (half full, full to the beam, full but NOT to the beam), sink, bath, shower, bucket, fountain, etc. So being a cat sitter, one has to be very detail oriented to follow instruction to the T.

After each sitter, we keep a log to record what happened at the job in case customer ask us question later about a specific visit. We also send email or text message daily to report what happened at the job, so that customers can know their cats are fine.

We also follow up to make sure customers return home safety. In case of delay, we will cover extra days at the last minute notice. Sometimes, it might affect our previous engagement…

Key management is a huge part of this business. There are constantly about 100 keys I have to handle. Having a tidy and secure system to make sure all keys are label in code word is crucial.

We have to keep good record of customer profile and all other paper work customers hand in to us. I have to file them alphabetical and make sure to lock them safely in the file cabinet. There are so much personal information in these profiles that require high level of care and discretion.


Customer Service

Cat sitting, at the end of the day, is a customer service business. We provide a service to the human. We take good care of the cats of course, but making sure the human are crucial for the business to stay alive. Because, after all, the humans are the one who have the bank account, not the cats…(sadly…coz I think it will be easier to please cats, just bring treats! haha)

As a professional cat sitter, we are required to provide the first meeting called ‘Meet and Greet’ free of charge. That actually takes up a lot of our time to do that. We usually spend one hour talking to the potential customers. We do a presentation to explain what cat sitting is and how it works. Then answer any questions they might have. If the customers want to show us where all the cat stuff are, we will do a house tour. All of these are free and though it’s rare, sometimes it might not bring in an actual booking. So it’s time lost and we are not paid. But it’s part of being a professional pet carer, we have to provide this service for ethical reason so we are happy to do that. But at the same time, as a business owner, I do have to be careful to screen potential time wasters so to maximise our time to provide service our actual paid customers. For example, if someone ring me on the phone and ask about my service and immediately mention her neighbour’s teenage son can sit her cat for 5 Euro, I know immediately that my service is not for her. Not purely because of the difference in budget, but my experience tells me this person probably won’t see the value of hiring a highly trained professional.

My phone is on 24/7. I try to reply customers as quickly as possible. Texts are generally replied with a few minutes. Email within a few hours. I also replied Facebook comments, blog comments instantly. Phone calls are replied as they come in. If I am in the meeting and can’t pick up the phone, I call back the first moment I step out of the meeting. As a result, my customers trust me because I am very reliable. And yes, I reply my customers even during my holiday. The only time I haven’t replied is during the first month of my maternity leave. I am a nervous cat parent, I know how it feels when we want to get an instant reply about our cats, so I try to make myself available for any questions or concern immediately. My customers know if I don’t call back in a few hours, sometimes is wrong. e.g. I was giving birth to my son.

Having said that, I am slowly trying to delegate some of these to the wonderful help Sara. I am hoping I can get a better work life balance now that I have my son in the picture…


Cat sitting business is a business at the end. We need to do a lot of marketing to promote the business. I have been running a photo competition called ‘Maow Of The Week’ with great success since 2013. I will probably continue to do so. It takes about one hour a week of work, but it’s a lot of fun.

Almost every fortnight, there are advertising agents from different papers, website, magazine, even local school and rugby club (!) to ask us to advertise. It takes a lot of time to screen them and turn them down. I have huge success with online advertising and word of mouth so I don’t tend to do actual paper ad anymore. I used to do that when I first started my business on 2009 but that was because the whole social media thing takes off. Paper ad is too expensive and reach too little people in comparison to online ad. Plus, I notice most of my customers come from a certain group of people. They are the kind of people who will share cute cat photos on Facebook, and they don’t read actual newspaper…

That brought us to the subject of – Social Media.

What I am going to say might offend some people. It might be a stereotype but cat people do spend a lot of time on the internet, hanging out with other cat people, sharing cat photos, laughing at cat jokes, etc. Heck, you are reading my blog! haha

So I do need to spend significant amount of time every day to interact with customers and other cat lovers who might potentially turn into my customers or refer their cat loving friends to my business. This is the part of my daily duty that I quite enjoy. I love cats and I love to chat with cat people, so yeah!


I don’t like to deal with technology.

But unfortunately as a one-woman show, I need to deal with everything.

I have maintain my website (a revamp of my website is long due! I need to get it done before Christmas season!!! UGH!!!!)

I am also in the process of building a new CRM. With the growing number of customers every year, I need to have a better CRM. It’s a long term IT project, and I am pulling my hair out just talking about this now. So I stop.

Charity Work

People might be aware but it’s almost unavoidable to be involved with charities when one is in an animal business. Cat charities and Maow Care co-exist in a win-win situation. Cats helped by Maow Care will become potential customers. Charities helped by Maow Care will refer future adopters to use Maow Care. So everyone is happy.

At the end of the day, cat sitter are genuine cat lovers, it’s only natural that we want to help.

Often I got pet sitters who just started ask me how to get more customers, my standard answer is always this – you need to be patient and you need to do a lot of free work to build a reputation.

I started a cat food collection campaign recently. Click on the image to learn more!

Hungry Maow Logo

Legal Matters

Making sure insurance is in order. Sorting out piles of paperwork coming in the mailbox every day. Just like any other business. I bore myself just talking about this, so let’s move on.

Human Resources

Every cat sitter is required to have a back up person. In case of accident or injury, a cat sitter should provide a back up plan to take care of cats under their care. And since 2012, I have Sara, Oli, Laura and Grainne work with me as contractor sitters. They are all my existing customers and have been great fun working with people who are as cat mad as I do. (Happy face!)

But as a result of expanding the team, it comes more paperwork and accounting to do! (Sad face…)


After being a cat sitter for over 5 years, I realise writing about cats is the natural next step. I work with and talk about cats 90% of my waking hours. I have so much to say on the subject. Plus, seeing so many ignorant people and general horrible attitude toward cats in Ireland, I feel a calling to educate the general public. Hence, I started writing this blog.

As you can see it’s a constant struggling to put different hats on every day to run a cat sitting business!

Some people complains the price we charge is too expensive for ‘just putting food down’. But the thing is, we don’t just put food down! As you can see, there are so much more! We are only being paid for one item out of this list of 10 – the actual cat sitting visit. But the other stuff all needs to be done and absolutely necessary.

Being a cat sitter is A LOT more than just taking care of the actual cat. It’s a huge responsibility and require high level of problem solving skill and organisational skill. If you are not a multitasker, being a cat sitter is not for you.

During the past 5 years, I have seen so many pet sitting business and pet grooming business opening up, only to close down in a few months down the line. Most of the time, it has nothing to deal with not getting enough business. There are more than enough business in Ireland to have many more pet sitters, trust me! Usually it has a lot to deal with the person not suitable to be self employed. Either having wrong expectation (e.g. thinking ‘playing with animals, yeah!’ or thinking ‘I am going to make a lot of money JUST playing with animals! Yeah!’ ) or just don’t have what it takes to run a business (‘I can’t do customer service.’ WHAT?) A lot of people think ‘I love animals, so I play with them and take good care of them.’ Well, I am sorry to say, being good with animals is only one of the item on the job duty list. As you can see, there are so much more.

I am pleased to say it has been over 5 years I am a cat sitter and I am still here! I don’t make huge amount of money, but I really enjoy my job and can’t imagine doing something else!

Before I go, I will show you a picture of my office, so you can see where I pull my hair out doing my account and paperwork…haha.


Coming up – I will bring you to my round on a typical day (if there is such a thing) and an atypical cat sitting day. I will also show you my gear. So FOLLOW my blog if you don’t want to miss these fun posts. 

Hungry Maow Cat Food Collection campaign

Hungry Maow Cat Food Collection campaign

Hungry Maow Logo

As a cat sitter, I see that every family seems to have at least one bag of open but uneaten cat food. And it’s because of this scenario….

My lovely customers purchased beautiful cat food hoping to please their beloved cat. Took home the food, opened it, put it down, cat sniffed at it and walked away….

And I thought this bag of uneaten cat food could help a lot of cats in need, e.g. feral cats, foster cats, cats living with people who are under financial pressure during the recession, etc. So I approached Cats Aid and volunteered to organise a campaign to get this uneaten food to them.

How can you help? 

If you have unwanted cat food. You can bring them to our drop off point.

If you are a business and want to be one of our drop off point, please contact me here.

What do we want?

  • Opened dry food
  • Unopened dry food
  • Unopened wet food
  • New food you buy just to donate! (Grab a few more pouches in the supermarket before you head to the checkout!)

Drop off point:

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Constant Knitter – 88 Francis Street, Dublin 8.

Constant Knitter is voted one of the twelve best shops in Ireland by The Irish Times and its readers on 2012. Please go in to say hi to the lovely Rosemary and browse the amazing yarn selection. Support the business that support cats!


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Where will the food go? 


Cats Aid will collect the food and it will go to:

  • Foster cats and kittens
  • Feral cats and kittens
  • Cats live with families with financial difficulties

Your unwanted food will benefit a lot of hungry cats!

Please donate and spread the word of this campaign. SHARE SHARE SHARE on your social media. Thank you.

Hungry Maow is a food collection campaign brought to you by Maow Care (me!) in an effort to the community. This is a completely voluntary initiative. For more information, please contact me here

How I became a cat sitter Part 5 – Maow Care is born!

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?)

So I went and started Maow Care.

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?
How I became a cat sitter Part 4 – Can one be a cat shrink?

How I became a cat sitter Part 4 – Can one be a cat shrink?

In my last post, I talked about finding out Larmlarm is a very difficult cat. But he helped me get through depression and gave me enough strength and courage to move to Paris to start a new life.

When we moved to Paris, we had nothing. All I had was two suitcases, a one-way ticket,1000 Euro a friend loaned me; and most importantly – LarmLarm. I built the life that I have today with my bare hands and I doubt I could have done it without him.

(If you are interested in knowing more about my journey – I have started a sideline blog to talk about everything that’s not related to my job –Outside The Purrfect Job.)

Not only he did help me through the difficult times of my life by being supportive, his horrendous personality also led me to get into the whole ‘cat thing’. (Oh well, cats get you in all sorts of unexpected ways, don’t they?)

When Larmlarm was little, I was told, ‘don’t worry, he is difficult now because he is a kitten, just hang on and wait. Once he gets older, say, when he is 2, he will be much calmer.’

So I waited.

Then nothing changed.

In fact, he might have gotten worse because now he knows better how to manipulate humans and wrap them around his paws.

I remember it was 2005, we had lived in Paris for 3 years and Larmlarm was just a bit over 3 years old then. He was WAYYYYY past the he-will-get-older-and-get-better threshold. And the funny thing is, even though he is difficult, most people who met him LOVED him, because he has a very beautiful innocent-looking face and he is so friendly to people, sometimes almost dog-like. (In fact, I suspect that’s how he got us to adopt him in the first place! Damn it!) As long as you don’t upset him, he gives you so much love you can’t resist.

I am a reader and a strong believer in ‘there is always a book in this world to solve your problem’. So I went and bought two books in the hopes of understanding LarmLarm better.


I read them in one day.

The whole ‘cat psychology’ opened my eyes to the mysterious world of the cat’s mind. I got sucked in…

I do remember thinking to myself something along the lines of ‘if only I can work with cats, like these people…’ That night, I put the book away, turned the light off to go to bed, woke up the next day, took the metro and went to my job. Just like every other day.

My life didn’t dramatically change immediately, but the idea stuck in the back of my head. ‘If only I can work with cats…’

Fast forward to 2007. I started to get bored with my job in Paris and in fact, I started to get bored with Paris altogether. And guess what happens when I get bored. I feel depressed.

Fortunately, I have a very strange way to handle depression. Instead of staying in bed feeling sorry for myself all day, I usually do what I do best, make a plan to change things. By then, I not only had Larmlarm in my life, I have also met Cat Man. (I will probably tell you the story of how cats have brought Cat Man and I together, and how Larmlarm didn’t like Cat Man at first, etc, in future posts.)

Soon enough, I got a job offer to work in Dublin, so together with Cat Man and Larmlarm, I moved to Dublin (please click here if you want to know the practical information of moving your cat using the ferry).

Fast forward to Christmas 2008, my mom suddenly appeared in Paris with her husband to visit my sister. We wanted to go see them over the New Year, but what about Larmlarm? Back in Paris, we usually asked Cat Man’s godmother (who is also a great cat lover) to come and take care of him. In Dubin, however, we didn’t know enough people yet to ask for help, so I started to look for a paid option. In 2008, there were only two major pet sitting companies in Dublin and only one of them was specialized in cats. I called and asked for a cat sitter. Turned out no one was available. I wouldn’t blame them, it’s the holiday season after all! Everyone would have planned for their getaway long ago. If they didn’t have their mom suddenly show up that is…

I thought to myself, ‘it looks like people have loads of business. Geez, I could be a cat sitter!’

As usual, I didn’t think about it…much after that.

Except I didn’t totally forget about it either…

(to be continued…How I became a cat sitter? Last part – Maow Care is born! is here)