How I learnt to herd cats

I love my three cats, Georgie, Benny and Sammy, but they’re not the only cats in my life. I’m also very fond of all the other cats I look after in my work as a professional home and pet sitter. I became a homesitter some twenty years ago when a friend spotted an advert from Homesitters Ltd who were recruiting. Knowing I’m an animal lover my friend suggested I sign up.

I also have another job. I’m an editor of a journal and I work from home; this can get rather monotonous so I was keen for a change of routine. One big advantage of working from home is that I can work from anywhere, so I contacted Homesitters, attended an interview and was offered a job!

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I’ve done many interesting home sits over the years, but my favourite by far is a regular client I’ve been visiting since 1996 who lives near Hampton Court in Surrey (UK). When I first started these assignments I looked after three cats – a brother and two sisters who were lots of fun.

On my first stay the owner asked me to put the three cats in the kitchen at night – I was literally ‘herding cats’! One of the female cats was rather nervous and used to climb up the curtains and sit on the curtain rail to avoid me. I tried everything, even lining up treats along the floor to the kitchen, but she was too canny for that. In the end I used to creep down the stairs later and find her asleep on a beanbag and I’d carry the whole beanbag – with her on it – into the kitchen! It was a real battle of wills! I learned that sometimes with cats you just have to sit it out and be patient!

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The male cat, Theo, was the complete opposite, he wasn’t shy at all and was very affectionate. When I was watching television he would sit on the back of the sofa behind me and massage my head – and he’d put his arms round my neck and give me a hug, it was lovely! If I stayed in bed any later than 7 a.m. he’d remind me it was breakfast time by patting me on the face.

I’ll never forget the morning that I came into the kitchen to find the extraordinary sight of the three cats sitting around in a semi-circle watching a mouse who was quite happily drinking out of their water bowl!

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I knew these three cats – and cared for them – throughout their whole lives; the last one of the siblings lived to about 13 years old.

I still home and pet sit for the same client but these days I look after Thelma who is an incredibly timid cat. She has a bag of toys that she loves to empty out on to the floor and play with, including a little cart which she pulls around – but only when she thinks I’m not looking!

When I’m caring for very shy cats like Thelma I like them to feel reassured by my presence without feeling under the pressure of someone paying them close attention, so I’ll sit quietly in the room with Thelma but I won’t look directly at her. In time she becomes used to me being there and will happily play with me in the room.

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I love my regular home sits in Surrey, it has become a real home from home. I enjoy taking walks along by the river and the client has become a great friend. I also do assignments in other places – one job involved looking after a horse, a donkey, cats and rabbits. I was most amused to discover that while I mucked out the horse and donkey the cat would ride on the horse’s back!

While I’m off home sitting I know my own cats are in safe hands at home with my partner, but when we went on holiday a few years ago we didn’t have anyone to look after the cats so we decided to use Homesitters ourselves.

As a homesitter myself I know the company has an extremely thorough vetting service, so was reassured that my cats would be left with someone really trustworthy – it was very nice knowing that while we were away, fellow homesitters were there looking after everything.

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9 thoughts on “How I learnt to herd cats

  1. Theo sounds like an absolute sweetheart. Head massages and hugs….oh, yes. My Kitty used to knead my head at night…as she jumped onto my pillow as soon as I laid down on it. Cats know who loves them and the rewards are so very wonderful.

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