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. loisajay says:

    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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