We all know about pet hotels. Boarding costs can quickly add up and these places aren’t an option for some pets—anxious pets, anti-social pets, sick pets and pets who downright refuse to co-exist with others. So when we got an email from Madolline asking us if we were accepting submissions, we were intrigued about her story.
Most of the websites Madolline’s used to house and cat sit her way around the US are free for home and pet owners to use. The sitters, however, must pay to use each service. Madolline started her house and cat sitting journey a few years back in San Francisco during Christmas 2017. “I was looking after a cat called Harvey. Harvey was my main ‘responsibility’. Feeding him and changing his water each day, cleaning the litter box and vacuuming any mess from it, and play time and treat time. Everything else was pretty simple. Just clean up after yourself. Making sure someone’s cat is tended to is definitely the priority here.”
“The couple’s ad said Harvey [the cat] was still a bit unsure about people, and not entirely comfortable around more than one or two people at a time. When we Skyped, they told me Harvey was a feral cat who was taken in by a local shelter. He was still adjusting to his new life and I don’t think a cat hotel would’ve been suitable for him. I feel it was important to keep him in a safe and familiar environment and that’s where I can help.”
Madolline has travelled all over the United States since starting out and has even visited some of these places another one or two times. “I spent the following Christmas in Boulder caring for another rescue cat, Nika. Nika’s owners had previously used the same website to find a live-in sitter, but they weren’t happy with the care this girl provided. They felt she neglected Nika because Nika was very needy and whiney when they returned,” Madolline said.
“To care for someone’s cat doesn’t require a lot of time and effort so I felt bad their first live-in pet sitter experience was a bit disastrous. But I was also happy they were keen to give it another chance. I do think it’s like anything, though. Use your judgement to determine if the applicant is a suitable carer.”
Madolline says she got a message from Nika’s owner thanking her for the excellent care she provided. “The text said something like ‘Nika is so content. It’s like I was never away. She is an easy kitty and does well with people who are warm.’”
“I like to think I was able to change their minds about having a live-in cat sitter,” Madolline said. “I went on to sit for Harvey’s owners again in 2018 and we still message each other. I keep in touch with about half the people I’ve sat for. It’s nice we still talk even after the cat sitting arrangement ended. It kind of reinforces just how grateful people are to have their cats cared for by a person, not a business.”
While travelling all the way from Australia to the US to look after people’s cats seems extreme, Madolline believes the situation is a win-win for both parties. “I get to stay in someone’s home in a foreign country as a trade-off for looking after their cat. Hotel costs in some of the cities I’ve cat sat in would’ve cost me a fortune. And, plus, hotel rooms don’t come with your own cat.”
Madolline says it’s important to remember it’s not just a free place to stay. You must have a genuine interest in—and experience with—animals. “Coming at it from an owner’s perspective, I’d like to think the person I’m offering my home to would maintain my cat’s routine and keep her company, and call a vet if anything went pear-shaped.”
“It’s not just a place to crash and feed the pet when you feel like it. There’s a reason people seek out a live-in pet sitter. They want their pet tended to, as per the animal’s usual schedule, in the comfort of their own home.”