West Coast Grrl

It’s been a week since J and Shadow left our home for the long flights west. And what a week for them both! Thank you all for your wishes and positive thoughts when we needed them the most!

Shadow is my least mentioned kitty – our shy and nervous girl who comes from a harsh past. She’s been with us for almost exactly 9 years now and is still fearful and jumpy. But she’s come so far knowing she is safe and protected. Then last Wednesday we turned her world upside down.

J and Shadow took a rental car to the airport about an hour away, checked in and had to go through a longer special line to get through security. At security, the airplane-approved carrier needs to go through the x-ray and you need to carry your pet through the body scanner. J said that by the time (just about 2 hours) she got to security, she’d already pee’d herself. Poor little thing. It’s fear and her kidney disease.

So J took her to a bathroom and removed the soiled layer and made sure she had a fresh layer.

Then it was the plane. If I am being honest, I was afraid that she might die from fear when she had to go through a 747 take-off. We’d sprayed her carrier with feliway and given her herbal calming drops. J petted her (our carrier has a great hand-access slot to try to reassure your pets) and put the planned blanket over the carrier…making her feel extra safe.

When J landed, he had just an hour to clean up her carrier (more pee… as expected… it’s a 5hr flight) before catching a noisy smaller plane for the jump to our new hometown. J said he didn’t know what to do until he saw the ‘family’ bathroom. It’s a private room with a locked door (so no escape), change table to put the carrier on, and is calm and quiet. All these years paying the same price as those who got to use this bathroom  eventually paid off! J was able to change the liner pads and comfort our girl and give her drops for the next stage of the trip.

When he got to our new hometown nearly 10 hours after he left our house, he had everything for her already in the car (planned well in advance) and drove her to the AirBnB where they were to stay for 3 nights. Not a fancy place, but welcoming and convenient and accepting pets. J was up until early hours of the morning making sure she was okay, fed, watered and knew how to get to her new litter.

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West coast grrl on Day 1 in the AirBnB

She was fine the next day (he had to work). He came ‘home’ at lunch and gave her tons of love. Gave her 3 choices of food (I think I’d mentioned that she’d lost lots of weight in the last few months) fresh water etc.

Shadow has thrived in this environment. As I’ve often said: she wants personal attention from humans and is reserved and nervous around other cats. She did really well in the 3 days they lived out of bags at the AirBnB. Ate lots, used the litter perfectly and cuddled in with J for petting and love.

She did call for us in the nights. Knowing some of her ‘pride’ were not there. But she coped well. We decided to keep up with the drops for 4-5 days total.

Just 3 days later, J took possession of our new home. So poor Shadow moved again. Since all our stuff is still here with me until I sell this home, J only has an air mattress, a chair, and a few kitchen things. He moved everything into our master bedroom and put great hiding spots for Shadow in the closet and room. They have lived the week there…

She has been a champion… handled this with more fortitude than I thought she had. With flexibility and healthy adaptation. She’ll explore the big empty house slowly… on her own time… and knowing she has a safe-room to return to. And when our things finally come it will feel and smell like home.

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Living like a pampered princess on the air mattress

 

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Leaving on a Jet Plane

The things we do for love! (And here’s some apropos music to read this by)

As you might remember, we’ve decided to move out of our area and we were looking at the logistics of everything. Or was that panicking? There is still some panic going on… but we are about 1/2 way though all this. Everything is taking longer than we thought it would. And … of course… it’s more expensive.

We looked for a house for a long while. We already knew that there were no rentals. I flew out and spent a week shopping for homes – not that there were all that many that suited us. There were no town-homes that could take 3 cats. So if we were desperate, we’d find one of the very few that would take 2, buy it, and we’d lie about the 3rd cat for a year while we looked for a ‘forever home’ – for all of us.

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Our lovely grrl …broken tail and all

Right after I got back home a very nice house came on the market there – and we did have to go into multiple bids to get it but we did. We take possession on Friday. Or I should say that J takes possession. I am still in our town and our home is not yet on the market (and we’re doing some expensive mortgage gymnastics to balance this).

Here’s the plan: J takes possession and then we move the cats out. I try to sell our home and arrange the move. Eventually we get to be a family again with our stuff.

To this effect, J is leaving right now on a plane… with Shadow. For the first time since he began his new job on Mar 1, he was able to come home for a visit. It was 5 days of notary, real estate, and insurance stuff and a few visits with friends.

But the main reason was to take Shadow first. You see, Shadow has been sick recently. She got a bladder infection and was peeing around the house, was lethargic and out of sorts. She already has mild kidney issues…. so with throwing up and peeing, there was no way I could make our home ready for sale. As of 10 days ago, she’s been better (finished a course of antibiotics) and eating and being her normal self.

I was so relieved. So I knew she’d be okay to make this flight. Well, as okay as she’d ever be!

We had lots of discussions and input about how to get her from here to there. There had to be 2 flights… no direct route. A total of about 6.5hrs in the air. Plus security and lobby waiting. It’s an insanely long trip. We decided on Feliway spray for her special air cabin approved soft carrier. And we decided on layered puppy pads inside. And a herbal calming drop she could take before the trip.

We did some research before buying a carrier. It needs to be soft. It needs to fit in front of your feet in the plane (if you are taking your pet as your one piece of hand luggage). There are approved sizes and types and when they check at customs, you have to show that the animal can stand and turn around inside. I called the airlines. Read all their online material. We got her accustomed to the carrier 2 weeks in advance.

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It was all fine… until I put in some feliway spray yesterday and she refused to go in again. She began avoiding it. Sigh. Was it the spray … or the new blanket I put in?

I cut up a fleece blanket and layered puppy pad, then fleece, then puppy pad, then fleece… so as one layer got soiled, J could simply dispose of it and there would be a second layer underneath. With her kidneys she’d need to pee for sure. So he put a couple of extra puppy pads in his jacket pocket. (Don’t you love a guy who’s willing to do this??!!)

Then I realized that he could not take the Feliway spray either in the cabin or even in his packed bags. It’s flammable! Says so right on the bottle. Though it’s great for traveling with cats, it’s not okay for airlines. She’s going to need this spray tonight and tomorrow and the next day… but it’s not traveling. J will need to buy another … there. That was a wasted $45.

An hour before he left, he gave her the herbal calming drops. She didn’t like it, but it was the best solution we could think of. We were worried about giving her drugs she hadn’t taken before.

And now… they are gone. Driving the 1hr+ to the nearest airport. Then security. Then airplane lounge. Then a 5.5hr flight. Then the airport lounge. Then a 1hr flight. My girl is leaving on a jet plane. I would be lying to say that I’m okay with all this. I’ll be scared until I know she’s okay. But she is in the best hands… J is better at this than I am.

I miss them both already.

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She hated the harness… but we needed to put one on for taking her out of her carrier for security. The carrier goes through the X-ray, and you carry your pet through.

 

 

 

Loves His Shady

Cooper is a big softie. He bothers the girls non-stop sometimes, gets into swatting matches with Nuala over a particular scratching post/ seat, and still has dawn-time ‘hyper energy’ sessions. But despite being a big boisterous boy, he simply loves love.

Cooper drools when he’s being petted, loves having his ears rubbed and will do just about anything to get a brushing. He equates brushes with love.

Cooper loves me, adores hanging out with J (and is currently really missing the boy-bonding), is a pesky brother to Nuala… but Cooper has a special relationship with Shadow.

Cooper loves him his Shady.

Shadow (aka Shady) has calmed over the long 9 years we’ve had her. Her terror of men. Her fear of any stranger. Her fear and panic of other cats. Her panic of enclosed areas. Her catatonic acceptance of fate if taken out of the house for any reason. I still don’t pick her up – she doesn’t like it. She loves J so much that they have a special bond. And she now loves being petted by all our cat sitters (even male) because she knows she’s safe in our home. She is not so afraid of strangers – but remains shy. She doesn’t mind being touched or petted. She’s come a long way!

Nuala as a kitten tried hard to sidle up to Shadow. She’d sit beside where Shadow sat. Get hissed at and swatted at.  Nuala would wander away only to return later. Shadow was still so afraid of cats, that a sweet bouncy kitten was a tough thing for her to live with.

Nuala finally gave up (and she developed an amazing mother-baby bond with Mouci). Nuala’s tries to get physically close to Shadow eventually trickled out.

Cooper came 4 years later… and with the charm of a silly boy, didn’t stop trying. He ignored the hisses. He ignored the harmless (as she was front declawed when we got her) swats and swipes. Ignored me scolding him to leave her alone. He always wanted to sniff her and be near her.

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I waited for him to give up as Nuala eventually did. He never did.

He’s 3.5 years old now… and has worn Shady down with his impertinent bounciness but loving attention. I melt as he comes to where she’s sitting and goes nose to nose with her in greeting…. and then he’ll just sit beside where she is sitting. A few inches away – as close as she will tolerate. And she will go back to sleep or at least not run away.

There are still times when she will hiss and swipe at him… he is doggedly persistent and a pest in playfulness. But he loves her so much… he just wants to be near.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: this is a huge surprise to us. We got Cooper for a very lonely Nuala who was bereft when Mouci died. We hoped they’d play and bounce together. They are chummy but not bonded. Yet, Cooper has found a way to bond with Shadow who I didn’t think would (or could!) ever bond with any animal.

Cooper never gave up on Shady. Never gave up on loving her any way he could. He loves love… and it proves to me that love can get through the deepest pain and hurts.

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If you think this was the same day/time as the above photo, you’d be wrong

 

Reasonable Rates

A long while ago I did a post about inexpensive vet clinics and the need for more. This is still something that is really needed – and in many areas not just the region of Durham where I live.

The vet I’d been going to was very nice and approachable but she was not cheap. I had changed vets because I felt the last one wasn’t listening to me when Nuala was pee-ing outside her box. We’d done as suggested, changed food, changed litter location … all with no change. I wanted to run her on one course of antibiotics and get her treated for worms in case she’d got something. Because the old vet refused, I switched.

The new vet listened.  I really appreciated that. But the bills were high. As was the service.

I’ve just learned that she has retired and a new vet has taken over. Does that phase you? I’m willing to try out the new guy – he seems very nice, but I’m not able to understand his wife. They both have deep accents.

What I like is this … they are approachable. And they offer more services for a better cost. And some of the services are not geared to me – but I think they are focused on treating the wider community of pet ownership:

  • Free spay/neuter consultation and dental exam and consultation (Great for meeting with owners who think that spay/neuter is not mandatory and are uneducated about how much better it makes the pet’s lives as well as the home behavior. Not to mention how it can help stem the overpopulation and misery)
  • 10% discount for senior citizens (speaks for itself!)
  • 10% discount for multiple pet households (hallelujah!!)
  • Special pricing offered to rescue groups (omg – I always try to find vets like this – it really matters because rescue groups operate on such a slim budget and their biggest costs are the vets! I want to support vets that support rescues!)
  • A free nail trim, ear cleaning, and anal gland expression offered with any vaccination or examination appointment (just really good service!)

And they offer house call services. I would have loved to have said goodbye to our darling Nikita in our own home. When we’d exhausted our credit cards and still were not able to save her, having that goodbye at home would have been the best. As a cat lover, you never want to think of these things, but there it is.

Do you look carefully at the offerings of your vet?

I’m excited to take the 3 mouse-katch-eers for their shots. I’m happy to be going to a place with these good services. (And for those of you in Pickering Ontario, it’s the Rosebank Animal Hospital) I’m hoping that their prices and services offer a reasonable-rate option to convince more people to vet their pets. If not cheap – then cheaper will do!

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Pet-Friendly Accommodations

Right now Nuala is napping in the living room. Cooper is in his favourite cat bed on the new (formerly non-cat) couch, and Shadow is in a cardboard box. Her cardboard box where she spends increasingly more amounts of time sleeping as she’s older and weaker.

These are the quiet moments I cherish!

But all this will change in a few weeks because we are going to need to do a rather complicated move. Yes – sell the house. Yes – move the cats. Yes – buy a new house. Yes – sell a ton of our stuff and do a long-distance move. But the order of things are jumbled and J and I will need to live apart for a little while as we try to work through the logistics of all this while he begins his new job.

The new job is not in our city. Not even a short drive from our city, but a plane-ride away. It means that we will need to live apart for as long as it takes to find a home in the new area and sell here. And this could be a challenge because we’ve never lived in a small town.

This small town has nearly no rental market, and what little there is is not pet-friendly. So we basically need to leap into the deep end and buy a house before knowing the area well. (We won’t talk about how catatonic that makes me sometimes! I’m a homebody and my home means everything to me… took us ages to find this ‘just right’ house)

So that means that eventually the kitties will need to go on a flight. And settle some place new. The only one who knows anything about moves is Shadow and she’s had 9 years of stability here.

I’ve been manically looking online… and found a great three bedroom town home that I thought would be a great option for us. Buy it and live there while looking for a forever-home. Updated, decent finishes and colours, 3 bedrooms, convenient location – you know. Great right? Wrong! There is a regulation of this development allowing only 2 cats max. And apparently many places have even tighter regulations.

I can see the intent of this type of rule, but is seems to me that most people’s kids and dogs do a ton more damage to a property or cause more disturbances than my 3 quiet little indoor cats. In my online wanderings, I’ve found a whole glut of people looking for some sort of rental accommodation in the area that doesn’t force them to get rid of their pets.

This just makes me sad! All those homeless pets in North America. All those lonely people who could give love to one or two animals. But due to living ‘regulations’ they can’t have them.

I have promised myself that if I ever become a landlord, I will always find a way to accommodate a reasonable number kitties. One kitty per bedroom in the home – to allow people to have their cherished pets. It’s not like I plan to become a landlord, but it’s something that is really needed!

For us, it just means that I won’t be able to buy short-term accommodation. With little forethought, knowledge of the area, and choice, I’ll need to buy a long-term place. Single detached and with no condo/strata nonsense (some single detached houses are still in an area where strata is in effect!) to tell me what to do in a home I spend frightening sums on.

And while it’s scary for me, I realize how lucky I am. I wish every cat owner had the freedom and resources to do the same.

Because in the end, they are our family. And you just never leave family behind.

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Love to hear how you feel on this. And also how your area is with these rules.

She’s Wired

ARRGH!

Do you have a cat who chews wires? I do. Her name is Nuala and she’s incorrigible.

J was so happy that she’s been hanging out in his office area of the house. Sitting on one of the kitty beds there. As always she looks like a little angel with that little pink nose and a soft glowing halo of fur around her lit by the sun. She is heart-meltingly cute.

But little did he know… the little wire cutter was at it again. He found the cable for his work phone lose. And when he pulled it, there was only a piece. Then he found another. And then another piece. About 4 pieces in all… chewed to bits.

And then he discovered that his main phone cable was also chewed. Not quite as badly, but almost! It was all in one piece, BUT it was no longer charging.

She knows that there has been stress in our home for the last week. She is very sensitive and reacts to it. But that can’t be an excuse.

One of the best things to do with kitties who are wire-cutters (aka cord chewers) is to get them something to chew… and then get that anti-nail biting stuff and paint it up and down the cords they like to go to.

I’m wondering….. do you have a kitty that chews? And what solution have you used?

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Purrfect Pet-Sitting! (Part 2)

I was surprised and so happy that in the 12hrs after my cat-sitting posting went ‘live’ I got about 6 applications! Single people, couples, some traveling in Canada at the time, some retired and living not far from me, some willing to come to my home from England and the US. I’ve since learned that for those offering to pet-sit, there is a daily ‘e-mail blast’ that they can subscribe to that shows all new listings. Smart.

The next part was a little overwhelming for me and I’m not sure I can tell you why. I read each application e-mail carefully, looked at each of the potential pet-sitters profiles, read what others have said in their reviews of candidates’ pet-sits, looked at their ‘verification level’ (basic, mid or advanced in terms of security check), and their level of cat-experience.

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One couple who applied were exceedingly experienced and from the local area as well. They were a retired professional couple who had many international long and short duration pet-sits. In fact, as part of their letter to me, they provided a link to a Toronto Star article which was written about them and their pet sitting. With their immense experience and my lack of experience, I thought this would be a perfect fit. I contacted them using the in-site messaging system, and we discussed the cat-sit. I was suddenly much more comfortable – they seemed amazing and very trustworthy. They asked if I had photos of the home.

Good photos are integral to your profile. People react to images – like in adopting out kittens, selling your home, or posting a dating profile. The necessity of having photos for success in securing the right people was apparent to me and I ran around the house taking photos of rooms the pet-sitters would use. It was an overcast day and frankly, everything would have looked nicer in the sun, but I didn’t have time to obsess since my profile was up for 18hrs without any images. Though the site tells you to add many photos to make your profile interesting and engaging, I was only able to upload 6… no matter how I tried or reduced the size of the images I was using. It turns out that their system only allows 6 at this time.

I also uploaded photos of Nuala, Shadow and Cooper with short descriptions of each – there’s a photo section for your pets.

 


My potential cat-sitters were delighted to see the photos and agreed to the pet sit. I was relieved, excited and happy – until a day later when they cancelled; needing to be elsewhere because of an illness of a friend. This was understandable, but it does highlight a potential challenge with this system. Sitters might cancel. You need a back-up if things don’t work out. Imagine if this happened last-minute!

Luckily, I’d had 4 excellent applications (I had 12 in total – and I ‘shut off’ my posting after 2 days so I wouldn’t get more). In a matter of hours, I chose a couple who I had a great feeling about. We messaged back and forth and had a face-time chat from their pet-sit in England. They are semi-retired as he can work from home anywhere in the world. They were warm, engaging, knowledgeable and funny – able to answer all my questions. We ‘clicked’ and we agreed that they’d come and pet-sit for me.

I want to highlight that I found it helpful to:

  • Schedule and have a face-time or skype conversation – a real conversation will have much more depth and give you an idea if this is the right fit for you. I am ridiculously inept with this – I never use video calls. My first was to my pet sitters. I muddled through – they were forgiving. If I can do this, you can too.
  • Make a list of all the questions I had for the pet-sitters – so I wouldn’t forget them when we were talking. Read the company online material on how to organize pet-sits.
  • Make a list of the ‘truths’ about us that I’d want them to know – things that might put someone off. I was very upfront about Shadow’s nervous stomach and the fact that she throws up 2-3 times a week and that they would only need to wipe up – that I’d wash the floor before and after the pet-sit. That they shouldn’t worry about this. That Nuala is litter-sensitive and would try to pee standing up (and get some outside the box) if she had to go more than 24hrs without the litter being cleaned… you get the idea.
  • Be up-front about house rules. One person would have friends come and visit her in our home (but not stay overnight) – this came out in the video call. That just wasn’t a good fit for me – not that there’s anything wrong with it. Other simple things – I was clear – no shoes in our home and absolutely no smoking of any kind. Again, you get the idea.

This whole process was more detailed and personalized than interviews I’ve done with local pet-sitting services before hiring them. Frankly, putting in significant thought and consideration into your ‘interview’ process pays dividends throughout the pet-sit. Ultimately, you are responsible for who will be coming into your home as your ‘guest’. Most are doing this with care and good intentions – but you need to be sure and comfortable that it’s a good match. It’s always possible that there are some in it for selfish-only reasons; less concerned about the pets and unable to manage the house responsibilities – a reality of human nature. In a sense, both sides are taking a leap of faith so make sure you look carefully before you leap.

Like anything, there can be negatives:

  • Time investment to get this all set up and organized;
  • Some breakage from regular use of household items;
  • For security reasons you should lock away valuables;
  • Your dates or your location may not draw enough pet-sitter attention (your profile and pictures become more important);
  • Departure timing/ flights times need to be clearly discussed/managed. Plan to have sitters arrive early and give yourself a sufficient buffer (perhaps they need to come hours or a day early);
  • Utility (and internet) costs might be higher than your normal usage.

The next step was offering the cat-sit to this couple through the site and having them accept the dates. This is the on-site confirmation of the agreement. I’d spent hours making the suggested ‘Welcome Guide’ for the sitters… everything from emergency contacts, to vet info, to house info. When someone ‘accepts’ your offer of the pet-sit, you simply click to send this guide to them. You only need create it once… because it is saved on your profile for future use.

This is already too long, so let me skip forward. The couple arrived at the time we’d agreed and were kinder, more responsible, more wonderful than I could have hoped for. It immediately felt like I knew them and could trust them. I gave them a tour of our home and cats and felt good about leaving them in charge.

We went away for 2 weeks – and had updates regularly from our pet-sitters. They are amazing people who left my home in immaculate order, spoiled my kitties so much that they were too-pampered, and who were more trust-worthy than anyone I have ever had to look after my cats. My first experience was an amazing one. I would have these people back in a heart-beat.

We’d also planned months ago for another week away – and I’d planned to have a neighbour come for a quick visit each day. Instead, I posted this week on the site once I had the membership – and invited one of the 4 great couples who had applied to the first post to apply for this one instead. They were able to come for this week – so we met via face-time, made plans, and they booked their flight from England to visit our home and area. Guess what? They too were great.

It will never be easy for me to leave my home and pets in someone’s care honestly. That is the downside of being a private person and homebody. However, I’m glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and tried this new paradigm of pet sitting – and this particular company – TrustedHousesitters. This is a good fit for me, for us, and for our cats who have been very happy with this. Well, perhaps Cooper would rather we never leave; he still hides from everyone new (for days on end) but that is a story for another day! IMG_4204 (2)

Here’s the info again in case you are curious: https://www.trustedhousesitters.com/su/WxumAgrh

This link above is my ‘personal referral’ and what that means is that if you sign up, you’ll get 20% off the price I paid to join. Or use this code at check-out for the same results: RAF218163. And, I’ll get 2 free months of service on their site. When you join, it’s for a year of using the site – as many pet sits as you want. I didn’t have a referral, so I paid full price (poor me). They are not paying me to recommend them or any such thing – 0 kickbacks and just my honest opinion. Though if they decide to give me extended free membership, I’d take it.

Got questions? I don’t mind answering questions about this service or it’s structure. You will get honest answers – from someone who has been a member for 2 months and had 2 pet-sits in her home (3 weeks of sitting total).

Purrfect Pet Sitting? (Part 1)

Canada- this is for you. USA- yes it’s for you too. Europe? Yes – you as well. Australians – not sure – try it and let me know! And England and the UK… it’s for you and by you… so thank you!

Many of you cat-lovers find yourselves in the same situation as J and I do. We’d love to travel – visit family who are not close, or go on a week’s vacation, or explore a new country – but a huge concern and hurdle is what we’d do with our kitties.

There is no doubt in my mind that cats would be happiest at home. Cats are so location and habit-bound – it is inherent in their nature. So what do you do? Ask neighbours to drop by? Do you hire a visiting pet-sitter? Someone to stay in-home and provide company as well – despite the costs? Beg family or friends for a big fat favour?

In the past we’ve done a number of these things – and combinations. No one choice or combo was satisfying and the right fit.

We used to have the most amazing pet sitter: a man who was incredibly reliable, a life-long animal-lover who managed a pet store for some time – someone trained and certified in pet first-aid as well as bonded with insurance. He was a dream to work with and worth his weight in gold. He was the person who gave the meds to Nuala’s littermates and mom when we needed to go away. Not everyone can find someone as great as Keill. I wish everyone could – and frankly I will be forever thankful to him for the care he gave our furry friends – fosters and pets.

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Nuala and her litter-mates when they were my foster kitties

When he retired, things went sideways. I called and tried out a number of ‘services’. None were even close to as good as what we’d had. Some were late. Some were dodgy. And the one that did me in was listed as a reputable agency for the whole area, but up-charged ‘distance’ to come to our centrally-located home, failed to provide me with the documents promised, showed me expired liability insurance, and told me that my business was not wanted by them when I asked for their updated liability insurance. What a nightmare! I wish I reported this to the BBB.

No wonder home-owners and pet-lovers are so afraid to leave their homes and pets. We’ve barely been away this past 3 years. Cooper is definitely not used to having us away.

But sometimes life offers you wonderful opportunities for experiences… so if that involves going away, what do you do? I ran into this 8 weeks ago. I had 4 weeks to make pet-arrangements and leave on a two week dream-trip.

Years ago a friend told me about a service she used to leave her cats when she was going on vacation. The prospect seemed interesting but I had concerns. I noted the site, and put it aside. Now, I questioned her and perused the site a number of times. I spent a day looking around, considering their ads, FAQ, as well as the postings I could see, and then discussing it with J. I decided to move ahead – and pay to join this pet-sitting service: if I got one good week of pet-sitting in the year, then it would be worth the $130Cnd membership price.

The premise is simple – and also simply genius. Willing pet sitters offer to care for your animals and home for free while you are away. You offer them a nice place to stay. You gain house/pet sitting services and they gain free accommodation. Your pets get long hours (not just a quick visit) of care and play each day while your house is not visibly vacant, but occupied. They get a free comfortable and clean home to stay in – while they might be traveling to a city they’ve always wanted to see. It’s an idea born out of the ‘sharing culture’ – a bartering of services.

Yes it’s FREE beyond the annual membership fee. Both sides don’t charge for anything.

I’m a very private person and this would not be 100% comfortable for me. It would feel very strange having people I barely know coming to stay in my house – sleeping in my bed and cooking with my pots and pans. But having my home and kitties cared for by other ‘proven’ animal lovers was a prospect I couldn’t ignore.

I paid and began working on our profile: I was rushed since my time was so tight before departure. I had just 3.5 weeks to post our ‘home/cat sit’, get applications from those interested, respond and review candidates, and make the final arrangements. A second worry for me was that I’m in suburbia – and thought I’d post my home/cat sit and perhaps get no responses because no one would want to come – or the site wouldn’t have enough people on it to generate house-sitters for me.

There were three sections to the profile; an intro, about the home and area, and about the responsibilities and pets. I knew that people wouldn’t know anything about me, my home, or my cats, so I had to be clear with our expectations, the duties involved, and also be honest but ‘sell’ our home as a great place to be. (I mentioned that I was nervous that I’d get no responses to my post, right?) The best way for me to do this was to think of why I loved my house and living here – and convey that.

I posted my profile on the site that same day. I set up the dates I wanted for our cat-sit the next day when my profile went ‘live’.  This process took time, and frankly there were a number of actions on the site that didn’t seem intuitive. I had to send the company a couple of messages for things I couldn’t figure out on my own. They provide a live chat – but they are in the UK and off-times for me here. So they responded by e-mail and I found this helpful.

I’m going to write this in two parts… more tomorrow… only because I’m tired and I’m starting to realize just how long my post will be.

 

The website? https://www.trustedhousesitters.com/su/WxumAgrh

I can offer you this – the link above is my ‘friends and family referral’ and what that means is that if you decide to sign up with Trusted Housesitters, you’ll get 20% off the price I paid to join. Or use this code at check-out for the same results: RAF218163. And, I’ll get 2 free months of service on their site when the code is used – so thanks in advance. Membership is for a year of using the site – as many pet sits as you want. I didn’t have a referral, so I paid full price.

They are not paying me to write this – 0 kickbacks and just my honest experience. Though if they decide to give me free extended membership, I’d be a fool to refuse.

Things Go Bump In The Night

I’m a good sleeper. I slept though this whole thing…

From the time Nuala was a kitten, she has periodically (several times a week) dragged the same white shoelace around the house and dropped it somewhere near us. Early on we realized that this was a gifting behaviour where she’d go and ‘find and kill the snake’ and bring it to us as a gift.

When Nuala arrives with ‘the snake’ she makes a big meowy production of it. She chats and carries on until you recognize her skill, generosity and love. “Wow, you are a good girl. Smart kitty. Thank you, Wala!” And then she gets petted by one or both of us … and often picked up for a hug.  Nuala is a shoulder-cat who also loves hugs where she nestles into your neck or ear and nuzzles you. Yes it’s cute. It’s not always convenient when she chooses to do this.

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In the middle of the night last night, Nuala woke J with non-stop meowing and scratching our carpet. It went on and on. Finally he turned on the light… she had found and brought the ‘snake’ and also a small mouse. Yes, a real one.

It was too late already to save the mouse, or J would have tried. We have a 0-kill policy with our kitties. And a sweet little deer mouse from the forest that abuts our garden has every right to live… in the cool fall they do try to get into the warm house. How this one got in … and why he didn’t flee when he smelled cats is a mystery. This happened a year and a half ago… one got in. But we were able to save that one.

So bleary-eyed, J got up and petted and commended Nuala for her heroic and ‘wonderful’ actions and her loving large-hearted generosity in bringing us her kill. To share food is the ultimate compliment from a cat.

Bleary-eyed, he took the departed mouse to the garden fence where hopefully a night creature will have a meal and the food-chain will be natural and whole again.

I guess I’m just lucky she didn’t bring it into our bed to present it to us … like she does with her toy mice.

Things They Never Forget

In just over a month, Nuala will turn 6.

I can’t really believe that. She’s still a kitten in my eyes. I have known her from the first hours of her life. She was born in the house she lives in. She’s faced so little change since she was a kitten. The hardest part was losing two moms – her own mother’s passing when she was just 9 weeks old, and then Mouci’s passing 2 years later. Mouci was every bit a mom to Nuala though Mouci had never had kittens of her own. Theirs was an easy and beautiful bonding.

But like seasons, little things change in our homes and lives. I try to keep the kitties out of our bedroom – not only to keep fur off the work clothes but to ease the burden of dander on J’s sudden diagnosis of asthma that requires a daily puffer.

This doors-closed policy has not sat well with Nuala. 5 times a day she will go to the bedroom door and scratch on it. Wanting in. Wanting in even if we are not there. Wanting in especially if  we are there.

Recently it’s occurred to me that she is bonded with the place. Our master bedroom and bathroom (in all it’s craptasic builder-basic simplicity) is hers in a deep sense I think she feels. She was born there. The weeks she knew her mother were all there. The weeks she played with her siblings were all there. Does she feel all that – that connection to her birth family?

When she comes into the bathroom, she runs and plays along the side of the tub even when she’s alone. The way they used to pay when they were young.

In our bed, she still wants to walk on us and lick us awake and play with our sleeping forms as she did when the 6 kittens had been reduced to 3 with the adoptions of Cayenne, Chili and Nutmeg.  Ginger, Paprika and Saffron (aka Nuala) were given wider house-rights and used to play on us.

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And you  just can’t put down an empty laundry basket. She loves them… she must jump into it to play or sleep. I’ve been thinking of how I carried them from our master bath to the front room to train them to new spaces before they met their future adopters. Every day (2x a day often) – I’d carry kittens in a laundry basket across the home. Did her love and ease of baskets start then and remain with her?

To this day she ‘captures and kills’ the ‘snake’ and brings it to us – the same long white shoelace she played with as a kitten when all the others were adopted and gone. Does she remember? Or does it just resonate in her somewhere?

Nuala was the one left behind. The one who stayed. I often wonder about the others. Are they happy? Safe? Cared for and loved? Would they remember these things if they encountered them again? The shape of the tub that they played in, the feel of that bathroom where they spent their earliest weeks, the smell of each other, the love that was given to them there – by us and by their mom.

I always instinctively knew that the first weeks of life for kittens shape them forever. Forge how they choose to interact with other cats and with humans – forever. How they build trust and connect. But I have never been sure about memories. Nuala is showing me that there is a connection.

So… with a glad heart… and just a bit of melancholy… our bedroom door stays open. Like an open door to Nuala’s past and the days we shared with her family

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Our bathroom (kitty nursery) with nuala and family