Homesitter, Ann King shares her experiences and tips for dealing with different types of cats:
I’m a real cat lover. I have three cats, Georgie, Benny and Sammy, plus for the past 20 years I have been looking after other people’s cats when they go away in my role as a homesitter.
Working as a homesitter has meant I’ve looked after many cats, all with differing personalities and character traits. Learning how to interact with them and gain their trust is hugely rewarding and I’ve had some lovely experiences.
One of my earliest home and pet sits was for a client who lived near Hampton Court, who has become a regular client. When I first started these assignments I looked after three cats – a brother and two sisters who were real characters.
I ended up spending a great deal of time on those early assignments literally ‘herding cats’ – as the owner had requested that the three cats slept in the kitchen at night, which often meant a bit of fun and games every evening.
One of the female cats, Mitzi, 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. I’d then carry the whole beanbag with her on it into the kitchen. It was a real battle of wills. I learned that with strong-willed cats sometimes you just have to sit it out and be patient.
Theo, the male cat on the other hand wasn’t shy at all and was very affectionate. When I watched TV in the evening he would sit on the back of the sofa behind me and massage my head. He even put his paws around my neck and gave me a hug, which was really lovely.
He was also a great time keeper and became my alarm clock. If I stayed in bed later than 7 am he’d remind me it was breakfast time by patting me gently on the face. A lovely way to be woken up each morning for a cat lover like me!
Cats like Theo need lots of love and attention, and they like to be talked to, stroked and tickled. However he was also a bit cheeky at times. He was only allowed in the garden in the mornings, where he would frequently go to chew the grass, and often used to hide when I tried to get him back in, only magically appearing when I’d given up all hope of persuading him back inside.
One of the funniest times with these cats was one morning when 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!
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. The client then had two new cats, Thelma and Louise – and I still care for Thelma today.
Thelma is quite different and is a very shy cat. When I first arrive at the clients’ house she dashes up the stairs and hides under the bed, staying there long after the clients have left, and until she’s too hungry to put up much resistance. I guess this is her way of punishing both parties. She has a bag of toys that she loves to empty out on 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 be reassured by my presence without feeling under the pressure of someone paying them close attention, so I will sit quietly in the room with Thelma but I won’t look directly at her. In time she will become used to me being there and will happily play with me in the room.
This approach works with most timid cats; giving them time and letting them come to you when they are ready is the best way to act.
Home and pet sitting with Homesitters Ltd has taught me a lot about cat behaviour and it’s allowed me to spend time caring and interacting with all sorts of cats over the years, all of whom have been delightful. It really is an immensely rewarding role for cat and animal lovers and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys spending time with cats.