At first glance, pet sitting seems like an easy job. You show up in someone’s beautiful home, you lovingly care for their pet, and then you go away, always leaving the place a little better than you found it (if possible — some houses are spotless to begin with!).
In reality though, pet sitting is much more complicated than that. When I am at my own home, I am absolutely sure how my cat will react to different situations. I know when she will be hungry, when she wants to go out, what she’ll do while she’s out there, and when she’s about to smack me because I’ve brushed her for five seconds longer than she prefers. The other thing I’m sure of is that I don’t have to worry about the possibility of leaving her and not being able to see her for a year or more.
When I am watching someone else’s pet, particularly for the first time, I have no idea what to expect. I worry that I fed too much, fed too little, didn’t give enough treats. I wonder, “Did the cat just vomit because she’s a cat — and sometimes they just do that — or is there something actually wrong?” “Is the dog barking at a passing car or does he need to go outside to pee?”
I have to contend with all the things I don’t know might happen — the things that are not common to my pet but may be business-as-usual to another family and their pets. The house where I have to carry around a butterfly net and a red Solo cup to capture and release poor, befuddled chipmunks comes to mind. My cat does not bring in live, unharmed creatures as presents, so it never occurred to me that this might be part of my duties as a pet sitter.
Despite the peculiarity of the need to do so, I have been missing moments like these over the past few months. I get used to being in certain places at certain times of the year — the small doggos and slightly grumpy, but very beautiful cat in the spring, my big fluffy dog-friend at Christmas, and of course, my chipmunk-capturing companion, Truffles, sometime in the fall.
For reasons that are obvious, many trips this year have been canceled. Of course I worry for all the humans who own these pets, and I don’t want them to go anywhere that might cause harm, but I do miss my furry friends! I would gladly accept the duties of chipmunk-chaser because it would also mean that every morning while I am there, as soon as my alarm goes off, my feline friend will jump up on the bed and lay down, holding me hostage for as long as I can reasonably avoid getting up to go to work while he purrs contentedly at my side.
I know it may be a while before I can visit my buddy Truffles again, but I hope that he, and all of my other pet pals, as well as their owners, are taking good care, and that next year I’ll get to hug all of them (humans included!).
(Sarah Caton owns All Paws Pet Sitting, which serves all of Lincoln County.)