Hi. I’m Madolline.
And I’m seeing the world One cat at a time

House and pet sitting questions answered

House and pet sitting questions answered

People are always intrigued when they hear I house and cat sit my way around the world, and they usually have a few questions about it. I’ve compiled a list of the more frequently questions I get and I hope my answers shine some light on what it’s like to do this.

How do I get started as a house and pet sitter?

I’ve already done a post on how I got started as a house and cat sitter, and it includes some advice on how you can get started. But it’s really not that hard. Pick a house sitting website to join, add photos to your profile and talk up any relevant experience you can bring to the sit, and then start applying for ones that interest you.

Do you get paid to house and pet sit?

I don’t get paid to look after people’s homes and their cats, but there are websites out there where you can get paid for your time. The websites I use operate on an exchange model where the sitter provides care for the person’s home and pet, and the sitter gets a free place to stay.

How much time is spent looking after the pets?

I can only comment on cat care, but it takes no more than half an hour out of your day. Feed the cat, change their water, clean up after them and play with them. You’ll probably be asked to replace the litter every few days, vacuum around the litter box once a day and hand out the occasional treat.

Does the home/pet owner pay for your airfares?

No. It makes me laugh that people think someone in the US is paying for me to fly from Australia to look after their cat. Domestic airfares aren’t subsidised either. None of my travel is paid for.

Are you ever tempted to go through the person’s belongings?

Also no. That’s their stuff and it’s of no interest to me. Sometimes the person I’m sitting for will offer me space in their wardrobe, but it’s easier to keep my clothes in my suitcase.

Are there cameras?

There might be. I’ve never been told someone had cameras and I’ve never asked. I do feel like the owners should probably disclose this at some point though.

Do you pay for stuff like toilet paper and washing powder?

This stuff is almost always provided. I will, however, purchase more toilet paper if I use the last of theirs.

Do you get a car as part of the sit?

I think I’ve been offered use of a car for one sit. So, in my experience, a car is not usually part of the deal. I’ve seen listings where a car is included, but I think this also presents a lot of problems. What if you crash or damage the car, or get a speeding ticket?

Is it weird sleeping in someone else’s bed?

It’s no weirder than sleeping in an Airbnb or hotel bed. The owner puts fresh sheets on for you, and I make sure to wash and change the sheets before I leave.

Have you ever had a pet emergency?

No pet emergencies in the three years I’ve been doing this. TrustedHousesitters is the only house sitting website I’ve used where the owners have to list a preferred veterinary practice (a good thing) otherwise I guess you’d take their pet to the closest one.

What happens if the owner cancels on you?

A cancellation isn’t something I’ve experienced, but COVID-19 has made things a lot more uncertain. I’ve had to change my flights to arrive earlier or later than originally intended, but I’ve never had to seek alternative accommodation because a sit fell through. This is something that plays on my mind a lot, especially when I’m travelling to the US to house and cat sit.

How do owners know they can trust you?

Some of the house sitting websites have security checks in place and sitters can pay extra to have a police check/clearance visible on their profile. I think you start to become more ‘trustworthy’ after getting your first positive review. Other people can then see you did a good job (and didn’t steal anything (or cause any trouble)) and you can probably be trusted with their home and pets.

Isn’t house sitting just for older, retired people?

Nope—anyone can do it.

What’s your favourite thing about house sitting?

There’s many things to like about house sitting. These include:

  • seeing how other people live—what products they use, how their house is decorated, etc.
  • having access to a proper kitchen and washing machine when I’m travelling
  • getting local recommendations from the owners
  • all the cute cats I get to look after.

And it saves you a lot of money. Sometimes up to thousands of dollars in accommodation per sit.

What’s your least favourite thing about house sitting?

Garden maintenance is my least favourite thing when I’m house sitting. I’m not a gardener and some people’s gardens have been very… heavy on the upkeep side. A place I cared for in Launceston had the most beautiful garden, but there was no mention of how much work was required. The lady didn’t upload photos of it either so it was a bit of a surprise when I arrived.

Other questions

Please comment—or email me—if you have any other questions about house and pet sitting. I’m sure there’s a million other things people might want to know, but these are the questions I find myself answering most often.

Newcastle house and cat sit cut short by COVID-19 spread

Newcastle house and cat sit cut short by COVID-19 spread

There always seems to be a COVID outbreak right before I’m about to leave for an interstate house and cat sitting trip, and this time was no different.

In the days leading up to my departure, Sydney recorded some 50 locally acquired COVID-19 cases and Brisbane had about five. It wasn’t so much that I was travelling down to New South Wales, but the couple I was house and cat sitting for were coming up to Queensland. Queensland has been quick to shut the border to New South Wales residents in the past, but, thankfully, the Newcastle couple were able to make their way up to the Gold Coast without any problems.

Newcastle—much like Darwin—wasn’t somewhere I’d thought about going pre-COVID. However, because we’re *still* limited to domestic travel, I thought a week-long house and cat sit there didn’t sound too bad. Newcastle is about two hours north of Sydney, is Australia’s second oldest city and even got a mention in Lonely Planet’s top 10 cities list once. I read it’s the second most populated area in the state, but it still has that sleepy little town feel. Or that’s how I would describe Newcastle.

The Aussie House Sitters sit didn’t start until Sunday, but I went to meet the couple on Saturday afternoon to get the keys and go through a few things. I was also introduced to Cashew, their 10-year-old rescue cat, and briefed on her routine. They told me Cashew weighed 8kg when they got her, but they’ve managed to get her weight down to 5.5kg. She’s fed one can of wet food twice a day and gets dry food as a treat. The dry food is placed in a toilet roll and she has to move it around to get the biscuits out.

I quickly learned one can of wet food twice a day isn’t enough for Cashew. She would go back to her empty bowl and lick it clean. She did this both morning and night. Food-crazed Cashew also happens to be one of the most affectionate cats I’ve cared for. She would follow me around the apartment (not just at food time), jump on the bed as soon as I hopped in, and she had to sit on my lap if I was at the table or outside on the balcony. She would alternate between sleeping under the covers and up against my leg.

COVID restrictions reintroduced

Face masks became mandatory on my second day in Newcastle. I believe this was as a result of an increase in COVID cases in Greater Sydney. This meant wearing a face mask on public transport, at hospitality venues and when you went shopping. Newcastle’s cafes and restaurants then had to further restrict the number of dine in customers at any one time.

Things then started to get worse back home in Queensland. Despite the state’s numbers not anywhere near as bad as New South Wales’, a three-day lockdown was announced for Brisbane and surrounding areas. This included the Gold Coast. I messaged the couple asking what this meant for their plans—they said “we decided to cut our losses and come home today”. They planned to stay at the girl’s mum’s place, an hour out of Newcastle, until Friday so it didn’t affect my plans too much. I felt a bit guilty about this and said I’d change my flight to Thursday morning.

Things to do

I was lucky to have done most of the things I wanted to see/do before I left on Thursday. I did, however, really want to check out the Olive Tree Market on Saturday. And I didn’t make it out to Merewether either.

The couple’s Wickham location proved to be perfect for exploring Newcastle. The interchange—where I could get a bus, train or the light rail to most places I wanted to visit—was directly across from their apartment. Newcastle CBD was within walking distance, and popular shopping suburbs Islington and Hamilton could be reached in less than 15 minutes.

Newcastle Beach

Newcastle Beach is pretty much in the CBD. It’s at the other end of what they call Hunter Street Mall. Start at the ocean baths, walk along the beach and up to the Bogey Hole.

ANZAC Memorial Walk

If you continue past the Bogey Hole, you’ll eventually end up at the ANZAC Memorial Walk. The ANZAC Memorial Walk is a 450-metre clifftop walkway that connects Strzelecki Lookout to Bar Beach. It opened in 2015 to mark the 100th anniversary of the ANZACs landing in Gallipoli.

Shopping in Islington and Hamilton

You could easily spend a whole day shopping in Islington and Hamilton. They’ve both got plenty of stores selling antiques, vintage clothing, locally designed goods and homewares. My favourite shops were Eclectic Corner, edde, The Retro Wardrobe and Fever Dream.

Christ Church Cathedral

The Christ Church Cathedral is hard to miss as you walk around the city. I noticed it on my first day here, but I didn’t venture up the hill until later in the week. The church is huge. It even has its own park—Cathedral Park.

Newcastle Breakwall

The Newcastle lighthouse and breakwall walk was mentioned to me by the lady who owns Eclectic Corner. When I told her it was my last day in town, she recommended I do it.

You can only go up to the actual lighthouse on Saturdays and Sundays, but the walk out to the breakwall is still very much worth doing.

The Corner at Charlestown Square

I planned to bus out to Charlestown Square solely for the Creative Village Newcastle store, but I learned about ‘The Corner’ prior to my visit. The Corner is described as a dynamic food and entertainment precinct albeit at a Westfield-like shopping centre. Creative Village Newcastle was great—I was able to get one of Teval’s lady vases (first spotted at a store in Leura while I was house and cat sitting in Sydney). As were the mushroom bao buns from Bao Brothers, and my salted caramel and hazelnut thick shake from Popolo Artisan Gelateria.

Next stop

My next stop is home—two days earlier than planned, but that’s COVID-19 for you. I’ll still keep an eye on interstate house and cat sits, but who knows when everything will start to settle down.