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

House and cat sitting my way around Brooklyn

House and cat sitting my way around Brooklyn

I was able to extend my stay in New York City by picking up two house and cat sits in different Brooklyn neighbourhoods.

The first Brooklyn sit—found through TrustedHousesitters—was in South Slope and the second was in Prospect Heights. The South Slope house and cat sit started the day my Chelsea sit ended, and the sit in Prospect Heights commenced the day I finished up in South Slope. Back-to-back-to-back sits in New York City saw me save about $4,000 AUD on accommodation costs.

Kiki (calico) and Paco (tabby) were the first cats I looked after. Kiki, the more dominant personality and a bit of a bully, was born in Belize. Paco, on the other hand, was a gentle soul who was found on the streets of Brooklyn as a kitten. I was told Paco would require a bit of extra work because he’s incredibly shy. Paco—much like Coffee, one of the Chelsea Ragdolls—was actually easy to win over and that was without treats. It was Kiki who proved to be a lot more work. Kiki needed mental stimulation and didn’t like not being allowed outside for the first few days I was there.

My next two cat friends were also rescues. Monty (grey and white) and Rosie (black and white)—two-year-old littermates—are probably the shyest cats I’ve cared for in the four and a bit years I’ve been doing this. Monty was intrigued by my presence, but you could still sense he was fearful. Rosie was a lot more wary of me and would hide under the couch each time I entered the apartment. However, by Tuesday morning, she decided I wasn’t all that bad because she jumped on my bed and we slept in until 11am.

The Prospect Heights sit happened to be my first ‘word of mouth’ sit, and was brought to my attention by a lady I house and cat sat for back in 2020. The Prospect Heights apartment was directly across from the Brooklyn Museum and down the road from Grand Army Plaza, and provides an ideal base for anyone wanting to experience everything Brooklyn has to offer.

I was pretty lucky to score an extra week and a bit in New York City thanks to these guys each needing a house and cat sitter. While I preferred the location of the Prospect Heights apartment, I think the South Slope sit offered a unique experience with the apartment’s railroad-style layout. It’s something I haven’t seen before and probably won’t see again. I did, however, miss having a washing machine and some extra space, but I was rewarded with these  NYC luxuries in Prospect Heights.

Things to do

I probably had a few too many rest days in Brooklyn thanks to an ongoing sinus infection and not wanting to leave the apartment(s) because of the negative temperatures outside. But when it wasn’t snowing, or raining, or really windy, here’s some of the things I enjoyed doing/visiting/eating around Brooklyn.

Vanderbilt Ave from Grand Army Plaza to Atlantic Ave

This part of Vanderbilt Ave was recommended to me by Kiki and Paco’s owner when we caught up for coffee. The stretch of road is mostly restaurants, cafes and bars, and some fun street art (Atlantic Ave end). I had intended to get coffee at Caffè De Martini, but the Little Cupcake Bakeshop shopfront caught my eye. Little Cupcake Bakeshop had heaps of delicious-looking cakes and slices, and they made a good iced caramel latte.

Prospect Park

Prospect Park was central to both apartments I looked after, but I visited while I was house sitting in South Slope. The Boathouse is a good place to start. Walk up to the Endale Arch and you’ll end up at the Brooklyn Central Library.

Green-Wood Cemetery

Green-Wood Cemetery was on my itinerary, but I randomly walked past it on my way back to the subway station. It’s a very peaceful place and the snow that had fallen earlier in the day made it even more serene.

House of Wax

The House of Wax bar was something I read about on Atlas Obscura. I love the more morbid and peculiar attractions, and House of Wax was definitely one of them. The bar’s drawcard is its collection of medical and anatomical wax works.

The Social

The Social had the first decent ice cream I’ve had on this trip. I wasn’t too keen on Chinatown Ice Cream Factory or the Van Leeuwen Ice Cream tubs, but I did really like The Social’s butter pecan pie crumble and ‘ooeyer and gooeyer’.

Next stop

My next house and cat sit is somewhere totally new for me—Salt Lake City in Utah. It’s a short sit, but I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to stay in the state’s capital.

Returning to New York City to cat sit two Ragdolls

Returning to New York City to cat sit two Ragdolls

Landing a house and cat sit in New York City can be very competitive, with some ads getting more than 20 applications in less than 24 hours.

The more desirable the location, the more responses the owner gets. And for sits over a week, you could be competing against 50 or so other sitters. So when I got a listing notification about this sit, I wrote to the girl, Emily, straight away. I knew her Chelsea location would be much sought after, but I was hoping my experience with the Ragdoll [cat] breed would get me over the line.

While I’m not sure the Ragdoll experience is what did it for Emily, it didn’t matter because I got the sit. We organised for me to head over the night before so I could meet Coffee and Cookie, and we could run over a few things in person. Coffee—the more anxious of the two cats—was the first to greet me. I asked Emily if she got Coffee and Cookie at the same time, or if they were from the same rescue. Emily said they’re biological sisters and she’s had them since they were kittens. It’s hard to believe they’re biological sisters because their Ragdoll colours are so different, but I guess it happens all the time with moggie litters.

My first full day in Chelsea was spent at Chelsea Market and exploring other nearby attractions. Chelsea Market was about a 15-minute walk from the apartment and you could walk back via the High Line (the High Line’s literally behind the apartment). Emily’s building was really close to Hudson Yards, and just far enough away from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station to escape the crowds. You could see the Empire State Building from Emily’s window and the rooftop offered a more comprehensive view of things surrounding it.

More about the cats

Cookie is the confident sister, and she’s more demanding and causes more trouble. She liked to chew on all my plastic bags even if they were hidden under layers of clothing in my suitcase. Cookie was the one who’d remind you breakfast was late or if she wanted dinner a little bit earlier. She was also a little bit of a bully, but I think that’s because Coffee is so reserved. Coffee, if you can’t tell by now, was the well behaved one. She took a liking to me straight away which surprised both Emily and me. Coffee would sit outside the bathroom waiting for me to come out and she liked to laze at the end of the bed when I used my laptop at night.

Emily had really gone all out on cat furnishings for her apartment and I just wish I got a better photo of the setup. The cats have their own ‘cat wall’, with a walking bridge, hammock and scratching post. They’ve also got a few other things they can sit/sleep on, but the hammock is the only one I saw them on. Cookie gets the hammock bed thing during the day and Coffee gets it at night. I’m not sure how they came to this arrangement, but this is how it worked every day for the nine days I was there.

Things to do

A few of the things I found myself doing were things I missed out on seeing last time I was in town. It was nice to be based in Manhattan, but I did miss the quieter, more chilled vibe of the Brooklyn neighbourhoods.

Little Island at Pier 55

This one’s a very unique attraction—it’s a manmade island across from Chelsea Market. There’s a few little walks you can do, there’s some art on display and it looks like there’s an amphitheatre as well.

New York Public Library: The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

I don’t think I knew about this building until now (well, until I started planning what I’d do in NYC).  I know there’s public libraries all over the city, but I didn’t know such a beautiful one existed in Midtown. The architecture is amazing and I just wish we had somewhere like this in Brisbane where we could go to study.

Strand Book Store

Candace, a girl I house and cat sat for a few years back, said I had to visit the Strand Book Store. I thought Powell’s Books and BookPeople were pretty big, but the Strand’s slogan is 18 Miles Of Books. In addition to three or four floors of books, they’ve got lots of fun cat merchandise.

The Morgan Library & Museum

The Morgan Library was one of the things I was looking most forward to last trip. The personal library part is amazing, but I just wasn’t sure about everything else. Maybe I should’ve read more about it before I went. At least the ticket was free—they offer free tickets after 5pm on Fridays, but you’ve got to book in advance.

Philip Williams Posters

The Philip Williams Posters store sells all original prints. They have a section for New Yorker covers and some of them date back the 1970s. All of them are available for purchase.

Moulin Rouge on Broadway

I got my Moulin Rouge ticket for $50 USD through the TodayTix app. You don’t get your exact row and seat number until the day of the show, but you do get a general idea of where you’ll be sitting when you book. Overpriced cocktail(s) aside, I enjoyed the show.

Next stop

My next house and cat sit is back in Brooklyn. It’s in South Slope, and close to Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery. This time I’ll be looking after two rescue cats called Kiki and Paco.

Austin, TX: Reunited with another cat friend

Austin, TX: Reunited with another cat friend

Being invited back to Austin is what prompted me to return to the United States for more house and cat sitting adventures.

Rebecca, the lady I house and cat sat for in 2019, messaged me a few months ago and asked if I’d be interested in looking after Shady again. I originally said no because there was still a lot of obstacles for Australians wanting to travel overseas, and I felt spending one month in one place (even though I just did a month-long sit in Sydney) isn’t as enjoyable as house and cat sitting in a few different cities.

I told Rebecca I might know someone who’d be interested in doing the sit and put her in touch with Clare. Clare is the the lady I sat for in New York City, back in March 2020, and she’s started to take on the occasional house and pet sit. The ladies agreed to Clare house sitting for about two and a half weeks, but Rebecca still needed someone for the final part of the stay. I was eventually able to commit to the second part of the sit after the Australian Government lifted its overseas travel ban.

I arrived in Austin at 6am after a short overnight flight from Seattle. While the flight saved me a night’s accommodation, it left me feeling shitty for the next week. I planned to get the bus to the apartment to save some money, but I guess I didn’t think about how it’d still be dark at that time. I ended up getting a Lyft instead.

Clare came down to get me and it was kind of surreal catching up with the last person I house and cat sat for when I was in the States. We spoke about how lucky she was not to have contracted COVID, especially living in a place like New York City. She said she wasn’t sure the Austin sit would even go ahead because of the Omicron outbreak just before Christmas. I know Rebecca and her partner were originally going to Costa Rica, but I’m not sure if the Omicron variant had anything to do with them changing these plans. They ended up spending the month roadtripping around Texas.

Shady was eating his breakfast while we spoke and I was reminded just how amusing it is to watch him eat. He’ll scoop the food up with his paw and lick it off, and continue to do this until his food’s all gone. He’ll then retreat to his Kirkland macadamia box until it’s time to nap on his little rug thing. Shady still has the exact same macadamia box he had last time I was here—like, literally the exact same one. Rebecca said they’ve got one in reserve (the very same Kirkland macadamia box), but they’re waiting until his current one breaks.

Shady was a little larger than I remember him being, but he’s getting old. Rebecca’s house sitting ad has Shady down as 12 years old and it also says he has the ‘uncanny ability to purr through virtually everything’. He actually doesn’t stop purring. Except maybe when he wants to be fed and he’ll let out a few little meows.

Things to do

I’ve been pretty lucky with the locations of the apartments I’ve stayed in recently and my Austin sit was no exception. Rebecca still lives in the same building—across from the flagship Whole Foods store and less than a kilometre away from the main part of downtown Austin. A lot of the things I did during my 7-day stay were walkable from her building.

East End

Following 6th Street all the way through to East End was a walk I took to get photos of two Austin murals. I continued to follow 6th Street down to Revival Coffee where I found even more fun murals and stores. It’s worth stopping in at Revival Coffee, too, for the cute pink interior.

BookPeople

BookPeople is a locally-owned bookstore across the road from the apartment. I’m not a huge reader, but BookPeople has two floors of [books and] gifts, homewares, cards, and lots of quirky Texas things. The coffee shop inside, CoffeePeople, made the best iced caramel latte I had while I was in town.

Food trucks along Barton Springs Road

I stumbled upon these food trucks after visiting the Zilker Botanical Garden (not great (maybe because it’’s winter)). There’s a lot of food trucks in Austin, but these ones seemed to offer a bit more variety. After you’ve eaten, there’s a nice walk back to West End along the Ann and Roy Butler Trail.

Day trip to San Antonio

I passed through San Antonio last time I was in Austin and I was hoping to get out there again. This time I visited Historic Market Square, Buckhorn Saloon, The Alamo and the River Walk. I’d love to get a house and cat sit in San Antonio so I can explore more parts of the city.

Next stop

I’ve been pretty fortunate to score two sits in New York City. The first one is in Chelsea—where I’ll be looking after two Ragdolls—and the second is in South Park Slope. I secured the South Park Slope sit on Monday and it starts the day the one in Chelsea ends. Both sits were found on TrustedHousesitters.