Each Christmas is the chance for me to house and cat sit somewhere new, and this year wasn’t going to be any different. It just wasn’t going to be overseas.
I’d organised sits in Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne, and I got to spend a few days in Busselton before being reunited with Little Dolly Parton. The bulk of the trip was spent house sitting in Perth, with Christmas Day celebrated in Adelaide and the days leading up to 2023 in Melbourne.
This Christmas break actually marked five years since I started my house and cat sitting journey. Harvey, the former street cat from San Francisco, was the first cat I looked after and subsequent Christmases saw me care for Nika in Boulder, Colorado; Jaspurr in Brisbane, Australia; Pepper in Darwin, Australia; and Pixel in Sydney, Australia. And while I would’ve loved to be house and cat sitting in a cooler climate, I was just grateful to get back-to-back-to-back sits in Australian cities I wanted to visit.
Perth, the first stop on the trip, was the first house and cat sit I booked. I’d been to Perth once before, but I didn’t get to see anything other than the Rio Tinto office building and the hotel room I was staying in. Because of my ongoing drama(s) with TrustedHousesitters, I’ve chosen to steer well clear of them and all my Christmas sits were found on Aussie House Sitters. I signed up to Aussie House Sitters in 2019 and have continued to renew my membership each year. An Aussie House Sitters membership ($84 AUD) is about half the cost of what sitters pay to use TrustedHousesitters ($149 AUD) and, as you’d expect from an Australian house sitting website, they’ve got hundreds of listings for homes all over the country.
I arrived in Perth on a Sunday afternoon and was introduced to Rio, one half of the brother–sister duo I’d be spending the next 20 days with. Rio and his biological sister, Luna, who I met the next day, have very different personalities. Rio wanted to spend ALL his time with you, or on you or on your things. I even have a photo of him sitting on my pizza box that’d been placed on the table for a few seconds while I locked the front door. Luna spent her days and nights outside, and preferred the independent lifestyle. She did, however, like to sit with me after she’d eaten her breakfast and dinner.
My first night in Perth took an interesting turn when another cat appeared in the backyard. I messaged Rio and Luna’s owner asking if she was okay with the other cat being in her yard. Some people don’t care if it’s one of their neighbours’ cats, but they’ll feel differently about a random cat being on their property. The lady I was house and cat sitting for replied saying she’d never seen the cat before. I remember thinking: “Of all the days for this cat to appear, it makes itself known on the day I arrive in Perth?!”
The kitty was extremely friendly, but I couldn’t keep him/her inside because it wasn’t my house. Pixel’s owners, who I’m in regular contact with, suggested I post a picture of the cat to a Perth lost and found Facebook group. Within a few hours, five or six people thought the kitty was theirs. One particular lady kept getting tagged by different people and she was adamant the cat was hers. Her cat, Boo, went missing one week earlier. This lady lived 10km away from where I was staying and it didn’t seem probable Boo had walked that far in seven days. The woman described Boo as shy and reserved, and a bit jumpy. She told me her cat wasn’t very trusting of others. The cat in the courtyard was none of those things—he/she wouldn’t leave me alone. In the end, as I always knew, the kitty wasn’t Boo. A kind stranger from that same Facebook group came by to take this cat to a 24-hour vet clinic to get a microchip scan. I was told the kitty didn’t have a microchip and would be taken to a local cat rescue. The kitty was held for seven days before he/she was put up for adoption.
The rest of my time in Western Australia was spent exploring places like Rottnest Island (home of the quokka), Nambung National Park and the Pinnacles, Cervantes, York, Busselton, and Margaret River. I probably had a little too much time in Perth itself, but there’s a lot places outside the city I’d still love to see.
I was meant to arrive in Adelaide just before midday on 22 December, but my flight was cancelled. Virgin couldn’t (or wouldn’t) put me on any other flight despite Google showing two or three Virgin flights out of Perth at a cost of $1,200. They chose to re-book me on a flight scheduled for the following morning and told me to head to a hotel that they’ll reimburse me for. In all the years I’ve been flying, this was the first time I’d had a cancelled flight. A cancelled flight is a huge inconvenience for anyone, but I felt really bad about it because I was responsible for someone’s cat.
It’d been an exhausting few days and I couldn’t wait to do nothing with Little Dolly Parton when I finally got to Adelaide. I’d also been dealing with another dreaded sinus infection so lazing around the house sounded like the perfect way to spend Christmas Day after getting up at midnight and 3am the past two mornings.
Dolly was just as cute and comical as I remember her being. She’d run to the front door to investigate any noises coming from outside, chill on her cushion and jump on the bed to demand your attention. She’d then request you stop patting her by letting out a little meow. Our Christmas Day was spent in the air con eating all the things I’d bought at Adelaide Central Market.
My trip to Adelaide was a quick one and now it was time to head to Melbourne. Melbourne was recently named the world’s friendliest city, and it was somewhere I hadn’t been back to in about five or six years.
I spent the next week caring for a low maintenance kitty called Willow. Willow’s family owns a very comfortable, nicely renovated three bedroom home in Northcote. Their house was decorated with art, ornaments and things from their travels, and it’s probably one of only a few homes I’ve stayed in where you got a real sense of the people living in it.
Willow—like Rio and Luna—was another mostly outside cat. All cats in this local council area, however, have to be inside by 7pm or the owner risks being fined. Willow was good with her 7pm deadline and never ventured outside the family’s yard. She spent her days lounging on the deck and evenings were for snuggling up against me in bed.
The unexpected warmer weather in Melbourne made it difficult for me and my sinus infection to want to do anything, and my first day in town was re-allocated as a rest day. I’d intended to venture straight into the city, but I decided it was best to do this the next day. I definitely didn’t expect it to be 37°C when I arrived, but I should’ve remembered the “Melbourne: Four seasons in one day” phrase. Despite most days averaging 35°C, I got out to Fitzroy and Collingwood. I also enjoyed walking along High Street in Northcote and stopping in at all the boutiques. I went to the National Gallery of Victoria, walked along the riverfront at Southbank, admired at city’s street art and explored the many laneways in the CBD.
New Year’s Eve came and went which meant my Australian house and cat sitting holiday was almost over. I flew home on 2 January 2023, and I’ll probably stay put for a good four or five months before travelling again. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing this year, or where house and cat sitting will take me, but I’m still pushing for TrustedHousesitters to update their international house sitting advice.