Several TrustedHousesitters members have been refused entry to the US within recent months. One of them was a 67-year-old retired nurse.

Members have also had problems in Canada and across the UK. Read more of these TrustedHousesitters horror stories over on Reddit.

Hi. My name’s Madolline.

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

Getting back to international house and cat sitting

Getting back to international house and cat sitting

One year later and I finally made it to Montreal. This time, however, I wanted to ensure I had the correct paperwork—i.e. a work visa—so I could house and cat sit without issue.

The working holiday visa I applied for forms part of the International Experience Canada (IEC) program that’s designed to give young people from participating countries the opportunity to live, work and travel in Canada for up to two years. For Australians interested in applying, you must:

  • be between 18 and 35 years old
  • have a valid passport
  • receive an invitation from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to submit an application. Receiving an invitation to apply does not mean you’ve been approved for a working holiday visa.

Australia seems to be one of the only countries without a cap on the number of invitations sent out so I think it’s safe to say almost all Australians who register with the IRCC will get an invitation to apply unless they’re deemed inadmissible to Canada.

The application process

I received an invitation to apply a few days after registering my interest.

We are pleased to invite you to apply for the Working Holiday (IEC) work permit under the International Experience Canada program.

The letter said I had to do one of two things:

  1. Apply online and do this by 19 January 2023, or
  2. Decline the invitation.

I was given 20 days to submit all my paperwork and pay the fees associated with the application. It’s $161 CAD regardless of which IEC stream you’re applying for—working holiday, young professionals or international co-op (aka internship)—plus an additional $100 CAD for those who are after an open work permit.

The IEC application form required me to upload several forms of identification, a police check, a traffic history report and my resume. I had to provide my electronic travel authorization (eTA) number; print, fill in and scan a form about my family (things like names, date of birth, citizenship); and declare if I’d been deported from/refused entry to another country.

Have you ever been refused a visa or permit, denied entry to, or ordered to leave Canada or any other country/territory?

This is something that’d been weighing on my mind a lot—how being deported from the United States would affect future visa applications. I wasn’t sure if telling the truth would result in an instant rejection, but, thankfully, there was an option to attach a letter outlining the particulars. I wrote a two-page letter and included a screenshot of the email I received from TrustedHousesitters community manager Angela Laws saying international house sitting is allowed.

Immigration update from Angela Laws, Social Media & Community Manager at TrustedHousesitters

This email highlighted how TrustedHousesitters members are misled about visa requirements and don’t realise the huge risk they’re taking when they accept an international house sit. Work visas are required to house sit in the US and UK, but TrustedHousesitters continues to argue “TrustedHousesitters is for tourism” and “not for arranging house sitting as work”.

Biometrics

IEC applicants must also book an appointment at a biometrics collection services centre to get photographed and fingerprinted. The Canadian Government won’t assess your application until this is done. You’ve got 30 days to give biometrics and they’ll be valid for the next 10 years. Applicants need to be mindful not all cities have a biometrics collection centre(s) and there mightn’t be much flexibility with appointment availability.

Waiting for a decision

It was a nerve-racking few weeks because I really wasn’t sure how the Canadian Government would view being refused entry to the USA. I know I’m not the only person who’s been deported/refused entry, but I’m yet to learn how other countries treat visa violators.

Google didn’t have any answers, but it led me to this Working Holiday Visa Canada IEC 2023: Ultimate Application Guide blogpost. I reached out to the author, Gemma, a Canadian citizen as of 2018, asking her if she knew of anyone with a similar set of circumstances. She said she was aware of a few “relatively similar situations” where someone had been refused entry to another country. Like me, they included a detailed letter explaining what’d happened and ended up being granted an open work permit. Gemma gave another example in which someone was asked to leave Canada because they overstayed whichever visa they had. They were also successful with their working holiday visa application. Her email made me a bit more optimistic, but it ended with: “Again, though, it’s all to the discretion of the actual processing agent so it’s hard to say.”

Two weeks later and I got an email saying my application status had been updated. I logged in and scrolled down to see my work permit had been approved. This was pretty exciting because it meant I was able to house and cat sit in Canada, and I could get a paid job if I wanted to.

Your application to work in Canada has been initially approved by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. The final decision to issue you a work permit and allow you to enter Canada is made after an examination by an officer in Canada. At that time, an officer will assess if you still meet the requirements of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, its Regulations and any other Canadian legislation.

The “requirements” included things like showing proof of:

  • funds (minimum of $2,500 CAD) to support yourself
  • health insurance to cover the two-year period granted to working holiday visa holders
  • a return ticket to Australia.

Good to go

Now it was time to think about when I wanted to go to Canada. My original plan was to head over in September/October, but my employment contact was finishing up at the end of June. I started looking for house sits in the cities I was meant to visit last year. Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa, but I was open to pretty much anywhere as long as the person’s place was close to public transport.

It didn’t take long for a house and cat sit in Montreal to come up. It started on 5 July, with an end date of 27 July. I applied and received a message back asking if I could do a quick phone call with the owner. We scheduled a WhatsApp call for my Saturday morning/Friday afternoon Montreal time and I was offered the sit a few minutes into the call. The sit’s start date coincided with the cheapest airfare available for the entire month of July. If it had started on any other day, I would’ve been looking at paying an extra $600–$700 AUD for my ticket. I booked with Air Canada and flew straight from Brisbane to Vancouver.

Arriving in Canada

Even though my work permit had been initially approved, I knew it didn’t guarantee me entry to Canada. It didn’t guarantee anyone entry to Canada. I was fretting about the Canadian immigration officer seeing the stamp at the back of my passport and the possible interrogation that’d follow. And while I still met the requirements (money, insurance, return ticket), you just never know what kind of shitty human you might get at immigration. As Gemma said: “It’s all to the discretion of the actual processing agent.”

Passport stamp: Refused in accordance with INA section 217

My flight touched down at Vancouver International Airport just after 6am. I think it was one of the first flights in that morning because there was no-one around. This was both good and bad. Good because I was in and out of the eTA line within a few minutes. Bad because the immigration office—where people wanting to sort out their visa paperwork go—didn’t open ’til 7am. I was passed around a bit before being told to head toward the “Sortie” (exit) sign and speak to an officer in there.

This particular section of the airport reminded me a lot of the secondary screening facility at LAX. It was quiet and seemed a lot more serious than the area where most passengers pass through. I kept thinking back to that night at LAX, but I was trying to remain positive. I went up to the only officer on duty and said I was here to activate my work permit. I was expecting a whole lot of questions, but all the officer wanted was my passport. He said to take a seat and wait for my name to be called. I didn’t know what the next steps would entail, but my work permit was printed within 10 minutes. It’s valid for two years from 5 July 2023 and comes with three conditions:

  1. The work permit is not valid for employment in businesses related to the sex trade.
  2. I must leave Canada by 4 July 2025.
  3. Unless authorised, I am not allowed to attend “any educational institution” or take “any academic professional or vocational training course”.

The only other thing the officer said to me was I’d need the work permit details to apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN). A SIN is required before I can start working in Canada, and, apparently, it gives me access to certain government benefits.

My immigration experience in Canada was totally different to what happened in the United States. Those entering Canada on an eTA (i.e. most visitors) don’t have to provide an address for where they’re staying and the only immigration official they deal with is the one they hand their slip to in what seems to be a very casual interaction. No-one asks how long you’re staying for or where else you’re visiting on your trip. I find it hard to believe house sitting would ever come up because there is no conversation to be had as you enter and exit passport control. Remember, though, you always need to read up on what is and isn’t allowed on the type of visa you’ve got because it’s not just the United States ruining house sitters’ travel plans. An American TrustedHousesitters member was taken in for secondary questioning at a Canadian land border crossing and was told “staying for free [as a house and pet sitter] is still considered work”. They were let off with a warning, but not everyone is as lucky when it comes to international house sitting with the incorrect paperwork.

Spending the festive season cat sitting ’round Australia

Spending the festive season cat sitting ’round Australia

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.

Quokkas on Rottnest Island

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.

Immigration vs TrustedHousesitters: Unpaid house sitting on your travels

Immigration vs TrustedHousesitters: Unpaid house sitting on your travels

It’s been a long, very frustrating few months following my deportation from the United States. United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) says unpaid house sitting is work, and tourists need a work visa to do it on their travels. TrustedHousesitters says US immigration got it wrong and international house sitting is OK for tourists to engage in because they’re visiting the country to holiday/vacation.

TrustedHousesitters has known about what happened at LAX minutes after it happened. I emailed them to say I’d been refused entry to the United States because I was told I had the incorrect visa to undertake unpaid house sitting on my sight-seeing holiday/vacation. TrustedHousesitters responded to this email within minutes—their community manager said she was sorry to hear this and asked for details. There wasn’t a lot of time between when I got my phone back and having to switch it to airplane mode, but the last email I received on the evening of 30 June 2022 said: “It really is about who you get on the day [at immigration] and how they CHOOSE to interpret the traveler’s purpose.”

Passport stamp: Refused in accordance with INA section 217

I didn’t hear from TrustedHousesitters again until I went to The Guardian. The Guardian story was published two or three weeks after I told TrustedHousesitters I was being deported, but, now, all of a sudden, they really wanted to talk about it. Their community manager tried calling me. She texted me. She tried to call me on WhatsApp. She even messaged me from two different numbers on WhatsApp. Then I saw an email come through: “We became aware of the full facts of your recent border situation just this morning through the Guardian article.” Were they reaching out to see how I was faring? I don’t know. As the weeks went on, they’d email me each time a new story came out. “I’ve just picked up the Mama Mia article and would really like to assure you that we did respond when the story first surfaced, we provided the SMH journalist with a statement which she did not publish, in it we expressed how appalled we were at your treatment etc.,” one of their emails read.

traveller.com.au story: Warning over house-sitting after Australian denied entry at US border, deported

When I finally called TrustedHousesitters back, that same community manager began with a story about the time she encountered an immigration-related inconvenience driving from Canada to Washington state. Despite the incompetence of border patrol staff, our experiences aren’t similar at all. The TrustedHousesitters community manager was granted entry to the USA. I wasn’t. I was detained. She wasn’t. I would think her ESTA—offered to citizens/eligible nationals of a Visa Waiver Program country—remained intact. My ESTA went from approved to “Travel Not Authorized”. The conversation began to move away from her experience to mine and that’s when I said I didn’t blame TrustedHousesitters for what happened. TrustedHousesitters weren’t the ones who refused me entry to the United States. It was US immigration who sent me straight back to Australia.

Customs and Border Protection paperwork: Subject states she was house sitting last trip under the site listed. States she is in transit for this trip

That’s how I felt four months ago, but now I’m mad at TrustedHousesitters. I’m mad at TrustedHousesitters because they haven’t done anything to address the underlying issue. They’re actively promoting international house and pet sitting as a win-win-win situation, but most members don’t know they’re breaking the law*. US immigration doesn’t care no money changes hands in arrangements facilitated through TrustedHousesitters—it’s what the traveller’s doing that’s the issue. Feeding a cat, as I have learned, is a form of ‘productive activity’ and any kind of productive activity requires the traveller to have a work visa.

TrustedHousesitters October 2022 newsletter: 10 reasons why pet sitting is the best way to travel Europe

TrustedHousesitters attempted to draw attention to the problems I experienced at LAX with Our Australian member’s story. “Madolline is a hugely valued member … we feel it’s important to give additional background to Madolline’s story and international travel.” TrustedHousesitters wasn’t in any position to give context because they didn’t know anything other than what I emailed them about while waiting to board my 15-hour flight to Sydney. “The Information on abortion is new and has only come to our attention as a result of this article … we will of course offer our full support, as we do to all of our members.” The abortion element is irrelevant here—paying members need to know they can be deported/refused entry for using TrustedHousesitters on their travels. This thread was locked (closed) by TrustedHousesitters after two days.

Post by Goodboyjakey: Maybe [TrustedHousesitters] should change the title of this post to “Are you travelling to the US to house sit?” so that people are aware. Truly shocking. Admin Notice: Post Moderated

It was early August when TrustedHousesitters wanted me to hear about their “immigration update”. I remember thinking maybe they’d fixed this mess for me. They hadn’t. The “immigration update” isn’t going to change anything for me or any other TrustedHousesitters member who finds themselves in airport detention. TrustedHousesitters threw some letters together for sitters to show to UK, US and Canadian immigration officials. These letters don’t have anyone’s name, position title or signature attached to them, and I’d be too embarrassed to show this letter to any of the officers I dealt with at LAX. The phone number provided in the letter—the one TrustedHousesitters advises immigration calls for further clarification—is one that seems to go unanswered at the best of times. “The immigration specialists have concluded that members can travel internationally to sit and that they are not in breach of any visa conditions,” their email dated 8 August 2022 read.

news.com.au story: Cat sitter questioned about abortion because of basic error at Brisbane airport

I started to get annoyed because TrustedHousesitters had managed to escape the bulk of the media attention my story was getting. Using TrustedHousesitters as a visitor to the United States (even though Montreal, Canada, was my final destination) was the reason immigration wouldn’t let me enter the country. I wasn’t sent back to Australia because of anything to do with my abortion status despite how some people were choosing to interpret stories they’d read online. traveller.com.au hit the nail on the head when they ran Beware: Simple mistakes that can get you deported or refused entry to other countries, but it wasn’t something I was allowed to discuss on the TrustedHousesitters community forum. Two different moderators—on two separate occasions—stopped me from talking about my experience. Most discussions on the TrustedHousesitters forum get locked when the company starts getting painted in a bad light, and every thread and reply posted by a new member must be manually approved by one of the moderators.

TrustedHousesitters community forum: Your recent forum post will not be published as it goes off topic. This topic is about house sitting adventures not immigration issues.

That’s when I took to posting about what happened to me on the TrustedHousesitters Facebook page. Paying members have a right to know this could happen to them and TrustedHousesitters wasn’t doing much to educate them about it. TrustedHousesitters hid all my comments and ended up deleting one of their own posts—one where they had to acknowledge a member’s dog died while in the care of a TrustedHousesitters sitter whose account ended up being suspended—after I bumped it. I got the impression this was another problem TrustedHousesitters didn’t want getting out back then and they didn’t want people being reminded of it three years later.

I started tagging TrustedHousesitters on Twitter and Instagram after they blocked me on Facebook. I can still see their Facebook posts, but I can’t comment on them. They mustn’t have liked me pointing out the major flaw in their business model because it wasn’t long before I was blocked on Twitter and Instagram. I’m still able to comment using my cat sitting Facebook page and my cat’s Instagram account, but my days are numbered.

Twitter: You are blocked from following [TrustedHousesitters] and viewing [TrustedHousesitters’] Tweets

Twitter: TrustedHousesitters blocked you, Angela Laws blocked you

TrustedHousesitters decided it was now time to play the “misunderstanding” card. In response to my Trustpilot review, one of their staff said CBP just didn’t get what house sitting is about. For such a simple “misunderstanding”, the consequences of revealing you’re travelling on the app are pretty significant. My ESTA has been cancelled forever and I can no longer enter the United States in a tourist capacity. My options for re-entering the United States include:

  • Getting a work visa, but who’s going to sponsor someone for unpaid house and cat sitting?
  • Winning the green card lottery. Unlikely to happen and I’m not sure I’d want to permanently relocate to the US.
  • Marrying a US citizen.

I can’t even transit through the country anymore.

While it was okay to silence me in public, TrustedHousesitters has continued to email me each time they get mentioned in the media. Their community manager was seeking “irrefutable proof of the reason your ESTA was revoked” after I went to iNews. The iNews travel editor is the only journalist I spoke with who approached a lawyer for comment as part of their coverage and I’m glad they did. I was able to arrange a half hour call with that very same lawyer—she said the only surprising part in all of this was the abortion question.

Even though TrustedHousesitters were the ones who advised me to seek advice from a US immigration lawyer, they were quick to change their tune when one weighed in saying house sitting is “not appropriate for ESTA travel”. An email I received from the TrustedHousesitters community manager inferred our relationship had soured: “Where this is now reminds me a little bit of a divorce situation … As soon as the suits/lawyers/media step in that’s when situations are in danger of becoming toxic … which is very sad, unfortunate and often completely unnecessary.”

insider.com story: An Australian woman said she was denied entry to the US over house-sitting plans

One of my last dealings with TrustedHousesitters—aside from the very, very last email I received from their community manager where she tried to gaslight me and likened me to a monster for emailing an animal rescue they work with—is when Queen Elizabeth II died. I’d reiterated my request for TrustedHousesitters to update their international house sitting advice page. I wanted this update posted to all their social media accounts and on their community forum, and sent as a standalone email to members. “Today was a bank holiday in the UK due to the Queen’s Funeral … our team was unavailable,” the community manager stated. The one and only time I spoke with TrustedHousesitters on the phone, I suggested they put a banner across their website drawing people’s attention to the risks of international house and pet sitting. The banner would link off to a webpage detailing how countries like the United States consider unpaid house and pet sitting work, and how it’s not suitable for visitors on a tourist visa. Pet owners need to be informed of the risks, too. They probably haven’t given any thought to what they’re going to do if their sitter is refused entry to the country. “Members are fully informed about the information that is available to them … There really isn’t a need to post [this information] on any external channels as this information is only pertinent to our members,” I was told. “The number of members across external channels is really very small … and posting any information would simply not reach a significant number of our members.” If the TrustedHousesitters social media following is so minuscule, why did I get barred for trying to educate such a small amount of people about the risks of using TrustedHousesitters on their overseas travels? Note: TrustedHousesitters’ take on “very small” equates to 256,000-odd people ‘liking’ them on Facebook and 100,000 followers on Instagram.

I want to make it clear I never asked TrustedHousesitters for money. Money, however, is everything to share economy companies like TrustedHousesitters. TrustedHousesitters cares more about money coming in** than they do about their “community”. The pets TrustedHousesitters sitters are tasked with caring for also take a backseat to profits as evidenced in that now-deleted Facebook post addressing the death of a member’s dog. If TrustedHousesitters cared about their members, they’d update their international house sitting advice in light of what happened to me at LAX. They’d offer support instead of hoping members grow tired of posting about their problems and they’d communicate the massive change to the house sitting application process instead of casually mentioning it on their highly moderated, not very popular community forum. Most of the 120,000 or so TrustedHousesitters members don’t know about this change and they don’t know they can be deported/refused entry either.

*Foreigners need a work visa, not ESTA, to house and pet sit on their travels. Citizens and permanent residents of the United States can do unpaid house and pet sitting through TrustedHousesitters without violating immigration law.
**TrustedHousesitters received $10-million in funding from UK investment firm Rockpool. Rockpool expects TrustedHousesitters will continue to grow their membership base in the United States, with a focus on California (the state I was deported from). 

Another rendezvous with Pixel in Sydney

Another rendezvous with Pixel in Sydney

After a crazy few months, I couldn’t wait to get away again even if it was only for one week. I’d been invited back to care for Pixel—everyone’s favourite Cheshire Cat—while his humans holidayed in New Caledonia. Their overseas trip was a bit of a last-minute one which meant a close friend spent the first two or three days looking after Pixel before I was able to fly in. I first met Pixel in April 2021 when Australia was experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak. Mind you, back then, an ‘outbreak’ was as little as three or four cases in any Australian city. I remember wanting to get away for the upcoming Easter break, but my options were limited. Booking domestic travel was risky because states and territories could go into a sudden lockdown meaning interstate visitors weren’t allowed in. There weren’t too many house sits being advertised either. Of the few available, one was in inner city Sydney. Sydney wasn’t at the top of my travel wishlist—I’d been a few times before and I hadn’t felt the need to return in recent years—but I’m glad I responded to the ad. While I keep in touch with a lot of people I’ve house and cat sat for, I probably WhatsApp Pixel’s owners at least once a day. Pixel’s owners happened to be some of the first people I spoke with after being refused entry to the United States. I don’t know what time it would’ve been back in Australia, but I was one of the last passengers to board the Sydney-bound Qantas flight at 10.30pm Los Angeles time. Pixel’s owners offered a lot of support and kind words via WhatsApp, and they even did some quick research into the legalities of tourists using TrustedHousesitters in the United States. Their WhatsApp messages made me feel a little less upset/annoyed/angry about the situation and the long flight I was about to endure. TrustedHousesitters—the website I’d organised all my house and cat sits through (and the very same website I’ve been using to travel to the United States since 2017)—has come out saying what happened to me was all a “misunderstanding” because US immigration doesn’t understand the “concept of house sitting”. TrustedHousesitters might want to let their members know they can be deported, but, hey, US immigration just doesn’t get it. There’s a lot more to all of this and I’ll post about it in the coming weeks. Back to Pixel. It’d been a good eight or nine months since I saw Pixel last. He’s lost a bit of weight thanks to a revised feeding routine which sees him get one scoop of dry food and one pouch of wet food each day. We like to joke Pixel has lost weight to help him land a movie role in Hollywood. Pixel has become a bit of a celebrity following what happened to me at LAX. A lot of media outlets have chosen to use a Pixel selfie to accompany their reporting and, of course, people on the internet have a lot to say about Pixel’s face. Usually ‘That cat looks pissed off’ or ‘That’s one angry-looking cat’. Pixel is neither of these things, and he seems to be more affectionate and chill than ever before.

What I did during the week

The Sydney weather has been pretty shitty all year and this week was no exception. Thursday was the first day it hadn’t rained at all all week. Every person I spoke to would say something like: ‘How nice is the weather today?’ The rideshare driver I had on the way back to the airport told me all about his Saturday morning in the sunshine. He said this is some of the best weather the city’s seen in 2022. The heavy, never-ending rain on Monday made it difficult to get up, but I eventually made my way out to the Mitchell Road antiques warehouse. This is somewhere I like to visit each time I’m in town. It’s huge and a lot of the stuff is reasonably priced. Reasonably-priced things can be hard to come by in Sydney. Bondi Beach is another place I like to visit when I’m here. My favourite vegan Lebanese restaurant is no longer, but the Sunday markets were still on despite the rain. A workmate also recommended the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition which stretches the Bondi Beach to Tamarama part of the Bondi to Bronte walk. A few other things I enjoyed:
  • Walking from Bondi Junction to Bondi Beach along Bondi Road. I’m always getting the bus through here, but this is the first time I’ve walked it.
  • The Art Gallery of New South Wales. I didn’t know this even existed until this week. The Royal Botanic Garden is next door and it’s a 15-minute walk down to Circular Quay.
  • Shopping along Oxford Street and admiring all the pretty terrace homes (and their Halloween decorations) in the streets off the main road. There’s a hub of activity happening in the backstreets of Paddington that I’d like to check out properly next time. Newtown is another good area for shopping, and has plenty of food choices and lots of murals.

Next stop

I’m on my way home where I’ll be working up until the end of November. From 27 November, I’ll be off on a month-long domestic cat sitting adventure through Aussie House Sitters. Perth is my first stop, then Adelaide and I’ll be in Melbourne for New Year’s Eve.
Swapping an overseas cat sitting holiday for two weeks in the South Australian capital

Swapping an overseas cat sitting holiday for two weeks in the South Australian capital

I think everyone knows US Homeland Security put an end to my most recent house and cat sitting plans, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me holidaying somewhere else.

I still had a good two months off and didn’t want to spend that time sulking about what happened at LAX. The only requirement for my next house and cat sit was it had to be somewhere in Australia. Since I’m an Australian citizen, there’s no way I could be deported for using TrustedHousesitters* (still waiting for them to update their international house sitting advice page) and I wouldn’t be dealing with any immigration officers at our airports.

I was hoping for a winter sit in Hobart, Launceston or Perth, but I was open to sits in a few other places. While somewhere in Tasmania was my first preference, an ad for a two-week sit in the South Australian capital city of Adelaide piqued my interest. It was the photos of the cat—whose name is Little Dolly Parton—that made me really want to apply. Dolly’s owner responded to my message almost immediately and agreed to have me sit for her. We messaged regularly in the lead up to the sit and she said she’d be happy to pick me up from the airport. The offer of an airport pick up never goes astray, especially when you land at 9pm.

I was introduced to Little Dolly Parton before Dolly’s owner left to spend the night at her mum’s place. Dolly’s owner was off on a long-awaited overseas holiday early the next morning. Dolly—who was described as “a very independent lady” in the listing—was a little unsure of me to begin with. She was curious, but cautious. She let me pat her a few times before she started getting sassy about it. Dolly’s owner said Dolly would come around in the next 24 to 48 hours and might sleep on the bed. I was told Dolly “loves a snooze and a cuddle”, but it does take her a while to warm to strangers. By the end of the sit, I’d say Dolly really liked me. She’d greet me at the front door, follow me to the bathroom and sit next to me on the bed while I used my laptop. Dolly would also jump on the bed as soon as I rolled over to check my phone each morning.

You could hear Dolly running through the house during the night because her heart-shaped tag jingles. She’d run from the living room to the kitchen (to snack on her dry food) and then through the bedroom to the bathroom to drink from her water bowl. Dolly really likes to drink water from the shower so her owner put a bowl IN the shower. I’d change the water out each evening and Dolly would be in the shower within the next few minutes to drink from it. Dolly also enjoyed going through my suitcase and shopping bags, inspecting my gum boots after I’d worn them, and creeping on me from under the timber stool in the bedroom.

The home I was staying in is perfect for solo travellers like myself. It used to be a villa that’d been converted into three smaller apartments. It was cosy and conveniently positioned between two main roads/thoroughfares. Buses to and from the CBD left every 10 minutes, and there was a cafe pretty much directly across from her home. That particular cafe was a bit overpriced, but the one where Dolly’s owner worked at—a 10-minute walk up the road—turned out to be my favourite local spot.

Things to do

All I knew about Adelaide was it’s referred to as ‘The city of churches’ and that it’s got its fair share of wineries. I don’t like wine, but I do appreciate architecture. None of the churches I saw were overly impressive, but the city does have a lot of nice-looking older buildings.

Art Gallery of South Australia

I’m not a huge fan of art galleries, but I’ll still check out one or two in whichever city I find myself in. The Art Gallery of South Australia might be one of a few art galleries I’ve actually enjoyed. It’s easy to navigate and it had a lot of pieces I was interested in. The gallery is on The University of Adelaide’s city campus which I spent the afternoon admiring.

Adelaide Central Market

Adelaide Central Market was the first place I went to in Adelaide AND the last place I went to. I could’ve easily eaten here every day I was in town. The internet says it’s the largest undercover market in the southern hemisphere and it has everything from made-to-order Italian food to vegan pasties and handmade skincare products.

Fleurieu Peninsula

South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula is known for its beaches, cute coastal towns and wineries. It’s a good day trip option from Adelaide, with the drive to my first stop—Port Willunga Beach—taking less than an hour.

My next stop, Port Elliot, is known for its bakery. The Port Elliot Bakery had people lining up around the corner when I stopped by at around 11am. The Strand [street] is the town’s retail strip and the beach is a bit further up. I stopped at the d’Arenberg Cube on my way back to Adelaide. The building/gallery/wine tasting and restaurant/experience was described to me as “a poor man’s MONA”. That person was right. It’s definitely no MONA, but it’s still worth checking out if you’re in the area.

Hahndorf

Hahndorf is a small German town in the Adelaide Hills. While only 15–20 minutes outside the city, it would probably take all day to get there on public transport so it’s only doable with a car. The main street is full of German bakeries, cafes and pubs. Lots of cute homewares stores, too.

Plant 4 Bowden

I wouldn’t have known about Plant 4 Bowden unless it was for a primary school friend’s sibling. It’s an old building filled with cafes, bars and restaurants just outside the CBD. The iced miso caramel latte at My Grandma Ben’s was good, but I’m not sure about their curried red lentil and chickpea toasted sandwich. I wanted to try the margherita pizza at Fun2seeya Pizzeria, but they’re only open for dinner during the week. Real Falafel, one of my favourites at Adelaide Central Market, is also out here.

Next stop

I’ve still got another few weeks off before returning to my previous contract job. I’d love to get another sit in, but I’m not sure that’ll happen. I’ve got a fair bit of ‘life admin’ to tend to following my deportation ordeal and I should look at putting money aside for legal advice.

*TrustedHousesitters says “international house sitting is very much allowed” and it was a “misunderstanding of the concept of house sitting” on the immigration officer’s part