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

Where house and cat sitting took me in 2019

Where house and cat sitting took me in 2019

My first house and cat sit for 2019 was at the end of my December–January winter trip to the United States. I spent just over a week in Santa Fe, New Mexico, looking after a feral cat called Kitty Rumi.

The Santa Fe home—like most homes in New Mexico—was Pueblo style. This is the traditional architecture of the Pueblo Indians who built most things with adobe bricks. I would describe the lady’s house as a cute clay shack. It’s definitely one of the more ‘simple’ homes I’ve stayed in, but not in a bad way. I feel it’s just how homes are designed in New Mexico.

I remember leaving the house one night to walk 20 minutes down the road to get dinner. It was the only time I’d left the house that day because I spent most of it sleeping. It was snowing on and off, it was cold, and it was nearing the end of my trip. I was tired. Anyway, I walked to Annapurna’s World Vegetarian Café where I got a Mediterranean pasta dish and stopped in at Carl’s Jr for my diet coke. I was so excited to get home and eat the pasta—I’d heard great things about Annapurna’s. And everything on the menu sounded so good.

I got back to the house and tried to unlock the door. I’d locked both locks despite the lady saying not to lock the top one. I thought this was more of a ‘I don’t lock the top lock because it’s a safe area’ rather than a ‘DON’T LOCK THE TOP LOCK BECAUSE WE CAN’T UNLOCK IT’. I tried several times. With all the different keys. The top lock wouldn’t budge. I went around the side hoping I could open the glass door where my room was. Nope. Then I went around the back hoping to unlock the back doors. I can’t remember the exact setup, but something prevented me from unlocking the screen door. ‘Well, shit,’ I thought. ‘What am I going to do?’ My phone was unable to call or text anyone because my plan had expired, and all I had was WiFi access. I was able to message (thank you, iPhone) the lady explaining what’d happened. She told me her boyfriend would be over to help out. He lived up the road. Thank god. He was eventually able to open the door and I learned never to lock the top lock again. If it wasn’t for the boyfriend, I don’t know what I would’ve done. Stuck outside forever in the cold. With my pasta and diet coke.

I returned home to Brisbane just before Australia Day. I then did my first local sit for a couple in Paddington over the long weekend in May. This coincided with my 29th birthday. I’ll be looking after Kush Kush for a third time over the next few days. Not long after, I left on my longest house and cat sitting trip yet. I was in the US from mid-June to the first week in August. My first stop was Las Vegas where I was staying in a hotel. I hired a car so I could make it to some of the state’s more interesting attractions before flying to Nashville for my first cat sit of the trip.

I made my way to 12South where I was greeted by cats Nancy and Griffin. Both ladies are quite old and I’ve learned Griffin has recently passed away. I think she was 19. The most memorable (entertaining?) thing from this sit was seeing them drink their water from a glass, not a bowl. I also learned Nashville was full of drunk tourists, but I’m still keen to go back. Just not in the summer.

I then flew out for Austin where I met the couple I was sitting for at the airport. These guys stick out in my mind because they were so… likeable? And personable. Their apartment was in a great location. Pretty much opposite the flagship Whole Foods store and in a less busy part of downtown Austin. Their cat, Shady, was another character. I remember he’d sit on the stove and I’d freak out. Even though I never used the stove, it just made me nervous.

After two weeks in Austin, where it was incredibly humid, I flew out to Seattle. I was very happy to be flying into a cooler city. One where it usually rains at least once a day. I was technically cat sitting in an area that’s not quite Seattle, but is about 20–30 minutes from downtown. I still find it easier to say it was Seattle. The actual neighbourhood is called Lake Forest Park. This sit was memorable for a few reasons. The cats were cute, sure. And the view of Lake Washington was great. But the couple were very particular. Highly strung. And I couldn’t quite gauge that from their TrustedHousesitters listing or the FaceTime chat I had with the husband. Despite it probably being my least favourite sit, I was thankful to get a five-star review out of it. I also caught up with my Seattle friends, Melinda and Rich, while I was there. These guys are now off on their own lengthy adventure and I can’t wait to see photos.

I took an overnight flight from Seattle to Birmingham, Alabama, for my last sit. This home will be hard to beat in terms of being the most fun and artsy. Clint and Vero, the owners, have also just left on an adventure. Each room in their house was full of unique art pieces they’d made or collected from their travels. They’d even renovated the main shower to resemble (or at least in my mind) a cave/rock climbing wall. I’m not quite sure how to describe it. And their cat, Zoey, still remains the only one-eyed cat I’ve cared for.

Not long after flying back to Australia, I discovered Aussie House Sitters. I’d check the site each morning for sits in Tasmania in the hope of finding one that:

  • was in a central enough location (so, like, Hobart or Launceston)
  • only had a cat or cats (i.e. no dogs or other animals)
  • was more than a few days, but wasn’t longer than two weeks.

I found one in Launceston and signed up.

The Launceston sit was probably my favourite one this year. The home was so homely. The cats—two young Birmans—were adorable. Literally. Their names were Dora and Abel. The lady calls them ‘The Adorables’. And the city was beautiful. My Uber driver on the way to Hobart Airport was like: ‘Launceston is a bit boring, isn’t it?’ I totally disagree. I guess if I didn’t have a car, it would have been very hard to get around and I wouldn’t have been able to visit half the places I did. But I definitely loved Launceston and would love to go back.

And now for right now. Today’s my last day looking after Jaspurr. Another Ragdoll. ‘Do you only look after this type [Ragdoll] of cat?’ my friend’s sister asked. Her question made me laugh, but I can see how she’d think that. Jaspurr’s the first cat I’ve looked after who had his nails painted. Green and red glitter for Christmas. Festive.

This sit began on Christmas Eve and was at a property in my hometown. I decided to take it as a kind of mini vacation. And it has been just that. The couple’s apartment is in West End, but it’s kind of like a community of its own here. Their street is very resorty and I keep thinking I’m at the coast. Despite apartments everywhere you look, it’s very quiet. And the pub down the road’s my new favourite. The Montague Hotel. They have $10 espresso martinis all day every day.

2020 plans

What’s in store for 2020? Well, I’m sure it comes as no surprise I’d like to keep exploring the US in 2020. While I have a list of places I’d like to visit, it isn’t exhaustive. So, please, reach out if you’re looking for a house and cat sitter in the new year.

Comparing the house sitting websites

Comparing the house sitting websites

There’s a lot of house sitting websites out there. And like anything, some of these sites are great. Then there’s the not so great ones. Membership fees vary and so, too, does the usability of each site. But if you’ve been toying with the idea of signing up to one of—or several—house sitting websites, here are some things that might make the decision easier.

TrustedHousesitters

TrustedHousesitters was the first house sitting website I came across. It’s also my favourite. TrustedHousesitters has listings for anywhere you can think of. And unlike House Sitters America and Aussie House Sitters, TrustedHousesitters isn’t country-specific.

Points of difference

  • New members can ask employers, friends and family to leave character references on their profile to reassure homeowners they’re a decent human.
    • If you use other sites for sits, you can ask the owner to leave you a REFERENCE after the sit is finished. Their reference won’t affect your TrustedHousesitters star rating.
  • Homeowners must complete a ‘Welcome guide’ for their sitter. This is a big winner in my eyes and it’s what sets TrustedHousesitters apart. It covers every possible thing about the property and their pet(s).
  • TrustedHousesitters has an app.
    • The app sends you a notification when a property matching your saved search criteria goes up.
  • You’ll be rated on your organisation skills, reliability, self-sufficiency, tidiness and pet care. Your overall rating is then determined by the average score you received across all the categories.
  • The TrustedHousesitters website looks a lot more modern and less cluttered, and is easier to navigate, than some of the other house sitting websites.
  • They’ve got a big social media presence and they’re quick to respond. They’re also big on sharing members’ stories.

The only downside is their membership fee is the most expensive of the lot. $99 AUD/year for sitters.

Aussie House Sitters

I only signed up to Aussie House Sitters recently. Mainly because I wasn’t fussed on house sitting within Australia. That was until I saw an ad for a home in Launceston. Aussie House Sitters—as you’d expect—has more Australian sits than anyone else. Home/pet owners can sign up for free whereas sitters must pay, but Aussie House Sitters isn’t the only site that does this.

Points of difference

  • You can import your reviews from their sister sites (House Sitters America, House Sitters Canada, etc.). I was able to bring my five-star review across from when I used House Sitters America in 2018.
  • Users are given a ‘reply rating’. This might help you work out why you haven’t received a response.
  • Search results can be refined by selecting properties:
    • near trains/trams, buses, supermarkets, etc.
    • with a pool
    • that allow you to bring your pet(s) along
    • where smoking is OK.
  • Owners can rate you on your garden care. This let me down recently. I only got four out of five stars for my garden care in Launceston.
  • People reach out to me quite a bit on Aussie House Sitters to see if I’m free to sit for them. This doesn’t happen much on the other sites.

Membership is $84 AUD/year.

House Sitters America

I had a one-year membership with House Sitters America, but haven’t renewed it yet. The website navigation and layout is pretty similar to Aussie House Sitters, but the colour scheme—or something I can’t quite put my finger on—makes the website look dated. They do, however, have a good range of sits all over the USA. I was able to get a week-long sit in Washington, D.C., through House Sitters America and often see sits I’d love to do (but can’t because of current work committments).

I just wish House Sitters America, Aussie House Sitters and their other websites had a combined membership covering all the countries. Otherwise a one-year House Sitters America membership costs $30 USD. Quite reasonable compared to other websites.

housecarers.com

I used housecarers.com to secure a Christmas sit in Boulder, Colorado. This website has a lot of member only functionality I haven’t used before. I think the membership dashboard is a bit overwhelming, actually. You can search for sits based on country and/or by date, and you can refine the search by selecting a state or region.

An annual membership is $55 AUD. Homeowners can use housecarers.com for free.

MindMyHouse

I’ve got an active MindMyHouse membership, but I don’t check the website all that often. It’s not my favourite site, but it’s by no means bad. I was able to get a sit in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in January and asked the owner to leave a reference on my TrustedHousesitters profile instead.

Points of difference

  • You can see how many times your profile has been viewed

Membership is $20 USD/year. It’s free for homeowners.

Nomador

I don’t have a paid membership with Nomador. I did, however, sign up with them a few years back to take advantage of the three free applications they let you submit. You have to pay for a full membership after that. And I didn’t like Nomador enough to warrant paying to continue using it. The search functionality wasn’t great either.

Points of difference

  • Nomador lets people list their property as a stopover stay. This means travellers—or anyone—can stay with them for one night at no cost.

Facebook

After joining the House Sitting World Facebook group, I’ve learned a lot of people find house sits through other Facebook groups (e.g. House & Pet Sitting Asia – Thailand, Japan, Philippines, Singapore and more). I’m not sure how I feel about securing a sit through Facebook. The house sitting websites give me a sense of security and I feel a lot more comfortable organising everything through them.

Discount: Save on membership fees

So now you know a bit more each of the house sitting sites I’ve used, these codes will save you a few dollars when you sign up or renew a membership.

  • TrustedHousesitters: Use RAF110780 to get 25% off
  • Aussie House Sitters: Use GQ69PQ to get $10 off
  • housecarers.com: Get an extra six months free when you sign up at my referral link

I don’t have any referral codes for House Sitters America or MindMyHouse—sorry!

Cat sitting closer to home

Cat sitting closer to home

House and cat sitting in your city/town is probably a great way to start out. You’ll get some ‘experience’ and hopefully a five-star review. But it wasn’t until May 2019, after completing 11 sits in the United States, that I accepted an invitation for an overnight sit in Brisbane.

Pre-October 2019

The Brisbane couple own a one-bedroom cottage in Paddington and have a one-year-old Ragdoll. His name is Kush Kush. Well, actually, his name is Pudding now. But it was Kush Kush when I first looked after him in May. The couple adopted him nearly a year ago after their other Ragdoll, Charlie, passed away. These guys originally reached out to me before Charlie died, but I was cat sitting in East Boston at the time. I’d never been fussed on the idea of house sitting in Brisbane. It was more of a holiday thing for me. But I’m glad they kept my details. Paddington is one Brisbane suburb I’d happily house sit in. And their offer was even more appealing because they owned a Ragdoll.

A few weeks back, the same couple reached out again via TrustedHousesitters. They asked if I was free to look after Kush Kush (he’s still Kush Kush (or Kushy) to me) in mid-October. But for two nights this time. I was very much available to look after Kushy a second time.

THE SECOND SIT

When I went to meet the couple on Friday afternoon, they mentioned they’re planning an overseas trip next year and asked if I’d be interested in a substantially longer sit. The dates aren’t set, but they said they’d get back to me ASAP because they seem to think I’m quite popular. They were also keen to hear about my last house and cat sitting holiday. They knew about the trip because they’d messaged me while I was looking after Nancy and Griffin in Nashville.

Kush Kush was out in the garden when I arrived. He’d almost doubled in size (weight) since I saw him last. But he was just as cute. The couple now had a cat flap built into the back door to give him easy access to the garden, but they had to tape the flap up because he refused to use it otherwise. Even with some adjustments, he still seems to struggle with it. He just fits through. And he much prefers to meow at the door to be let back inside.

Sunday morning came around pretty quickly and it was time to start packing up. Bed stripped, dishes washed, bins emptied, cat fed. But where was Kush Kush? I wanted to bring him inside before I left. This is the second time I’ve been ready to leave and the cat’s nowhere to be seen. It happened the other week with my friends’ cat, Dorian. After a few looks in the garden and shaking Kushy’s box of treats, I wandered around the side. Again. I lifted up a tarp. Still no Kushy. But he must have been nearby because started to meow. Thank God. I grabbed him and locked the door behind me. I messaged the couple to let them know I was heading off and to contact me if they had any problems/concerns when they got home. “Many thanks for looking after Puddo and the cottage. See you next time,” was the reply.

Next stop

Next week I’m off to Tasmania. I’ll be staying in Hobart for a few nights before driving to Launceston for a 10-day house and cat sit.