I am in Canada with/on an open work permit.

Please send me a message if you’d like me to look after your home and cat(s).

Hi. My name’s Madolline.

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

My winter and spring cat sitting adventures in Canada

My winter and spring cat sitting adventures in Canada

I spent the last three months cat sitting in Calgary, Montreal and Victoria before returning to Vancouver for another two sits.

Calgary

The first of the house and cat sits was in Calgary. It was a relatively short one—only four or five nights—but it filled a gap in my itinerary. Calgary also happened to be a city I was keen to return to after spending three nights there last September. I was expecting an average daytime temperature of around -15°C and a few snow days. The coldest it got to was -20°C, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it sounds.

The two cats I was tasked with looking after were called Birdie (tortoiseshell) and Tank (ginger). Birdie is the older of the two and she was adopted before the couple got Tank. While Birdie and Tank get along just fine, Birdie preferred to spend her time sleeping in the basement. Tank, on the hand, would rather be with/near you. Or sitting in the shoebox I kept for him.

The owners warned me Tank would wake me up very early to request his breakfast, but they didn’t tell me how just cute the whole thing was. That first morning, at around 7am, Tank jumped on my bed. He rolled around on it for a minute or two, and let out a quiet meow before positioning himself against my legs and falling asleep. That was Tank asking for breakfast. If only all cats were as polite as Tank.

Birdie, despite spending most of her time downstairs, would resurface every couple of hours to meow at me for food or follow me into the bathroom. I found out that her owners refer to her as ‘Scraps’ because she’s always trying to steal people’s food, but Birdie’s fondness for the bathroom remains a mystery.

Montreal

I was originally meant to arrive in Montreal at 3.30pm on a Monday. The night before, WestJet emailed me to say my flight was cancelled (it actually wasn’t (it ended up flying out about 30 minutes later than scheduled)) and they’d be putting me on one that left Calgary just before midnight. The red-eye flight would see me land in Montreal at around 7am on Tuesday. Not ideal, but, thankfully, my friend’s sister—the person I was cat sitting for—didn’t leave Montreal until Wednesday evening.

My friend’s sister’s cat’s name is Tango. Tango is an indoor–outdoor cat, with most of his time spent wandering the neighbouring alleyways. Even if it was raining or snowing, Tango would prefer to be out in it. Sometimes he’d just chill on the balcony-like space out the back. Then there were times when he’d be gone for more than 12 hours. I was told not to be too concerned if that happens, but my sister’s friend has fretted over his whereabouts in the past. She has taken to attaching an AirTag to Tango’s collar so she could get a better idea of his general location.

Tango was a real character. He preferred to drink from one of the vases scattered around the apartment. He would also drink from my glass if I had one at the dinner table. He liked to sploot, nap in a cardboard box, and creep on the birds and squirrels from the kitchen window. In the evenings, he would position himself against my laptop as if to say ‘Please stop looking at your laptop and look at me’.

Victoria

I’d seen more snow in Montreal than I’d expected, but I was now on my way to Victoria, B.C., just as the city’s cherry blossoms and flowers were starting to bloom. Victoria was somewhere new for me, but it was a city I heard mentioned plenty of times on my previous trip to Canada. I was able to book a ticket from Montreal-Trudeau International Airport to Victoria International Airport that ended up saving me a lot of time. Most people who visit Victoria get the ferry from Vancouver, but I didn’t care for 1.5 hours on public transport and another 1.5 hours on the ferry after a spending five hours on a plane.

Nahlah, the cat I was spending the next 25 days with, is a COVID kitty. She had become accustomed to having humans around 24/7, but hasn’t always been a fan of them. Nahlah’s owners told me it took her weeks—if not months—to feel confident enough to leave the couple’s office/spare bedroom. It took just as long for her to let them pet her. The office is still kind of a safe space for Nahlah and it’s where I chose to sleep during my stay.

Nahlah is a very unique-looking kitty. The first thing you notice is she’s ginger. Yes, a female ginger cat. That’s pretty rare. When I first saw photos of her, I thought she may have been a Bengal. After I met her, I started to think she was part Abyssinian. No-one knows for sure. But what I do know is Nahlah loooves to be brushed, enjoys keeping warm under the range hood (the couple leave the lights on for her) and is a big fan of going on walks. The couple use a harness and cat leash to take her out at least once a day, and they’ve got one of those space bubble backpacks for her to see out of. Nahlah has even been to Mexico. Her owners spent four months on the road—living out of their van—and Nahlah accompanied them on the trip.

Nahlah’s home is central to almost everything anyone visiting Victoria would want to see or do. The Dallas Road Waterfront Trail was two blocks away, Beacon Hill Park was 10 minutes in the other direction, and the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, Royal BC Museum and Fairmont Empress hotel were buildings I walked past most days.

Other days were spent relaxing at the apartment, with Nahlah close by. Her little cat bed had been left on the fold out couch and I’ve never met a cat who was so attached to their cat bed. Most cats I know prefer to sleep on the human’s bed. If I stayed in, Nahlah would spend the entire day in that cat bed. And the majority of the photos I sent to the couple were of Nahlah snuggled up in it.

Nahlah’s owners were beyond generous and great sources of information. They picked me up from the airport and drove me to the ferry terminal when it was time to leave. The drive to the Swartz Bay ferry terminal would’ve taken close to an hour and a half on the bus, and it wouldn’t have been fun with a 23kg suitcase, carry on suitcase and heavy backpack. They were so knowledgeable about Victoria and Vancouver Island, and other parts of Canada I am hoping to visit.

Back to Vancouver

After saying goodbye to Nahlah’s owners, it was time to board the Vancouver-bound ferry. I had no choice but to use public transport to get from the Tsawwassen ferry terminal—where everyone heading to Vancouver gets let off—to downtown Vancouver unless I wanted to fork out around $100 for an Uber. Due to a medical emergency on the previous Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay ferry, my ferry was 30 minutes late which meant I missed the 3pm and 3.05pm buses to Bridgeport Station. I had a bit of wait for the next bus, but I eventually made it to Vancouver’s West End to commence the first of two cat sits I’d organised after arriving in Canada.

My second time house and cat sitting in Vancouver

My second time house and cat sitting in Vancouver

I decided to return to Canada (with my open work permit) after spending three and a half months there (using that same open work permit) last summer.

Last year’s trip started with a house and cat sit in Montreal which meant an additional five-hour flight to the other side of the country. I remember having just under two hours to pass through immigration, sort out my work permit and provide immigration officers with whatever paperwork they wanted to see, collect my suitcase and re-check it in, go through security, and be at the gate ready to board my 8:55am flight. While all Air Canada luggage is now sent through to the traveller’s final destination, it’s a lot of stress I could do without and that’s why I was hoping to start off in Vancouver this time. Turns out the lady I sat for in September needed a sitter for 10 days in February. Her dates slotted into my draft itinerary almost perfectly so I told her I’d be happy to take the sit.

The lady shares her West End apartment with two Ragdoll cats from the same litter. They’re 1.5 years old, and their names are Jaws (girl) and Killer (boy). While ‘Killer’ might seem like an odd name to some people, it makes perfect sense when you know their owner. Some of my friends thought Jaws may have been a biter/chewer, but she was named after Steven Spielberg’s film Jaws. Jaws’ owner is fascinated by sharks and went swimming with them on one of her visits to Australia. Cat Jaws even has some shark Jaws toys.

Despite their scary-sounding names, Jaws and Killer are gentle and affectionate. The only ‘violence’ you’ll see these majestic-looking kitties inflicting is upon their toys. And, boy, do they have a lot of them. I don’t think I’ve ever met a cat(s) who plays with their toys as much as these two do. One of their favourite things to do is bring their ‘catch’ to you in bed, or drag it into the shower and continue thrashing it around. Sometimes I’d wake to find an assortment of toys strewn across the bed. Or still in the shower the next morning. Then there was the time one of their toys fell out of my backpack as I went to pay for something at Winners.

It’s interesting to see their personalities are still developing and how they’ve changed since I was here last. Their owner also commented on how she’s noticed the cats’ colours deepening. Jaws has a lot more grey/taupe to her and Killer’s ginger points might be a little more prominent.

I recall Killer being the needy sibling and Jaws mostly keeping to herself. It could’ve been that Jaws is—or was—a bit more reserved around strangers. This time ‘round, Killer is content to be alone (except for when he demands five minutes of your time every evening) and Jaws is the one who wants all your attention. Jaws will now position herself next to me and still be my side when I wake up. Both cats do like to involve themselves in whatever you’re doing and this can sometimes include running into the shower as soon as you’ve turned the water on. Jaws will try to catch the water drops from the other side of the glass door while Killer sits in the bathroom sink. They also like to welcome you home and Killer is the first one to dart out the front door. He’s allowed to walk around in the building’s closed off hall area, but must be supervised for the minute or two he’s allowed to roam. Jaws is a bit more hesitant about venturing out, but she’ll take a quick peep from behind the door before deciding whether or not it’s worth the effort. If she does venture out, she’s usually quick to return. Killer, however, likes to be chased back into the apartment.

Things to do

I didn’t expect to like Vancouver as much as I did, but I guess that’s why I was so keen to come back. English Bay and Stanley Park are within walking distance from the West End apartment, and you can be at Coal Harbour or downtown within about 20 minutes. Here’s some of the things I enjoyed most and these can be done/visited/seen at any time of year.

Main Street, Mount Pleasant

It’s actually called Main Street and isn’t just the main street in Mount Pleasant. I’d recommend walking from about E Fifth Avenue all the way to down to E 32nd Avenue and back up again. The area is known for its vintage and antique stores, but I found it had a lot of good homewares, stationery and ‘things’ stores. Some of my favourites were Front & Company, The Storehouse and Welk’s. Lots of street art in the area, too.

Granville Public Market

From where I’m staying in West End, the trip to Granville Public Market is a scenic one. I walk down Denman Street, past the A-maze-ing Laughter sculptures, and along English Bay and Sunset beaches to get the False Creek Ferry from the Aquatic Centre. It takes less than five minutes to get to Granville Island.

Warning: Seagulls steal snacks by the seashore

I’d say Granville Public Market is one of the best markets I’ve been to. It’s got its fair share of food, but it has just as many stores selling handmade (and not handmade) goods.

Shop Makers

Shop Makers is a “celebration of local artistry and entrepreneurship” and they’ve got stores all over the country. Everything is handmade by a Canadian artist and each artist gets 100% of the money made from a sale of their goods.

'I can't read' sticker

I’m not sure how I originally learned about Shop Makers, but I must’ve stumbled across a store in Gastown or Kitsilano when I was here last. My favourite Shop Makers store would have to be the one in the Park Royal mall because they’ve got so much cat stuff (stickers, keyrings, etc.). North Vancouver is pretty good, too, and definitely one of the bigger stores.

Lynn Canyon Park and suspension bridge

Lynn Canyon Park offers a significantly cheaper—i.e. free—alternative to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. And there’s 617 acres of forest and several hiking trails to explore. I did some of the Baden Powell Trail before turning around to get the bus back to downtown Vancouver before it got dark, but I’d be keen to come back in the summer.

Stanley Park

I’d never heard of Stanley Park until I got chatting to another Australian on my Niagara Falls tour. She told me it was one of the first places she visited in Vancouver and that it’s bigger than Central Park.

A popular walk within Stanley Park is the 10km seawall loop that forms part of the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path. It takes between two and two and half hours to do, and you’ll pass Siwash Rock, Lions Gate Bridge, Brockton Point Lighthouse and the Totem Poles.

Next stop

I’m at Vancouver International Airport waiting to board a plane to Calgary. I spent three nights in Calgary last year, but that wasn’t nearly enough time to see everything I had on my list. This time I’ve got five nights in town, and, unlike my last visit, I will be doing a house and cat sit.

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.
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.