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

How COVID-19 affected my cat sitting travels in 2020

How COVID-19 affected my cat sitting travels in 2020

I was fortunate enough to spend about three weeks house and cat sitting in the US earlier this year before COVID-19 wreaked havoc on all our lives.

This was back in February and March, and I was in Charleston and New York City. Coronavirus wasn’t a big concern in Charleston. It was talked about on the news, but it was business as usual for the best city in the United States. There was no social distancing, and nobody was wearing a mask or latex gloves. But it started to get serious when I got to New York City. There was hardly anyone on the subway, tours were getting cancelled, and almost everywhere was sold out of wipes and hand sanitiser. Museums and galleries closed, and I wasn’t able to check out the Morgan Library before it shut its doors. I did, however, get my photo taken for the New York Post before flying back to Australia a few days earlier than planned.

It was a good thing I changed my flight when I did because the Virgin Australia flight attendants announced it was now a full flight. Clare—the lady I was cat sitting for—decided it was best to fly home early, too. Her flight from Mexico arrived around the same time I flew out of LAX.

My last-minute change meant I got stuck with a middle seat and I found myself sitting between two other Australian girls. One was about 20 and she told us she got a diving scholarship (this is a thing?) at a university in Arizona. The other girl, I think she was a little older than me, went to Los Angeles to meet up with a guy she had been messaging on Instagram.

Some 14 hours later, we arrived at Brisbane International Airport. We were told biosecurity officers would be escorting two passengers off the plane before anyone could disembark. These passengers had let the flight attendants know they were experiencing COVID-like symptoms just before we touched down. I remember the crew being shocked neither person asked for a mask or mentioned the possibility they were sick. Everyone else was given a COVID one-pager before getting to passport control and customs, and then we were free to roam the airport before making our way home.

The next two weeks were spent confined to my house. I guess I should be grateful I was able to quarantine at home. International arrivals must now quarantine at a government arranged hotel at a cost of $2,000 per person. What’s worse is they have to foot the bill themselves.

Later in the year

Australians have been banned from travelling overseas since the end of March. There’s a few exceptions, but anyone who’s considering it must seek approval from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Those who’ve thought about taking an interstate holiday instead have had to contend with the constant closing and re-opening of state and territory borders, and these rules can take effect almost immediately.

With no real travel plans, I accepted two short sits in Brisbane. One was just for the weekend and the other was a week-long sit in West End. I’d looked after both cats before—Kushy is kind of a regular and the other cat, Jaspurr, is the one I cared for last Christmas. I then spent another weekend with Kushy in October.

Christmas 2020 plans

I’d been keeping my eye on Aussie House Sitters hoping to score a Christmas sit in Hobart, Perth or Darwin. Tasmania remained closed to the rest of Australia ‘til late October and Western Australia only just opened up. This meant Hobart and Perth were a no-go. The Northern Territory was my only option unless I wanted to stay put.

There was a sit in Darwin that piqued my interest and it was all confirmed a few days after responding to the couple’s ad. Even though I accepted it back in September, there was some unexpected uncertainty about it going ahead. The couple planned to travel to Adelaide. Adelaide was declared a COVID-19 hotspot on 16 November 2020. Not long after, the entire state of South Australia went into a six-day lockdown. This very strict lockdown was then relaxed one or two days in when the state government learned a hotel security guard lied to them. Adelaide’s no longer a declared hotspot and everyone’s holiday plans are back on.

Darwin for the Christmas break

Darwin wasn’t on my list of must visit places before COVID hit, but I’m pretty excited about spending December and January up north. This is probably a little longer than most people would spend in Darwin, but I’ll be hiring a car for some of the trip and I have a list of places I want to visit. It’ll also be nice to do nothing after picking up a fulltime contract job in July. I think this is the longest I’ve gone without taking an interstate or international trip.

Daytime temperatures will be around 35°C and nights won’t be much cooler. This sit couldn’t be more different from my Boulder house and cat sitting experience two Christmases ago. Christmas Day was a mere 2 or 3°C, and I was snowed in on New Year’s Eve. The closest I’ll get to snow is hail during an afternoon thunderstorm.

I must complete a border entry form no more than seven days before arriving in Darwin and present it upon arrival at Darwin International Airport. I’ll be keeping an eye on the news while I’m there in case anything changes for Queensland or the Northern Territory. I—like most Australians holidaying across the country—want to avoid hotel quarantine at all costs.

Cat sitting closer to home

Cat sitting closer to home

House and cat sitting in your city or town can be 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 (my hometown).

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. But it was Kush Kush when I looked after him back in May.

The couple adopted Kush Kush 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. House and cat sitting was more of a holiday thing for me. But I’m glad the couple kept my details. Paddington is one Brisbane suburb I’d happily house sit in.

A few weeks back, the same couple reached out to me again via TrustedHousesitters. They asked if I was free to look after Kushy in mid-October. But for two nights this time. I was very much available.

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. Cute. 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 since I saw him last. But he was just as cute. The couple now have 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.

What’s next: Two years on from my first house and cat sit

What’s next: Two years on from my first house and cat sit

With no new cat sitting content to share right now, I’ve decided to reflect on my house sitting journey so far. I’ll touch on where I’m off to in the next few weeks and where I hope to make it to in 2020.

The journey began about this time two years ago. When I responded to my first ad on TrustedHousesitters. After celebrating the 2017 holiday season with Harvey, I spent the following Christmas in Boulder, Colorado, tending to my favourite cat so far, Nika. This was my fourth house and cat sitting trip since starting out.

My last international cat sit saw me brave the humidity in Birmingham, Alabama, where one-eyed rescue cat Zoey cat kept me company for two weeks before I boarded the train for New Orleans. I had a week ‘off’ in New Orleans, i.e. no cats to care for.

I’ve gone on to do another 14 house and cat sits since December 2017. I’ve sat for the same couple twice. I’ve done three separate sits in Seattle. Meeting very different personality types each time. And I’ve been invited back to look after several cats I’ve cared for. If only America wasn’t so far away.

A bit closer to home, I did a one-night sit for a couple in my hometown. I’ll be looking after their cat again this weekend. They’ve got a lovely, spacious garden for an inner city property. The only downside to this place is your neighbour’s property seems like it’s less than a metre away. Their Ragdoll, Kush Kush, is another memorable character.

I looked after my friends’ cat for a week in September while they holidayed in Sri Lanka. My friends’ neighbourhood is another good one. Yeerongpilly. Their cat previously belonged to an old manager of mine and they took him on at the beginning of the year.

Then just the other day I saw an ad for a sit in Savannah, Georgia. Savannah’s a city I’ve recently become interested in and the sit would’ve seen me celebrate Halloween in the US. This is still something I’m keen to do, but it won’t be this year. While waiting to hear back about the Savannah sit, I saw an ad on Aussie House Sitters for a sit in Launceston, Tasmania. I’ve been wanting to go back to Tasmania for quite a while and I’ll often search my usual sites for Hobart sits. While it’s not Hobart, Launceston will be somewhere new to explore. I spoke with the homeowner a day or two after responding to her ad, and she said she’d love to have me. She told me she’s used a live-in sitter before and loves the idea of being able to offer her home to someone in exchange for cat care. For anyone who’s looking to get a house sit in Australia, Aussie House Sitters seems to have more Australian listings than all the other sites combined.

I’m also keeping my eye on ads for Singapore sits. It’d be a nice, short getaway over the Christmas break. Most workplaces in Australia close from Christmas Eve up ‘til New Year’s Day and it’s not that much more expensive to fly at that time of year. Brisbane to Singapore return usually starts at around $500 AUD and it goes up a couple of hundred dollars around Christmas. It’s a lot more affordable than planning a house and cat sitting trip to somewhere in Europe during December. And, of course, I’m always looking to return to the United States. Savannah and Charleston are high on my list for cities I’d like to house sit in next.

Now for some self promotion. For anyone who’s interested, I post quite regularly to the One cat at a time Facebook page. There’s more cat photos and less pretty scenery shared on the Facebook page. The cat photos seem to generate a fair bit of engagement and interaction between the people who like/follow the page. I also had my house and cat sitting article published in the October edition of Travel Play Live. It’s is an independent travel magazine produced in Australia. You can buy it online or at one of 800+ newsagencies across Australia.