From the life of a cat sitter

As you may have read before, I also work as a cat sitter.

People ask me whether I just feed and clean litter trays all day. Well, yes and no. I mean I do feed cats and clean litter trays, but there’s much more to it.
In the series of posts I’ll share some anecdotes from my life as a cat sitter. I promise these stories are all true, though the cat’s names have sometimes been changed to protect their identity 😉

Today: a case of mistaken identity

I sometimes cover for colleagues when they are away and it’s not aleays possible to meet clients and their cats beforehand. However, we brief each other about the cats and their needs. On one occasion though, we had not briefed each other about what the cat looks like…

I went in to visit Stevie. Some rooms are off limits for him but he can come inside or go out as and when he pleases. So I wasn’t too surprised not to see him inside and opened the door to go into the garden. Sure enough, “Stevie” soon approached me and wanted lots of fuss and cuddles and breakfast of course.

As I walked into the house again I heard meows coming from somewhere, but not from “Stevie”. I listened carefully and they seemed to come from behind one particular door to a room that was off limits when the client was away. Guess where Stevie had spent the night? He ran into the garden as soon as I let him out of the room only to go and lie down next to “Stevie”. Turned out Stevie and his imposter were besties!

How To Work From Home With A Demanding Cat

* Originally written by William O’Brien for ProtectaPet

In recent times, the act of working remotely from home has become a massive trend, especially during and after the lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A lot of us find it much easier and less restricting than having to go into the office five days a week, and we get to work from the comforts of our own home. 

However, where there are pros to working from home, there are all sorts of unique challenges that arise in these new working environments, especially for owners of demanding pets. For us cat owners, working from home can mean more quality time spent with our feline friends but it can also present challenges that you need to overcome in order to establish a healthy balance of work time and play time.

If your cat is particularly demanding, giving them access to the outdoors whilst being protected from the usual risks can help your cat to exert that additional energy. ProtectaPet offers a range of Cat Fencing solutions to keep your cat safe outdoors, available for DIY or installation.

Set Boundaries

Most of us will know that cats do as they please and when they want. They stroll up and down their palace corridors deciding where they want to sleep, eat and relax. A lot of us have transitioned into working from home either on a flexible or permanent basis, so setting some boundaries between you and your cats might be the best option for you.

If you’re cat is particularly needy and you are struggling to help them be more independent, check out this article by Noots. 

If you’re trying to have an important meeting, or if you are working towards a big deadline then you might need to think about not allowing your cat into the office or training your cat to not climb up onto your laptop and sit on your keyboard. Cats have a reputation for doing what they want, especially for love and attention, so training your cat might be the best option for you, as just shutting the door on them might cause some distress. Training them will take time, but it will be worth it when your cat stops knocking over a hot coffee onto some important documents! 

Set a Routine for You and Your Cat

Just because working from home can be a comforting way to work, we still need downtime and who better to do this with than with our cute cat companions. Also, setting aside time for you and your cats will ensure that you are giving them enough love and attention so that you can go back to work undisturbed, leaving your cat satisfied. Ensure that you are the one to initiate the playtime, so that they can learn that you are the decider when it comes to when the work ends and when the fun starts. 

Cats also respond well to routine, so setting up a daily schedule for you and your cat might be the best option if you live with a demanding one. Make sure they have their own safe space, with their own scratch posts, fresh water, toys and a comfy bed. 

Cat-Proof the Office

If you are letting your cats into your home office, you need to make sure that there aren’t any items lying around on the surfaces or the floor which your cat could potentially swallow or knock over. Make sure to never leave your pet in your office unattended so that they can’t damage anything or hurt themselves. Also ensure that there are no cables lying all over the floor because they have been known to chew through these, so keep this in mind too.

Over time your cat will hopefully become accustomed to the do’s and don’ts of the home office workspace and naturally will avoid causing too much destruction or annoyance during stressful work times. 

Be Flexible and Patient

Creating and maintaining a harmonious relationship with your feline friends whilst you’re working from home may seem like a challenging prospect now, but with time and patience you will be rewarded with an even better understanding and deeper love for your cats.

Understand that they are an animal with intuition and instinctive behaviour and although successfully training a cat might seem impossible, it is achievable. There might be setbacks but in the end they are extremely smart creatures that with your love, patience and flexibility, they will learn to understand your needs as well as you understand theirs.

Cat-Safe Christmas

* Adapted from International Cat Care

Most of us look forward to the festive period; the food, the guests, the tree and decorations. However, for cats, Christmas may be a time of stress and risk of injury. As a species they enjoy routine and are sensitive to changes in their environment, making the celebrations challenging. In addition, the season means certain toxic plants and food may be accessible to curious cats. At International Cat Care we have consulted our veterinary members to ask them what injuries they see at this time of year. Based on this information and with the input of the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) this article offers advice on what to keep out of reach and what to do to minimise the disruption to keep our cats happy this Christmas.

Poisonous pants and food

  • Poinsettia, mistletoe, holly, ivy and Christmas cherry can cause a tummy upset and should be kept away from inquisitive cats.
  • Chocolate is not just toxic to dogs, it is also toxic to cats, although the amount a cat needs to eat to make them ill is a lot higher than for dogs. Signs of chocolate poisoning including being sick and passing diarrhoea, drinking a lot, appearing drunk, trembling or even having a fit.
  • Similarly, grapes and raisins, known for causing kidney damage in dogs, may affect cats but poisoning is much less common.
  • A little left-over turkey will be enjoyed by the majority of cats without harm, excessive treats and human food could make a cat poorly so do try and stick to their normal feeding routine this time of year; they won’t know they are missing out!
  • Another hazard can be cooked poultry bones – they are hard for cats to digest and can get stuck in the digestive system so make sure your cats can’t raid the bin after the Christmas lunch.

Christmas decorations

  • Be careful with candles! As elevated locations are still accessible to most cats, candles should be kept where you can keep an eye on them.
  • Keep your cat away from tinsel, lametta (the long decorative strips of tinsel), ribbons and string (around meat or used to hang decorations).
  • Many cat owners have had the experience of their cat climbing the Christmas tree and it falling over. (My childhood cat did this one year!) Your cat can get injured during the fall, but is more likely to get injured by pieces of glass from broken baubles.
    Dirk loves the shiny baubles so I put matt ones on the lower branches of my tree as he’s less likely to bat those.
  • Chewing lights and wires can be a problem for some cats, especially for nosy kittens.
How to make Christmas less stressful for cats

This time of year means lots of changes to a home, and for cats who often thrive on predictability, routine and the perceived safety of their territory (their home and garden), this can be distressing. The furniture is often moved around to accommodate extra guests, the tree is brought in, lights and decorations are put up, music is played, all making their home look, sound and smell different.  In addition, unfamiliar people, and worse still unfamiliar dogs may visit the house or even stay for several days, again at variable times, interrupting the normal routine. In order to minimise distress during this season consider the following:

  • Ensure your cat has several safe and comfortable places to hide and get away from the noise and hustle and bustle. A cardboard box or igloo bed above the wardrobe or under the bed can provide security. If new beds are added to the home at this time, make them smell familiar by adding bedding already used by your cat.
  • Advise visitors not to approach the cat if it is in its bed, but only to stroke the cat if it initiates contact. Visiting children may be keen to see and cuddle the cat but gentle stroking on the cat’s initiation must be insisted upon.
  • Guests can be given cat treats and toys to help teach the cat positive associations with the new people.
  • Ensure there is always an open door to allow the cat to get away from any noisy parties or dinners to a quieter part of the home.
  • Consider plugging in a ‘Feliway’ diffuser into the room the cats spends most time several days before the festivities begin. This product (available from your vet) contains feline pheromones which can help the cat feel more secure. Ensure it is switched on continually throughout the festive season.
  • If visitors are sleeping in one of the rooms the cat usually uses, for example, for sleeping, eating or toileting, be sure to provide the required resources (beds, food or litter tray) in other quieter parts of the house and ideally, before the visitors arrive so that changes occur gradually and the cat is comfortable with the new location.
  • If the cat’s litter tray is positioned in a place that will mean more people traffic or noise during the Christmas period, it is good practice to provide an additional litter tray in a quieter part of the home.
  • If the cat is particularly sound sensitive, avoid crackers and party poppers.
  • If a dog is visiting it may be helpful to restrict its access to the cats retreat areas using for example baby gates on the stairs.

Top Tips for Keeping Your Pet’s Heart Healthy

* From my partners at katzenworld.co.uk

The heart is one of the most important organs in the body, not only for humans, but for our furry family members too. It’s therefore crucial to keep it strong and healthy – anything that stops the heart from functioning as normal, such as changes in size, shape or rhythm, can cause problems.

PDSA Vet Nurse, Nina Downing, said “Heart problems can be fairly common and cause a wide range of symptoms – some animals can live with a heart condition for years with minimal impact on their life, while others may have severe, life-threatening symptoms. There are several things you can do to support the heart health of your four-legged friend.

Watching out for symptoms 

“There are important signs of heart disease to look out for in pets which, sadly, may worsen over time. While heart disease can’t be cured, there are treatments which can help to manage your furry family member’s symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Things to look out for include your pet stopping or slowing down while exercising, breathing faster than normal when they are sleeping, taking a while to catch their breath after exercise, low energy, panting for longer or more often, coughing or, for cats in particular, breathing with an open mouth.  Pets struggling with a heart condition may also collapse.

Maintaining a healthy weight 

“If your furry family member is carrying extra weight, their heart has to work harder, which adds a lot of strain. Making small changes, such as weighing out their food, cutting back on unhealthy treats, and not giving in to puppy dog eyes at the table, are small changes you can make to help them maintain a healthy weight. Talk through any concerns about your pet’s weight with your vet – they may suggest a weight clinic to help support you.

Getting enough exercise 

“Exercise is a key part in keeping your pet’s heart healthy. Making sure your pooch is going for daily walks, suitable for their size, weight, and fitness ability, is really important. In between walks, have fun and play games together to help keep dogs moving.

“Cats enjoy playtime too – even if your cat is active and enjoys roaming outdoors, they will still enjoy special time with you, which will motivate them to exercise, and it’s great for bonding. If they are slightly overweight or more reluctant to move around, short play sessions are a great way to introduce a new exercise regime. You can increase the length of activities, as your cat gets fitter and more enthusiastic.

“Engaging your cat with toys, such as balls, teaser toys, wind-up chase toys, will also encourage their natural hunting instincts.

Regular vet checks  

“Catching heart problems early can make a big difference to your furry family member’s long-term health. Regular check-ups with the vet, where they can listen to your pet’s heart, can help pick up a problem before it develops.

“If you are concerned about your pet’s health, or they display any worrying symptoms between check-ups, always book an appointment so your vet can offer advice and treatment to keep your pet happy and healthy.”

From the life of a cat sitter

As you may have read before, I also work as a cat sitter.

People ask me whether I just feed and clean litter trays all day. Well, yes and no. I mean I do feed cats and clean litter trays, but there’s much more to it.
In the series of posts I’ll share some anecdotes from my life as a cat sitter. I promise these stories are all true, though the cat’s names have sometimes been changed to protect their identity 😉

Today: the cat version of Eastenders

Cats are sometimes quite literally the talk of the neighbourhood!

Jinxy is one such example. She is quite a vocal cat, always meowing for attention.

I was looking after her when I received a text from a friend who lives in the same street. The neighbours had been chatting about a cat that seemed lost and was meowing a lot. My friend wondered if I knew the cat. I said, yes that’s Jinxy and she’s not lost and she is also being fed and cuddled.

Well, the neighbours weren’t too sure as she stayed in a garden at the end of the road for quote a long time and was very vocal (did I mention she’s a chatty one?)

I’ve known Jinxy for several years and she was fine when I saw her on the morning, but still. Things happen so I thought it better to go round and check on her on my way home.

Sure enough when I arrived Jinxy was no longer on the garden at the end of the road, but people thought she’d gone into someone else’s garden. No, not there either. I went to Jinxy’s home and guess who was not lost after all? She was quite happily snoozing in her own home.

She’s been the talk of the neighbourhood on various occasions since then. Somehow I suspect she’s loving the attention…