I moved to a small apartment in Fiji two years ago with my partner. We picked somewhere that was conveniently located, had a low chance of being broken into, and a spot we could leave unattended for a few weeks at a time. As a travel writer, I’m out of the country regularly as is my partner, who works for an organization that sends him all throughout the South Pacific.
One morning, a white and orange stray kitten wobbled onto our porch. It hopped onto my windowsill and meowed at me as I worked from my desk. When my partner came home, he suggested that we leave it outside and under no circumstances should we feed it–it’d be cruel to have an animal dependent on us only to be abandoned on a regular basis. The only animal shelter in the area looked grim and neither one of us to take the kitten drop her off. In Fiji, it’s common for people not to spay their animals–resulting in litter after litter of puppies and kittens running rampant in the streets.
So we made a compromise. We’d feed the kitten, but she’d need to stay outside. Our neighbor helped feed the kitten as well and soon she became famous around the apartment complex, earning the regal title of The Big White Cat. And while most felines have a reputation for being escape artists, this kitten was a grade-A homebody. At any chance she got, she’d dart into our apartments and dash to a place we couldn’t reach her. When we picked her up, she let her body fall limp as if to say, “Fine. If you’re going to carry me–I’m going to make it as hard as possible for you.” My partner looked skeptically at me when I told him that the cat was in the apartment because she “escaped inside.”
After a few nighttime cat brawls that led to a broken bones and a slashed eye, the kitten–now named Pizzakat–was relegated to the inside of our apartment as soon as the sun went down. She got spayed and now held to a solid curfew. She stopped getting in fights after that. Unfortunately, our neighbor turned friend moved away, leaving us responsible for kitten duties.
Of course, this prompted a major problem. And I no doubt believe that cats truly domesticated themselves.
Who’d look after her while we were away?
Enter Trusted Housesitters, the world’s clunkiest website that connects pet owners to globetrotters looking for a free place to sleep. Most housesit opportunities fall into two categories:
- Located in bumfuck nowhere with no car access or public transportation. Electricity is via solar panel but the owners have left ’cause it’s winter. You just have to throw some chicken feed out every now and then and make sure the gates are locked and the security cameras are on before it gets dark. For an extra fee, you can pay for a guard who is trained to kill any intruder–but oh on second thought, he’ll also be away during the sit. Do you know how to use a shotgun?
- A luxury apartment located in the city center with four cats, six dogs, a turtle in a diaper, and an iguana with a bad case of reptilian measles who needs to be bottle fed every hour on the hour. Half the dogs need muzzles before going for their walk–none can be walked together. They stopped doing that after the little one of ’em ate Sparky. The cats aren’t litterbox trained but they’re working on it. Don’t leave anything out that looks edible. The last housesitter left a review claiming that they are still waiting on reimbursement for the vet bills after the owner’s German Shepherd gobbled down a pair of Beats by Dre.
My apartment is in the sweet spot of being centrally located with an easygoing animal. Because my cat once lived the stray life, all she wants is a belly rub every now and then and her food bowl to be topped up come dinnertime. Because of this, we get many applications as soon as we list our desired dates. We’ve had nine catsitters come to look after Pizzakat since she first escaped inside of our home.
How do we choose a catsitter? The key is adhering to these three tips.
1. Personalize your message
It always helps to know that the applicant has taken time to research the city and shows an interest in your animal. One of my worst fears is getting a call in the middle of a trip from my catsitter letting me know that they’re bailing out because Fiji is much rainier than expected. Do your research on the destination, the animals, and the type of accommodation that you’ll have. If the homeowner has listed rules, acknowledge that you respect them.
2. Show that you’re self-sufficient
Some housesitters are experienced travelers while some seem as though they’ve never seen the outside of their city. The latter types of housesitters are very stressful to deal with. If you have plenty of travel experience, be sure to mention it. If you don’t yet are willing to adapt to new environments, emphasize how you are able to find your way around most challenges and situations. When you arrive, ask if the power/water/wifi goes out and if so, what to do if it happens. This is especially important if you’re in a place with shoddy infrastructure.
3. Emphasize your love of animals–especially the ones you are going to be taking care of
Some housesitters write about how excited they are to travel and stay in a new place, never mentioning the fact that they are there to look after someone’s pet. If you love cats, feature pictures of you with cats in your profile. Even better if you have pictures of you with other animal’s that you’ve looked after in the past. Every owner wants to know that their pet is being treated like a prince or a princess, even if the reality is that the housesitter is patting the pet twice on the head before heading off to the pub for a pint.
Enjoy your sit!
Housesitting is a great way to give back while traveling, stay in a nice and comfortable place, and cut down on costs as you travel. If you look through the eyes of the pet and homeowner, your chances of being accepted increase drastically. If you do get accepted, have a great housesit and be sure to hide away your Beats by Dre.