The 5 best things about being a pet sitter

Sorry to be so quiet lately. Been working in a big project. More details to follow, but for now, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I love about my work. Here’s my 5 best things about being a pet sitter.

1) Tons of BFFs

Pet sitters have lots and lots of best furry friends. We arrive to care for our furry charges, and so often they meet us at the door, so ready for company. We may have the advantage here. We are, after all, the only game in town during the time when their two-leggeds are gone, and that alone makes us look pretty good. But I think some of my BFFs think well of me even so. I’ve been caring for a couple cats for about ten days, and this morning they not only met me at the door, but did lots of rub-bys…like drive-bys, except they rub themselves all over you. Very endearing. I really miss some of my BFFs when their people don’t travel as often as they might, but I suspect that calling clients and suggesting they travel isn’t really my place. (“Hey, Sally, Cape May is really nice this time of year. Don’t you think you deserve a few days of vacation? How’s Muffy doing, by the way? Does she miss me?”) Still, I do miss some of my pals. Let’s not even talk about the clients who move out of the area and take my friends with them. I’ll save that for the list of the five worst things about pet sitting.


2) Built-in exercise. No excuses.

I am a slug. In the years before I was a professional pet sitter I got way less exercise than I should have. Way less. I’ve never really been overweight (pure luck) but since starting my pet sitting business seven years ago, I’ve actually lost weight and gone from a size eight to a size six. All my old clothes from my business days hang on my awkwardly now. Walking dogs keeps me fit, The dogs gotta go out…no excuses. And I get paid for it. Good deal.

Butterscotch walking


3) Every day is different from the last.

Back in my corporate days I pretty much knew what to expect when I went to work each day. Not so with pet sitting. Not only do I have different clients each day, but I never know what mood they will be in, or (on bad days) if someone is sick, or maybe some kitty has found a new and really hard-to-find hiding spot that will challenge me for a good bit. Dog walking routes vary – who wants to do the same route every single day. Cats who liked the cat dancer yesterday want the feather toy today. Someone has thrown up a hairball, or another someone isn’t eating and makes me worry.  The four-month old puppy is chewing up his wooden crate (please don’t give your puppies wooden crates…). The list of possible activities in a given day is endless. You never know what to expect.



4) Sometimes we can be really helpful.

I love trying to help folks solve their pet dilemmas, even those difficult cats that pee outside the box. How do I train the dog to sit and stay? What kinds of toys should I get for the cat? Why does the cat think that 4 am is a really good play hour? (Well, I may not be able to solve that one, but I can sympathize.) What can I do with my dog aggressive dog who has still has to go out on walks? Why is the cat drinking so much water – is that normal? (Probably not.) In my job I get to partner with vets, dog trainers, groomers and other professionals to help people learn about their furry friends and provide care. Gives me a good excuse to talk with other professionals, attend seminars, read books, to learn more. As the author of eight books, I appreciate learning. I appreciate learning from the animals too.

book jacket

5) I get paid to do something I love doing.

Self-explanatory.  I’m very lucky to be able to work in a field that I love, and make a living. Life is good. My paycheck was definitely better in corporate life, but the paycheck isn’t everything. Doing what you love and what the world needs you to do  — that vocation thing — counts for a lot.

Me and Butterscotch

Eeewww…and boo!

“Eeewww…and boo!” my sister wrote this morning in response to a note I’d sent out to my siblings. Butterscotch used to be my dad’s dog, and she came to live with us when Dad could no longer care for her. Periodically I send out a short update to my sisters about her health or something newsworthy.


The “newsworthy” item this morning was that Butterscotch peed all over our bed in her sleep last night. I woke up at 2:30 am to find myself, my nightgown and the bedding all rather damp, and we had to get up, strip the bed, put on clean linens. And a shower was imperative before climbing back in bed. I sent a note to my sisters this morning: “Guess who peed all over the bed in the wee hours of the morning? Guess who’s going to the vet today?” And one of my sisters, a pediatric nurse, wrote back: “Eeewww…and boo!” Pretty much my thoughts too.

I made an appointment for her at the vet’s and, not surprisingly, they wanted a urine sample. So I let Butterscotch out in the yard today, following close behind her with my little cup. Let’s just say she wasn’t too pleased about this. She kept looking back at me with an expression that said: “A little privacy, please!” Still, I got what I needed, and we lived to tell about it.

The vet looked at the sample and her word for it was “underwhelming.” Nothing to write home about. No infections. No blood. Nothing of any note, except that her specific gravity is lower than other dogs, but that’s because she has Cushings Syndrome. (It also means her urine isn’t as smelly as most dogs, or even worse, most cats…a little side benefit of the Cushings.) The diagnosis: she may be getting incontinent. She is 13, and she’s had Cushings a good while, which ages her a little more. One episode doesn’t make for a good diagnosis however.

The prescription: reduce her dosage of Lasix (a diuretic for her extremely minor heart murmur)…no more at night. No water bowl in the bedroom. Potty break as late as possible. And protect the bed if we can’t keep her off. (Don’t ask me to lock her out of the bedroom…it ain’t gonna happen until she can’t climb the stairs anymore.)


And to be on the safe side, I will probably order her a girl dog belly band…a kind of diaper for girl dogs. And here’s where you can help. What color belly band should I get her?  You get to vote  – and here are your choices! Click off your favorite in the poll after the color swatches. Butterscotch and I are anxious to see which one you choose!

Black and white




French lace


Multi color paws




Pink ribbon


Red bandana


White lace


Cat food

Rules for Feeding Cats

Feeding dogs is a breeze…at least most dogs. They will eat darn near anything, especially if you have a lab or lab mix. The lab motto is: “It might be edible…might as well check.” It could be a plastic butter container (a favorite of Paris’s) and they will still eat it. So many dogs will eat anything you serve them, and they will eat the same stuff day after day after day.

Paris awaiting dinner

Cats…whole other story. At least our cats. They would probably eat kibble endlessly, but I’m not a believer in lots of kibble for cats. I’ve seen too many diabetic cats become not-diabetic when they are switched off kibble. Our cats get a teeny bit of kibble each day, but that’s basically desert for them. Junk food. They get wet food…really good wet food. And because they have different eating habits, we have four dining rooms for the six cats to prevent stealing and other shenanigans. It’s quite the operation. And despite the fact that they eat in four separate areas, separated by doors and staircases, they still have managed to conspire about the rules they require for meals.

Here is today’s food haul from the pet store.

Cat food

This selection (Natural Balance, Merrick, Earthborn, Go!, Wellness, and others) is geared to fit the rules our cats impose on eating time. It goes like this:

1) Variety is the spice of life. Forget about all those articles that say you have to switch foods slowly. Our cats will not eat the same thing repeatedly, They won’t even eat the same company brand day after day. They would rather starve.

2) What was served at breakfast shall not be served again at dinner or it will be left on the plate.

3) What was served on Tuesday should not be served again until Thursday at the very earliest.

4) The cats reserve the right to reject any food at any time for any reason. It may have been absolutely fantastic yesterday, and every morsel consumed, and today it is garbage.

5) The more expensive the food the better they like it, but rule #4 still applies.

6) At any given meal, at least one cat (out of six) is selected to hate the food, even if they loved it in the past.

7) Minh, who was a feral kitten originally, is unlike the rest of the cats, and is more like Mikey of past commercial fame: “He’ll eat anything.” Pretty much anytime, anyplace. Ferals, and former ferals, do that. Thankfully. Minh gets great leftovers. Maybe he’s figured that out.

Minh yawning

Once you understand the rules, it is really quite simple. We simply understand that whatever we do will be wrong in someone’s eyes at every meal, and c’est la vie. They’ll eat at the next one. Unless we mistakenly serve the same food, and then we are in deep trouble with the cats. Oh well. We’re used to it. The cats put us in the dog house all the time.


Stripe eating

The Blessing of Ants? …Not

It is a conundrum. Everything that was created is supposed to be good. All of it. But theology goes out the window sometimes. I remember one service of blessing of the animals that I helped organize, where we discovered thousands of fire ants in the space. We were madly spraying trying to get rid of the creatures so we could bring people and their pets in to be blessed. There was something wrong with that picture, even if it was imminently practical.

Fire ants

Fire ants (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Theology goes out the window when the ants invade my kitchen too.  It isn’t that I’m a great cook, far from it. I just don’t want ants in my food, on my counters, in my sink or anyplace else in the house. I don’t want to pour a bowl of breakfast cereal out to find that the ants beat me to it. The outside is theirs. The inside is mine. Coming down to the kitchen in the dark at 6 am to discover that we left one tiny bit of kibble on the counter, and that the neighborhood ants have invited not only all their relatives, but every ant for 10 miles around, is not how I like to start my day.

After trying various home remedies, including peppermint oil, which worked for a couple days, we finally threw up our hands and had the exterminator in. I hate chemical sprays…not good for us or our pets, no matter what folks tell me. But I hate the ants more at this point. (“Bless me Father, for I have sinned…I hate the ants. I know you made them…can’t stand the little suckers. Sorry.”)

So I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they use this gel stuff, which the ants ingest, take back to their nest, and feed to their buddies, and everyone dies. The exterminator called it The Last Supper. Who knew that some ants like their gel sweet and some like their gel with protein instead? Our ants apparently have a sweet tooth, and I say that if it’s the last supper, it might as well be all dessert.

The ants seem to feel the same way. There is a long line of them waiting to munch. Eat on up, guys. Enjoy. Share it with your friends, and leave my kitchen alone!