Are you ambipetstrous? (Probably not)

I was looking at the job application form a colleague uses for hiring pet sitters recently, and she includes a really good question that is currently missing from my own application. Are you a dog person or a cat person? she asks. It’s a terrific question to ask on the application, largely because most of us aren’t truly ambipetstrous.

Before you go running off to the dictionary, don’t bother. I made the word up. Think ambidextrous – someone who is able to use both hands to perform all kinds of tasks, instead of favoring one over the other. Ambipetstrous  is my word for being able to handle all species with equal ability, and very few people fit the bill, even those of us who work with animals professionally. In my own business we care primarily for dogs and cats, so most of us on staff are either dog or cat people. No one is equally good with both, myself included.

A lot of the good things happen in pet sitting when we can match the right person with the particular pet. Some of us are dog people. My husband just has dog energy. I have no real way of explaining that, but dogs get him and he gets dogs right away. It isn’t that Marley can’t care for cats. We have seven of our own, and he’s perfectly capable of caring for them, and doing it well, but his main energy is dog energy, and dogs respond really well to him (even when he doesn’t have treats in his hands.)

Marley and the dogs

I, on the other hand, have cat energy in abundance. I love our dogs, and I can care for dogs well too, but I so totally get the cats. In seven years of hearing “you’ll never see my cat” I’ve proven people wrong all but once. I have one cat that no pet sitter had ever seen before, and he not only comes to see me, he actually greets me at the door each time I arrive. The pet parent was stunned.  I get cats and they get me. We understand one another, and I can usually get even the most reclusive cat to come visit with me, if only for a bit. Someone who follows my blog regularly has commented that she doesn’t know how I get great cat pictures and my only guess is that it has something to do with my cat lady energy.


These distinctions hold for my staff as well, and I try not to put a dog person with a reclusive or difficult cat, or a cat person with a dog that is afraid of strangers. The reclusive kitty and the fearful dog will do better with a sitter who can (perhaps instinctively) read their body language and approach in the right way, the way the animal can understand. People can learn to do the right stuff, and they learn these techniques all the time, but natural ability trumps learning almost all the time in my experience.

I know I’ve gotten it right when a client, upon returning home, tells me that their pet (dog or cat) actually seemed disappointed that the pet parents were coming in the door rather than the pet sitter. Best compliment we can get! And it means that the cat got a cat person or the dog someone who spoke dog, and the match was good.

(As a total side note, it may be that states are more cat states or more dog states. Check out this interesting graphic.)

So…how ambipetstrous do you think you are? Or is there one species or another that you just sorta get more than the others?


15 thoughts on “Are you ambipetstrous? (Probably not)

  1. Hmm – Have to say I’m a dog person. It’s as you say, there’s a sort of energy that animals read. Although, cats do want to sit on my lap always, but that is probably because I’m highly allergic and giving off subtle “keep away from me” signals – irresistible to a cat! Very interesting post, and lovely photos 🙂

    1. I love the “keep away from me’ invites to cats. They do seem to know who is allergic, and maybe they are attracted to people who are keeping away from them because cats usually prefer when folks let the cats approach on their own. Maybe cats a mistaking the keep-away signal for an invite!

  2. I agree as I’m more of cat Person, than a Dog. I have 5 Cats. Cats are much easier to look after and Independent.

    1. I find the cats easier too, but many find dogs easier. It’s just in how you’re wired I guess!

  3. Good question..i get cats..totally…and I get dogs..mostly..i could never choose which I could live without..the thing is I get them in different ways…all my foster work has been with cats…not pups..i attract both though..whenever I go out I am drawn to dogs and they respond well to me…I get my a different way…maybe because I am actually ambidextrous 🙂 hugs Fozziemum xx

  4. I love all animals but I adore cats and I always have. I, too, can get the mystery cats to come out. I occasionally pet sit for a friend. I rotate with another person who has never seen her. Not only do I see this lovely cat, she comes when called, rubs against me and lets me hold her for 3 seconds. Even her owner can’t pick her up. This has been true my whole life. When I am told, don’t go near her, she will scratch you, I go down and just talk and before you know it, the damn cat jumps in my lap to the amazement of people. No scratches, no forcing. Sometimes it takes a little time, maybe even more than one exposure. I may have been a cat at some point. I do love dogs but it doesn’t work the same way. I am currently trying to connect with my frogs. They no longer jump away from me so that’s progress.

  5. Dadwithoutpaws says momwitoutpaws is a dog whisperer she really is not she just know from me training her what to watch for

  6. I am primarily a cat person. As you said, I “get” cats. But one of the loves of my life was a little dog, a Shi-Tzu. We “got” each other and I cried tears for weeks after I had to lay him down in his final resting place in March.

    1. Some animals are just extra-special in our lives, touch us more deeply than others, and it doesn’t matter what the species is or whether we are a dog or cat person.

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