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.)
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?