Cats and Hamsters pet sitting

Happy 5 years of pet sitting!

Cats and Hamsters pet sitting

Artist: Cody Stowe @weflaps

2021 marks my fifth year anniversary of professional pet sitting.

When I started my business in 2016, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. I knew I liked animals and that I wasn’t afraid to scoop a litter box.

Now I am a Certified Professional Pet Sitter and a Fear Free Certified Professional. I was named a Top 5 Finalist for 2021 Pet Sitter of the Year. I was on the news! I was asked to present at the 2021 Pet Sitters World Conference in front of my colleagues and peers.

Thank you to all of my amazing clients, who have been so supportive and, well, amazing! I love your pets so much!

With the US-Canada border opening up and the children’s vaccinations available soon, I hope that travel will get back to normal as we move into the New Year.

Cody Stowe @weflapscomics created this lovely image. I think he did an amazing job. Olaf in particular looks quite majestic! You can follow the adventures of Coral the cat @weflaps on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

New all-inclusive Guinea pig boarding packages

Exciting news!

Now Guinea pig boarders have the option of selecting an all-inclusive package for their stay. Enjoy the convenience of bringing just your Guinea pig(s) for boarding.

I have just ordered two brand new MidWest Guinea Pig Habitats, as well as accessories and several sets of high-quality GuineaDad fleece. Boarders can choose between fleece or paper bedding.

Small extra fee for young Guinea pig food and/or alfalfa hay.

Details available here.

Top 5 Finalist for 2021 Pet Sitter of the Year

Top 5 Finalist 2021 Pet Sitter of the Year

I have been named a Top Five Finalist for the 2021 Pet Sitter of the Year Award!

I am honoured and delighted to have been included amongst the Top 5 Finalists. Many thanks to all of my clients for their continued support and encouragement, to four years of excellence in professional pet sitting, and to Pet Sitters International for encouraging professionalism and continuing education. This isn’t it – I will never stop pursuing continuing education opportunities and learning!

The announcement can be found here: https://www.petsit.com/2021-pet-sitter-of-the-year-finalists

 

From the announcement made by Pet Sitters International:

First awarded by PSI in 1995, the Pet Sitter of the Year designation recognizes true excellence in the professional pet-sitting field. PSI evaluates nominees on stringent criteria including client and professional references, commitment to quality care and professionalism, contributions to clients and the industry-at-large, and commitment to continuing education.

“PSI’s Pet Sitter of the Year is the best of the best, serving as an example to the industry and the pet-owning public,” said Patti Moran, PSI founder and CEO. “The 2021 finalists are shining examples of the qualities it takes to succeed in this booming industry—professionalism, pet-care knowledge, business savvy and a strong work ethic.”

The five finalists move on to the next phase of the judging process, where a panel of judges will review and score the finalists’ submissions and supporting materials, including their references and finalist videos. The new Pet Sitter of the Year will be announced by January 2021.

The winner, along with the other four finalists, will also be recognized during PSI’s 2021 Pet Sitter World Educational Conference.

For more information about PSI and pet sitting as a profession, or to locate a PSI pet sitter in your area, visit PSI’s website at http://www.petsit.com/.

pet first aid certificate

Pet First Aid & CPR renewed

pet first aid certificate

Pro Pet Hero: Online Cat and Dog First Aid Course

I am pleased to announce completing the Pro Pet Hero: Online Cat and Dog First Aid Certification. This certificate is valid for two years.

Having last completed pet first aid and CPR training in 2018 (twice – I wanted to make sure the information “stuck”), I had intended to renew my pet first aid training at the 2020 Pet Sitters World Educational Conference and Expo in St. Louis, MO, USA this year. That conference has since been canceled due to the pandemic, so I opted for an online course.

Kindly note that pet first aid is in no way a replacement for veterinary care. It’s more like pre-vet care, which will help you to identify common issues and transport the pet safely to the veterinarian where they can receive payment.

Clients often tell me that they would rather we “wait and see” instead of allowing me to act immediately by taking ill or injured pets to the veterinarian while the owner is away. This is simply not a realistic plan of action. It’s often difficult to get in touch with clients immediately, many of whom are traveling in different time zones and spending their days wrapped up in meetings and fun vacation activities, meaning that a pet might be left to suffer all day without treatment simply because I am supposed to wait to hear back from the client with instructions before taking the pet to the veterinarian. Or, since I am only seeing the pet once or twice per day, the pet could become seriously worse during the “wait and see” period. Meaning that I have the horrible duty of  watching the animal in my care suffer without being permitted to get them medical attention.

Clients must authorize me to bring their pets in my care to the veterinarian when necessary. This is one of the issues that is discussed during the registration.

I understand that pet medical bills can be a significant expense, which is often the primary reason behind pet owner hesitation to bring their sick pets to a veterinarian for treatment. As a highly trained and experienced professional pet sitter (that’s Certified Professional Pet Sitter, trained in pet first aid and CPR, thank you), my clients must trust me to be able to use my knowledge and experience to act accordingly in the best interests of their pets. I don’t get kickbacks from veterinarians, nor do I suggest seeking medical care lightly. It’s important to have a clear plan in place so that there is no confusion or hesitation in the event of an emergency.

From the website:

This course teaches first aid techniques to address the most common emergencies that can occur with small and large dogs as well as cats. This course will train you to notice abnormalities and detect early warning signs in pets. You will also learn essential pre-vet care and life saving techniques for those times when immediate action can make all the difference. The course is developed and taught by Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Bobbi Conner, a specialist in small animal emergency & critical care.

I got Cat and Dog First Aid and CPR certified at ProPetHero.com

Fire safety for pets: keeping the cat carrier within reach

cat carrier
Olaf in the cat carrier, after being evacuated due to fire

At midnight last night, I was startled by pounding on my front door. A few moments earlier, I had heard thumping on the back fire escape of the building, and figured some kids (hooligans… those darn young’ins) were having some fun and chasing eachother down the fire escape and knocking on random people’s doors. As it turns out, it was one of my neighbours, shouting to get out because the roof was on fire. I could see, feel, and smell the red sparks and ash burning up above my head.

Having lived in Montreal for years, this was hardly my first fire or fire drill. And even back in my school days, I seemed to live in the dorms that had had almost biweekly fire alarms, usually at night, probably by students illicitly smoking too close to the fire alarms. Anyway, I knew just what to do. So I quickly got up my sleeping daughter, had my husband take her outside, and then went to get the cat carrier from the storage room for my cat, Olaf. I’m sorry to say that in the heat of the moment, I did not even think to get Mister Rogers, my hamster. But I will next time!

Anyway, as I was  going into the storage room to fetch the cat carrier, a big plastic hard-sided carrier sitting right there in plain sight, I went right past it and dug around for the soft-sided carrier that actually had never been used before and had been given to me by a former client who had moved away. I don’t know why I did that, I was just going going going, and knew I had to find a carrier for Olaf. I stared at the soft black carrier in my hand for a moment, unthinking, before my brain caught up with my body and screamed that this carrier was too small for my long, lanky Olaf, and to use the much larger carrier that was sitting right there that I’ve always used. The one that still had tape on it from the vet’s that said Ethel. I put down the soft-sided carrier. Grabbed the carrier, grabbed the cat who was scooting under the bed (got ‘im! haha.), got peed on as I crammed him into the cat carrier (sorry, Force Free training, this time I was getting him in there as quickly as possible, whatever it took), closed all the doors on my way to the front door, grabbed my jean jacket and handbag, and brought us both outside where my family, neighbours, and a ton of firefighters were there to greet us. All of this was done quickly, efficiently, and well under a minute.

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No one was hurt, everyone got out quickly, even the older neighbours who had been in isolation for months. The fire, a small fire of unknown origin, was quickly extinguished by the well-organized firefighters, and after they had carefully inspected the area, rolled up their hoses, and removed the emergency caution tape, we were allowed to go back inside. Thanks, first responders! Montreal firefighters rock!

The first thing I did, after getting my daughter a drink of water, was clean up the pee from the floor, myself, the cat, and the cat carrier. I didn’t want anyone to step in it and I certainly wanted to eradicate the smell and not let it set. I keep a spray bottle of equal parts vinegar and water, which works very well at neutralizing urine odours in laundry, and is pet-safe. I used it on the floor, the cat carrier, the bath tub, and the laundry. Olaf had peed on the brand-new skirt I had quarantine-splurged on from the Gap and I wanted to wash the heck out of it right away to prevent the odour from setting. I wiped Olaf down with damp towels, but he was too worked up to bathe, and I didn’t think it was really necessary. He was able to clean himself after I got him started. Then I gave him a treat and started writing this blog post, since I’m too worked up to sleep despite it being 1:30am. Ahem, now 3am.

Cat carriers – getting your cat from Point A to Point B

Location location location

The reason why I am sharing this exciting moment, is because of the cat carrier. When I meet with a new client, I always ask where the pet carrier is, just in case the pet needs medical attention or there’s another emergency and I need to evacuate the pet. Living in small urban apartments, owners will often keep their cat carriers in their storage locker. In the basement. Down several flights of stairs. Wedged behind many suitcases and only accessible with a ladder. A few clients didn’t have a cat carrier.

If I had kept my cat carrier so far away from my living space, I wouldn’t have been able to get to it in a timely manner to evacuate with Olaf safely. I couldn’t just carry him outside in my arms. Despite being an indoor-only cat, he’s like any cat in a high-adrenaline situation – he would have clawed me in a panic, then ran and hid somewhere. Or gotten hit by a car. Or gotten taken in by well-meaning Samaritans despite being microchipped because he’s so handsome and friendly. I could have lost him as soon as I took him outside without a carrier.

Many cat behaviourists and also Fear Free recommend keeping your cat carrier out and in the open for your cat, to help familiarize them with the carrier and remove any negative associations of cat carrier = veterinarian = bad things. To combat this, some owners create a comfy nest for their cats in their carriers, feed them treats in their carriers, and integrate them seamlessly into their living room decor. Especially a couple weeks before a trip to the veterinarian, or a trip, it’s a good idea to bring out the cat carrier and feeding them lots of treats inside of it so they’ll associate good things with it. It then becomes easier to coax them inside the carrier so that the trip to the veterinarian is less stressful.

Disaster planning

It’s important to consider what to do in the event of a fire or similar situation. I have a clear plan of action and priorities. Child, cat, (hamster – next time, Mister Rogers!), shoes, coat if cold, handbag/keys. Closing the doors was a practical bonus. Meet in safe place outside. I’ve done this enough times in my life that it takes no thought, it just happens within seconds. This is one of the reasons why I ask so many questions during registration with new clients, so that if something unexpected should happen, we have all the necessary information and planning already agreed upon, and I can immediately act without having to wonder what to do during a stressful, emotional situation.

When I had two cats, I tried both using two separate carriers, as well as just cramming them both into one big carrier. Both got the job done, though when we lived up several flights of stairs, it was easier for me to carry only one carrier with 22 lbs of cat inside.

Is it washable?

When I got my first cat, Ethel, many years ago, I got a soft-sided carrier because it seemed like it would be more comfortable for her. It was small, easy to carry like a gym bag, and had mesh on all the sides so you could easily see inside. I still remember being offended when a pushy vet tech told me that my carefully purchased cat carrier was not secure enough and that a cat could easily escape it if they really wanted to by ripping open the mesh or pulling apart the zippers. I’m not saying that she was wrong, or than she wasn’t well-meaning, but I used that carrier for many years, until the plastic ribbing separated.

While Ethel never tried to escape the soft-sided carrier, she often peed in the carrier and it was impractical in that it was difficult to clean. There was a fuzzy covering for the cardboard bottom that could be washed in the washing machine, but it wasn’t waterproof, and that cardboard bottom could get soaked in urine and other bodily fluids of a scared cat. The soft shell only survived a couple washes in a front-loading washing machine before wearing out.

I saw some beautiful soft-sided backpack-style cat carriers at last year’s Cat Camp NYC, but the sales representative was a bit stumped when I had asked about cleaning. She had suggested maybe hosing it off outside. But most of my clients are apartment dwellers, so that option of blasting it with a forceful stream of water outside is not really available to us.

Practicality

I usually put cats into cat carriers using the front door. It’s useful to also have a carrier that comes apart from the top, too, as that can be easier at the vet’s office, as the top can be removed without dragging out the cat. Having a carrier that’s easy to take apart and put back together makes it easier to clean.

Durability

A hard-sided cat carrier is durable and easy to clean and won’t retain odours as much as a soft-sided carrier. It will last longer than a soft-sided carrier. It’s easy to store, because you won’t be tempted to fold it all up and wreck it because you think it’s more flexible than it is. It can get scratched and knocked around a little (hopefully when empty). A cat won’t be able to rip through it with their claws and teeth. A dog will have more trouble getting to the cat in a hard case. (While waiting to go back inside last night, Olaf was well-sniffed by a neighbour’s dog, but was well-secured in the hard plastic carrier). Pet owners often buy soft-sided carriers because they are pretty, but the nylon shells can fade with wear, making them less pretty. You can usually find used hard pet carriers inexpensively via online marketplaces.

I guess you can see in which way I lean with regards to soft vs. hard cat carriers. I’m not judging – a soft-sided carrier works, but won’t last as long as a hard-sided carrier, and is harder to clean. I’d rather have a soft carrier than no carrier.

In Conclusion

  1. Make sure you have a disaster/fire safety plan for your pets.
  2. Keep your pet carrier within easy reach just in case there’s a fire and you need to put your pets into it.
  3. Practice getting your pet into the pet carrier.
cleaning the cat carrier
Taking apart and cleaning the cat carrier with vinegar

Stay safe, everyone!

Fear Free Certified Professional

When Montreal schools were ordered to close in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and we were urged to practice social distancing and basically sequester ourselves in our homes in order to flatten the curve of the disease’s spread, I got a bit stressed out and well, made the bad decision to head over to Costco to get milk (needless to say, 3.5 hours later, I emerged from Costco without milk). As everyone’s travel plans were canceled, my schedule suddenly cleared and I had no furry clients to visit and pamper. I coped by hyper-focusing on doing something I’d been meaning to do for years: Fear Free certification.

FF Corporate Logo

Fear Free is a new initiative sweeping veterinary medicine designed to ease the stress, fear, and anxiety so many pets experience while at the veterinarian. There are currently no specific programs for pet sitters, so I completed the modules designed for veterinary staff, which had a lot of useful information and ideas that are applicable to professional pet sitting and pet ownership.

Pet Sitters World 2019 with Dr Marty Becker Fear Free

Dr. Marty Becker posed for a picture with me after his session on Fear Free at the 2019 Pet Sitters World Educational Conference and Expo in Winston-Salem, NC, USA.

Developed by “America’s Veterinarian,” Dr. Marty Becker, the Fear FreeSM initiative aims to “take the ‘pet’ out of ‘petrified’” and get pets back for veterinary visits by promoting considerate approach and gentle control techniques used in calming environments. Utilization of Fear Free methods and protocols leads to reduction or removal of anxiety triggers, which creates an experience that is rewarding and safer for all involved including pets, their owners, and veterinary health care teams. Learn more at www.fearfreepets.com.

To become certified, veterinarians and veterinary staff are required to complete a comprehensive, 8-part educational course and exam. They also have to take continuing education to remain certified.

fear free certificate 202003171024_1