Rachel Reisner's certified in Pet CPR and First Aid

Certified… in Pet CPR and First Aid!


April is the American Red Cross Pet First Aid Awareness month.

Using that segue, I’m pleased to announce that I have just completed Pet Health Academy’s Pet CPR and First Aid Certification Course. I am now trained in pet first aid and CPR. The certificate is valid for 2 years.

Even so, I have also registered to take Denise Fleck‘s Pet First Aid, CPR & CPCR course at the Pet Sitters World Conference and Expo I will attend in September. It will be a good refresher (as she says, practice makes PURRfect), with hands-on models.

A number of years ago, I took a 2-day (human) first aid and CPR course, and frankly, despite the intensity of the course, I recall very little of it aside from learning to yell: “someone call 911! You, get the defibrillator!” and doing rapid chest compressions on a mannequin that left me sweaty and exhausted after 30 seconds. This experience has taught me that it’s important to keep such knowledge and skills current, and also to retake courses like these every so often, as trends and techniques are updated and improved.

Pet CPR and first aid is not a substitute for veterinary care. However, as Cara Armour, founder of Pet Health Academy, points out, you cannot call 911 for a pet emergency and have paramedics respond to your door. Pet CPR and first aid training can help a person stay calm and be proactive in a pet emergency situation.


Giving me keys to your home

Keys, glorious keys. As I provide in-home cat visits, I carry a huge, heavy key ring of client keys. The weight of the keys is not just physical; it’s the weight of trust that my clients have in me to allow me access to their pets and their homes while they are away. I take this trust and responsibility very seriously.



I normally receive client keys at the free consultation meeting, along with a non-refundable deposit that is credited back to the client’s upcoming pet sitting balance.

I can also return at a later date to collect keys, if the client hadn’t gotten copies made yet, or wants to go over their cat’s routine again, however as I charge new clients for each additional pre-service visit, normally clients give me keys at the free consultation. Currently, I don’t charge for key return and subsequent key pick ups or key returns, or for picking up new keys if a current client’s locks are changed or if a current client moves within my service area.


Key issues I avoid

Some apartment buildings restrict the number of keys each tenant can have, so it’s not always possible to have a spare set of keys. Aside from that, it is a good idea for clients to have a spare set of keys to give me, and even just to have around for themselves. It is stressful coordinating  if I have the client’s only set of keys. I never want the client to be locked out of their own home! Maybe the client is running late, or I am running late (traffic, unpredictability of animals, etc.), and it’s always tricky coordinating the exchange and someone is left waiting for the other person.

I’m sometimes asked to pick up and return keys at concierge desks or from a friend/neighbour, but I’ve just had bad luck with this arrangement. Either the front desk is unmanned for a long time – shift change? lunch? just… no one? – or the building office is only open one or two days per week for a couple of hours. This wastes my time and creates stress because I’m never sure if I’ll actually get the keys so I can get to the cat, or be able to return the keys to the appropriate person.

Some clients ask me to leave their keys under the front mat, in the mail box, or on the kitchen table/counter. No, I do not do this.

A) Someone could see me put your keys under the mat or in the mail box, and once I leave, retrieve them and enter your home.

B) Once I hide them and leave, who do you think has accountability for those keys? I followed your instructions… but if you cannot find the keys, how would you feel and what would you do about it?

C) If I leave your keys inside your home and lock the door behind me, should you be delayed for whatever reason (weather, canceled/missed flights, illness, last-minute change of plans) and need me to return the next day, I won’t be able to get in to care for your cat.

Therefore, I must deliver keys in person.

A number of my clients offer to drop off and pick up their keys at my home, thinking this will be easier for me. It’s not. I appreciate the thoughtful consideration, though! I am not, as I think some clients think, sitting on my couch all day watching Netflix with my cats. My business is full-time, seven days per week, and I do not have time to wait at home when I have a full day of cat visits to do. Places to go, cats to see! Also, I cannot disrupt my family by welcoming visitors early in the morning when we’re getting ready for the day or late in the evening when we’re trying to have family time or get ready for bed.  This is why I offer complimentary key pick up and drop off.


Leave your keys with me

Logistically, it is more convenient to leave keys on file with me, and I encourage all of my clients to do this if they plan on using my service again. It’s great for:

  • last-minute/emergency/unexpected travel
  • if you ever get locked out
  • saves time and trouble of continuously scheduling key pick ups and drop offs.

My operating hours are 6:30am-7:30am and 10am-3:30pm daily, which may be difficult to coordinate a good meeting time for some people (working professionals tend to meet me at the 6:30am or 7am or on the weekend). I understand, though, when some clients prefer to have their keys returned after each pet sit. My client’s comfort and safety is very important to me.

The keys

My favourite keys are the vanity keys. Not only do they bring a smile to my face (my favourite has Elvis emblazoned on it), but they are easy to locate on my massive key ring when I’m trying to unlock an outside door in Montreal’s frosty -25 degree Celsius winter weather. My keys are all carefully labeled with no address information, however I am very grateful for those extra few seconds saved by a flashy, gaudy vanity key.

My second favourite keys are the big, heavy Medeco keys, as I have never had problems unlocking and locking those locks. A lot of buildings have old locks with thin keys that are probably copies of copies of copies. I once broke one of those thin keys in my own apartment door years ago – it had to be pried out with needle-nose pliers, and I needed to get yet another thin copy made which also didn’t work very well. One reason I insist on testing keys once I receive them is that a lot of older locks are tricky to unlock and lock. Some have to be jiggled a bit, some you pull the door in as you twist. There could be multiple locks on the door, but the client only wants me to use specific ones. When I am entrusted with caring for a cat, and with aiding in the security of the home, it is essential that I am able to unlock the door to get in and to lock the door once I leave.

No key chains

I use my own key rings and labels. I prefer to leave the client’s own key chains with the client, as I don’t want a precious, sentimental souvenir or gift to get damaged and potentially broken or lost as I carry it around. Plastic easily breaks, metal and other materials can get scratched and scuffed and some key chain charms are large and heavy.

Key security

I am protective of my client keys, and never leave them unattended. Where I go, they go. At my daughter’s gymnastics class, I’ve got a huge key ring stuffed in my pants pocket, as I do not leave them in gym lockers. I don’t leave them unattended in the car, either. Should my car get stolen or broken into, or my bag stolen out of a gym locker, my client keys will be safe with me.

Certified Professional Pet Sitter (CPPS)

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I am so pleased to announce that I have just passed Pet Sitters International’s CPPS-Certified Professional Pet Sitter® Exam recognizing me as a Certified Professional Pet Sitter (CPPS).


The 125-question, 3-hour exam includes such topics as: dog/cat/bird pet care; health, sanitation and safety; and business operations. I am delighted to have this acknowledgement of my dedication to ongoing education and high standards of pet care professionalism.


The CPPS designation is only available to PSI members who have:
(1) successfully passed the PSI Certification Program final exam with a score of 76 percent or above,
(2) agreed to adhere to PSI’s Recommended Quality Standards, as noted in the PSI member and renewal applications,
(3) agreed to adhere to the Member Code of Conduct and Ethics, as noted in the PSI member and renewal applications, and
(4) committed to obtaining a minimum of thirty (30) continuing education hours (CEUs) every three years to apply for the certification renewal.
Further information can be found here: https://www.petsit.com/certification


At the time of this post, I am one of a few members of Pet Sitters International in Montreal, and the only active Certified Professional Pet Sitter in Montreal.

February is Adopt a Rescued Rabbit Month

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Ok, so February is nearly over. But as we approach Easter, this has been more on my mind. Easter and spring make people think that bringing home a fluffy little bunny is a good idea. Then they find out that pet rabbits are expensive, high-maintenance pets. And then the depressing Kijiji ads to rehome bunnies that the kids aren’t taking care of start popping up a month later. This also happens a month or so after Christmas for all animals.

When I first went to the SPCA a number of years ago to look for what ended up being Olaf, my super fluffy cat, I was amazed that the exotic animal room was wall-to-wall rabbits. They’ve restructured the space now (the last time I was there a few months ago, it seemed like rats and mice had taken over), but after caring for rabbit guests over the past year, I can understand why there would be a room full of them at the shelter.

Rabbits are adorable, and I think people might assume they are kind of like giant hamsters – inexpensive pocket pets that only live for 1-2 years and happily sit around in a little hutch like a stuffed animal until you cuddle them for a couple of minutes each day. In reality, pet rabbits have a lifespan similar to large breed dogs, roughly 8-12 years. Like dogs, they need annual check ups and vaccinations and are usually sterilized. Actually, owning a rabbit is just as if not more expensive and time-consuming as owning a cat, due to their dietary needs and upkeep needs and social demands.

They can be delicate. When I noticed a recent bunny guest hadn’t eaten or pooped in 8 hours (very unusual), I notified the client that if he didn’t do one or both of those things soon I’d be rushing him to the exotic veterinarian to check for a possible blockage. I gently massaged his abdomen for a while and fortunately, he went back to eating and pooping as usual; the client said something similar had happened a few months previously, too. If their fur isn’t properly groomed during shedding season, it can collect in their stomach resulting in death by starvation (they cannot cough up a hairball like a cat; it has to be surgically removed). If they have long fur, it might mat. Their nails need to be trimmed regularly. They might be tiny and fit in the palm of your hand at the pet shop, and then grow into a burly cat-sized beast once reaching adulthood. There will be hay and a healthy coating of fine rabbit fluff on all of your clothes and possessions. Daily fresh vegetables – as someone who doesn’t normally eat lots of leafy greens, my fridge gets overrun with kale, romaine lettuce, herbs, and other vegetables when I board rabbits. Lots of litter – while they can be litter box-trained, they constantly poop and pee, which needs to be scooped throughout the day. Chewable toys. Homes must be painstakingly rabbit-proofed to prevent injury to the animal and property damage.

One of the pet services I offer is boarding in my own home for small caged animals. By far, the  most destructive boarders have been the bunnies. Whenever I think of bunnies, my mind immediately replays the bunny rocker song from Buffy, the Vampire Slayer‘s musical episode, “Once More With Feeling”:

My beautiful bunny guests have happily and efficiently chewed through:

  • a hand vacuum cable,
  • a laptop charger cable (necessitating a rush order via Amazon),
  • two new shirts and new jeans (at different times, but with me in them),
  • books (one rabbit had a particular taste for Dorothy L. Sayers),
  • and gnawing on the edges of wooden doors.

All under my careful, watchful eye during out-of-cage play time. At every instance, I was either holding the rabbit or only 1-2 feet from the rabbit, supervising them like a mother hen. No harm came to the rabbits. It has been a great learning experience for me, and caused me to change my policy of “just hop wherever you want while I watch” to either “be a couch potato on the sofa with me (somehow they don’t seem inclined to jump off the couch, since we have hardwood floors)” or “hop around in the enclosed front area which is virtually rabbit-proof.” No more free access to delicious cables and wires. And when it feels like they might be snuggling into me, I nudge them a little just to make sure they aren’t making holes in my clothes at the same time. Because ::sigh:: this is why I can’t have nice things.

But these caveats aside, when owners go in knowing what to expect, rabbits do make very good pets. They are smart and trainable, affectionate and quiet (as long as they aren’t thumping their displeasure on the floorboards). They like routine. As they can use a litter box, some people choose to keep them cage-free, and let them roam freely in their homes like cats or dogs. They are soft and cuddly and have definite personalities. They’re vegan. But they are definitely a pet you want to research carefully first before committing to ownership, to ensure they are the right pet for you and that you are prepared for all of their needs and quirks and expenses.

Two of my favourite resources online:



Little Bear Animalerie on Sainte-Catherine St. W.

Little Bear Animalerie has nice, high end cat and dog supplies. It’s a well-presented, clean store. I can’t speak for the dog supplies, but the cat food, litter, and grooming supply variety is good. There are freezers for raw food in the back, and tables of toys and food bowls in the front. I like the layout of the store, which seems well-thought-out. Every space is used, but it doesn’t seem cluttered and the products all look in good condition. Size is typical of an independent pet supply store in Montreal. It’s easy to navigate. And there’s usually several friendly employees willing to help.

I stopped by recently to drop off business cards and can lids, and while my business cards were accepted, the can lids were not. The store does not approve of plastic can covers for environmental purposes, and while I was offering a bag of them for free, they still declined. I can understand that. When I was ordering can lids for a trade show this past year, the minimum quantity for ordering silicone can lids with my business information on them was something like 20,000… and I decided that that was a bit beyond my budget. So I settled for plastic can lids. Which are dishwasher safe, and more environmentally conscious than using disposable plastic wrap, plastic bags, or foil. But yes, still plastic.

Aside from not being too close to me geographically, the main downside of this store is finding parking on the busy Sainte-Catherine Street West street; I sometimes drive around and around and then give up without finding a space. But those using public transport or their own two feet or cycling won’t have that problem.

Wand toys – better than string!

Cats love to play with string, but I find string and ribbon get easily tangled and athletic cats will sometimes jump up and attack the hand holding the string. So the solution is to use a wand toy – string on a stick! They come with feathers, mice, bells, ribbons, etc.. I find that wand toys with bells on them don’t work well for me as a pet sitter, as many of my cat clients are shy at first, and the jingling noise scares them. I also prefer lightweight wand toys, rather than the ones with heavy balls or stuffed animals hanging from them. Sometimes the cat and I misjudge a pass, and they end up getting bopped with the toys. Cats love feathers, but they do not last long and can get messy.

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The one I most often use and frequently find when visiting my cat clients, is a simple long soft ribbon attached to a plastic stick.  It’s sometimes called a dancer or teaser or charmer. You can wave it up, down, side to side, around, and make designs in the air to tease your cat friend into pouncing on it. You can exercise the cat without getting out of breath yourself. The wand toy is simple, effective, and generally inexpensive and durable. You can easily make one yourself, though they are not expensive and can be found at any pet store.

The great thing about wand teasers is that the cat is not targeting your body during play. A common mistake new cat owners do is to tease their young cats with their hands, and let their cats play rough with them because they think it’s adorable that their tiny fluffy kitten is attacking their fingers. When the cute kitten grows into a strong, mature cat and continues to play roughly, the owner no longer finds it cute. Letting your cat use their teeth and claws on you during play, or letting the play or petting session go on too long when the cat becomes overstimulated and becomes too rough, teaches your cat that you are a toy and that you want them to play with you like a kicker toy or scratching post. It’s confusing to them if sometimes it’s ok to grab, bite, kick, and scratch you, but sometimes it’s not ok. It’s best to be consistent and clear: you are not the toy. If a cat starts to play too roughly, I stop play or petting, say a firm “no,” and give them time to calm down by not touching them for a while. They will learn that it is not acceptable to play too roughly with me, and if the teeth or claws come out, I will stop playing or petting them.

A wand toy allows you to keep a safe distance from your mighty hunter’s sharp teeth and claws, and gives you control over the play session. They’ll be focused on the toy, and not on your hand. While laser pointers are also great, and I carry one with me, I prefer a wand toy because the cat is able to “win” with it. A wand toy is a physical thing they can attack, grab, chew, and “get,” whereas with a laser pointer, the cat can never win, unless you end the chase on a treat or toy. The lack of a “victory” at the end of laser play could lead to increased aggression; after all, everyone loves a happy ending! A wand toy never runs out of batteries, and sometimes cats will play with them on their own. Another great thing about wand toys is that they are small enough to put away easily, and also large enough to find easily.

Cover of Pet Sitters World


I am deeply honoured and thrilled to have been featured on the Jan/Feb 2018 cover of Pet Sitters World, the magazine for my professional association, Pet Sitters International (PSI).

Special thank you to Alex Tran, my excellent photographer, who kept telling me to look off into nowhere. Needless to say, I kept laughing and could not keep a straight face. I’m usually on the other side of the camera, taking pictures of my cat clients! But it was a fun photo shoot, and the animals all did very well and were rewarded with species-appropriate treats afterwards. Thank you also to my clients, who graciously granted permission to photograph their animals.

Cat water – choosing cup, bowl, or fountain

There are a lot of different options for keeping your cat hydrated.

Pet stores sell tiny, cutely decorated cat food dishes and cat water dishes. They can come in matching sets with little stands and they have little fish and cats on them. But if you were shopping for a new water bowl for your cat, I’d probably steer you to the dog section, which has nice, big wide-mouthed bowls. Your cat will be no less cute and cuddly if they have a big, practical water bowl with bones on it, instead of the thimble-sized ones with sardines on it marketed for cats.

There are water dishes with reservoirs, so you never have to worry about an empty water dish. These have the advantage of being heavy, so cats can’t move them around. You develop a routine of cleaning it out, filling the reservoir, putting the base bowl on top, then quickly upending it so it doesn’t spill as the water settles. I always wash them and refill the water at every cat visit, so it’s always clean.

Some cats drink out of mugs or tall plastic cups. Their owners swear the cats prefer it this way, and that works for them. I suspect this is because the cats don’t have to bend down as far as they would with a small water bowl. For older cats, who may have arthritis, this might be more comfortable for them. Or maybe it’s because they see their people drinking this way and they want to do it, too.

My personal favourite low-tech cat water bowl is a simple large casserole dish. I saw one of my clients using a pie plate, and went home and tried it with my own cats with an 8 x 8 pyrex casserole dish I rarely use. My elderly cat Ethel paws at her water and constantly overturns water bowls. She moves them around so that I often kick them accidentally. The heavy pyrex casserole dish is too heavy for her to overturn or move, even though she tries. The wide opening means there is less “whisker fatigue” – cats suck back their sensitive whiskers when eating and drinking, which can be tiring for them. Having a wide-mouthed water bowl makes drinking easier. There are handles on both sides, which makes carrying a dish full of water easy. It’s heavy and durable. It’s clear so I can see anything that’s not supposed to be there. It was lying around in my cupboard, so I didn’t go out and buy anything new.

If you have the floor space and space on your electrical outlet, cats like water fountains. It’s like drinking from an open faucet all the time. Let’s face it – there’s something nice and soothing about hearing running water. Like a mini waterfall, or a burbling brook. And it’s great for keeping the home humidified in the winter. They are usually heavy enough so cats won’t knock them over, and have a large capacity for water. Your wallet might cry a little if it breaks and you need to get a new one, but I haven’t encountered any problems yet with my clients’ fountains. If the water level gets too low, the motor will grind, so they need to be topped off daily. And yes, despite having filters, they still need to be cleaned with soap and water. Just like a basic water bowl, a water fountain will develop a reddish ring of bacteria around the water’s edge which needs to be cleaned off. Hard mineral deposits also form around the water level, too, as well as other parts of the fountain. For cats who paw their water a lot, I might clean out the water fountain every day or even at every visit to remove litter from the bowl. For others, I might only do it a couple times a week.

I always empty, scrub with dish soap, and refill water bowls at every cat visit. Like a person’s water glass that is left out on the table, cat water bowls collect dust (“there’s a speck in my water!”), debris, litter, and a filmy bio scum from saliva. I make sure my cat clients have clean, fresh water all the time.

A few good combs for cats

I’d like to suggest a few combs and brushes for daily or weekly cat fur maintenance. When I sit down to groom a cat, these are the ones I pull out first. I’m not a grooming expert, but I’ve found these useful for me.

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If you plan on only have one grooming tool for your cat, I suggest getting one of these (pictured above). This basic comb will work with long hair, medium hair, and short hair. You can’t go wrong with these combs. If you cat is prone to matting, use the wide-spaced teeth first to help detangle, then finish off with the finer side. If your cat ventures outside and gets bits of nature stuck to their fur, like burrs or leaves, you can get them out with this. If your longhaired cat has a messy bottom after using the litter box, this is a great tool to comb out the dirty bits. These combs are inexpensive, around $9-$13, durable, easily available at all pet stores, and practical. If you only have one grooming tool, get one of these.

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For short-haired to medium-haired cat, I recommend a Zoom Groom, or some other similar type of silicone brush. The Zoom Groom works well because it is small and you can maneuver with it easily; I got a handled silicone brush years ago, and it isn’t as easy to use as this smaller handle-free brush. It is gentle, and when your cat sheds, these brushes can remove a lot of loose fur quickly. Cats generally like these brushes and will let you brush and brush the loose fur away. They are soft, so you don’t have to worry about pricking or hurting your cat or creating bald spots. They’re easy to clean. They’re also great for removing hair from furniture and cat trees!

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If you have a long-haired cat, you can try this shedding comb. It has alternating long and short teeth. It can be used daily, and pulls out the loose undercoat. I’m not a grooming expert, so I’m not sure if you need both this one and the first basic comb I mentioned here, but in my experience so far, I’ve found this comb to be useful for long-haired cats, particularly in the early fall and the early spring when they shed their coats.


I also have Furminators, which are deshedding rakes, and a slicker brush in my bag, however I always go for the above items first. I always disinfect work tools I use on my pet sitting and boarding clients after each use with a special cat-safe spray and a clean toothbrush. It kills bacterial, fungicidal, virucidal, and tuberculocidal organisms so that my clients remain safe and protected.

Not exhibiting at SNAC this year

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While I am happily well enough to resume my regular pet sitting services, I will be unable to exhibit at this year’s Salon national des animaux de compagnie this weekend as previously planned. I’m told it could take weeks or even months for me to fully recover, but I’m well enough to get back to cats and hamsters as normal. I am grateful to all of my clients for their continued support and patience. Fred the Hamster is disappointed he won’t be able to showcase his booth babe skills, but perhaps he’ll have another chance next year.