Pet Sitter Education Month

Pet Sitter Education Month Tips & Best Practices from Cornell Feline Health Center

I saw this list from the Cornell Feline Health Center on my Facebook feed, and I DO ALL THESE THINGS!!!!!

1. New clients have a thorough registration meeting with me to go over all of their information. It generally lasts an hour. We go over the pet’s routine, where supplies and pet areas are, emergency contacts, and, if needed, the client demonstrates their preferred techniques for administering medication, food preparation, etc.

2. We go over the emergency medical plan, including veterinarian information. I also collect contact info for emergency contacts for the pets and the home. I encourage clients to leave cat carriers out, or to have them accessible to me (NOT in the basement storage locker).

3. I am bonded and insured with pet sitters insurance. This is business liability insurance.

4. Many common houseplants are toxic to cats. Tulips, lilies, poinsettias, etc. Sometimes, even the pollen of certain plants are toxic, even if the cat doesn’t chew on them. Sometimes a plant is so toxic that a cat will need to be rushed to the emergency veterinarian for immediate treatment if they eat it.

A good resource to consult is:

5. I maintain training in pet first aid & CPR. Generally, these certificates are valid for two years, but I prefer to refresh my training every year. I am also a Certified Professional Pet Sitter (CPPS) through two major professional pet sitters associations, Pet Sitters International and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, and I am a Fear Free Certified Professional (FFCP). I love contuing education and I enjoy attending educational webinars and conferences whenever possible.

6. I have a car and primarily drive to all my visits. This also means that I am able to quickly transport pets for urgent medical care.

7. As part of the registration process, I ask if cats are microchipped. Microchipping cats, even indoor-only cats, is a great way of helping them to return home if they ever get lost. Cat collars are mostly designed to easily break away, to prevent injury and entanglement, which makes microchipping a more reliable means of retrieving and identifying an owned cat that gets lost.

A common issue I see amongst cat owners is that they neglect to update their contact info with the microchip company after they relocate. Their phone numbers, address, and email address might change, which needs to be updated in their file. It’s usually free and easy to do so, and is extremely important.

I also ask if the cat is licensed. Montreal requires that cats be licensed, and the permit is renewed each year.

Info on cat permits:

Automatic feeders, fountains, litter robots cannot replace human interaction

Recently, I was called in to do a last-minute pet visit for a regular client. I was happy to help – I had availability to accommodate them on my schedule and I had their keys on file.


What had happened was that the client was away that day and the cats had pulled the timed feeders out of the electrical outlets, so they had had no access to food. The client became aware of this because the feeders had wifi capability and could be controlled remotely, via an app. I stopped in to feed the cats, cuddle them, plug in the feeders, change the water, tidy the litter boxes and pet mess on the floor, did a quick walk-through of the interior, and sent my usual report with pictures to the client.

Cannot replace human interaction

Automated pet accessories are popular. They can be useful and convenient. But they do not replace the need for human interaction and the ability to immediately respond to and troubleshoot unexpected issues. It is risky to rely soley on automation for pet care, especially the longer one is away from home.


Murphy’s Law

Anything can fail, and the longer you are away, the greater the impact will be on your pets if the devices fail, resulting in pets lacking the most basic care like food, water, and litter box access. The devices might fail, the power might go out, the pet might knock over the devices. It doesn’t matter how automated things are, most professional pet sitters including Cats and Hamsters require a minimum of daily visits for pets.


Automatic pet accessories need a backup

Depending on the design, water fountains should be left with additional water bowls in case the power cuts out and they cannot access water. Automatic feeders should have a fresh battery backup – when in doubt, change it out. Litter robots sometimes get stuck. Robot vacuums need to be rescued and sometimes they run over pet messes (the newest ones can supposedly sense and avoid pet messes, but again… do you want to risk it?).



No, leaving out mountains of food, bowls and bowls of water, and multiple litterboxes is not ideal, either. Many cats cannot regulate how much they eat at one time, and they might “scarf and barf” when a ton of food is suddenly dumped in front of them. The excess food may spoil (this summer has been so wet, dry food is sticking to bowls wuthin a day) and attract pests like ants, flies, and mice. And if something goes wrong, if the cat becomes sick, injured, or trapped, if the power goes out, if a tree crashes through a window, pet messes that stain, you will not be able to act in a timely manner.


EMERGENCY help MIGHT NOT BE available 

Planning on calling someone last-minute, without prior agreement, is too risky, because family, friends, and neighbours often travel at similar times, and during peak travel times, most established pet sitters have been fully booked in advance.


Unless they’re literally feral and fear all humans, your cat needs human interaction. This means in-person interaction, not just virtual interaction. 

It’s a myth that cats won’t miss you when you’re away. Cats are social and being left alone with no human companionship is stressful, especially if they are used to having their people at home for most of the day, like work-from-home professionals and families with children. Talking to your cat via a petcam can be confusing to the pet, even startling, because the sound quality and volume vary, and it is no substitute for being played with and pet and having a warm lap to sit on.


Stress can lead to shedding, increased licking, vomit, inappropriate elimination, property destruction, and other stress-related issues like urinary tract blockages. They may even pee on your stuff as soon as you return, not out of revenge, but because they missed you and they want to feel closer to you. By peeing on your stuff.

Believe it or not, but you might get separation anxiety, too

Separation anxiety goes both ways. Getting daily reports with pictures from a person who can troubleshoot and answer questions can help with peace of mind so you aren’t distracted while traveling. Traveling is sometimes hectic, and a person can also help if you forgot to do something, like open the washing machine door, close a window, take out the trash, bring in deliveries.


Automated pet accessories can be useful, but…

I find automatic feeders and water fountains to be useful when they are properly maintained, but they are not essential pet accessories.  Sometimes their upkeep is not a good fit for the household’s lifestyle. For example, if you do not want to clean a pet water fountain or replace disposable filters as-needed. In those cases, a stack of dishwasher-safe water bowls would be a better option for providing your cat with fresh, clean water than moving water through a dirty water fountain. I understand the usefulness of automatic litter boxes for certain households. No judgement at all, if it works for you and your pets, go for it. Sometimes it isn’t working, though, and I have many reservations about them as a professional cat sitter if other options are also possible, but that’s for another post.

Amazon Idea List for Prime Day 2023

These are NOT affiliate links. I tried that… and no one clicked on any of my links so they dropped my affiliate account. It’s ok.

These are ideas only, of items I think my clients will find helpful, things I’d be happy to see in client homes. They might not work for everyone, they’re just ideas.

This idea list covers all the species of pets I care for, in no particular order, which currently includes:

  • Cats
  • Hamsters
  • Guinea pigs
  • Rabbits
  • Chinchillas
  • Mice
  • Hedgehogs
  • Ferrets

Some items may not be self-explanatory.  For example, 12″ wheels typically marketed for chinchillas are actually the perfect size for Syrian hamsters, so that they can comfortably run with a straight back. Basically, no wheel is too big for a hamster as long as they can move it, meaning the tiniest dwarf hamster can absolutely have a 12″ wheel. And my picks for the quietest, best-quality hamster wheels are the  Nightangel wheel and Prevue Quiet wheel (only goes up to 11″, I think. 12″ would be more ideal for an adult Syrian hamster). Yes, they’re pricey, but a good quality, safe, quiet hamster wheel is a priceless investment and they’re at the top of the market.

Many dog slow feeders and dog food puzzles work very well for cats, rabbits, and the motivated Guinea pig. Tall exercise pens typically marketed towards dogs work great as rabbit and Guinea pig enclosures. Wide casserole dishes make great, heavy, dishwasher-safe pet water bowls.

I do want to add that it’s important to be realistic and practical about your budget, lifestyle, your pet’s needs, and what you’re willing to do. If you know you will hate disassembling and cleaning a pet water fountain every other day, just stick with a stack of dishwasher-safe water bowls. If you will have trouble staying on top of mountains of Guinea pig laundry, don’t use fleece liners, just stick with scoopable bedding. Don’t stretch yourself financially to try to use “the top” cat litter system or pet foods if you will be constantly stressing about use, waste, and how to stretch out supplies as far as it will go. It’s not worth it, and will just take up your valuable time and energy and funds trying to make it work when it really isn’t working. You’re doing great as long as you and your pets are safe, healthy, happy, and clean.

Happy Prime Day!

Cat World Domination Day – and how to survive living with a Cat Overlord

Cat sitter's tips to surviving Cat World Domination Day

As many of us have discovered, today was day of Cat World Domination.

How might we peacefully co-exist with our cat overlords?

  1. Reward good behaviour. Positively reinforce desired behaviors with praise, treats, and cuddles. Build their trust.
  2. Play and enrichment. Tire them out with wand toys so they won’thave the energy to plot further takeovers. Do not use hands or fingers as toys.
  3. Deweaponize. Trim those claws every 2-3 weeks. Short nails are much less effective in human-cat battles than long, sharp claws.
  4. Pet your cat. Some cat overlords prefer only hands-off interactions with their people, and that is ok.
  5. Comb regularly. Combing loose fur off of your cat overlord will decrease their ability to form projectile vomit. Combing can also remove small mats before they combine into big mats. Matted fur is painful, and you do not want an unhappy cat overlord.

Interested in more Cat World Domination survival tips, from someone with experience on the front lines, who has rubbed elbows with many cats and who  knows how cats think and can anticipate many of their common maneuvers?

Code name: “Certified Professional Pet Sitter”

Specialties: cat care, with special interest in other small furry “pets” like Guinea pigs, hamsters, and rabbits.

How to activate: fill out the contact form on the Contact page. Our operative, “the Pet Sitter,” will be in contact with you to discuss how they can help. Unfortunately, “the Pet Sitter” is only able to travel within the current “Service Area. Usually,  this happens when the cat overlord grants their people permission to travel away from headquarters, and they are in need of temporary stand-ins to continue menial tasks like food service, water supply maintenance, and personal sanitation services. The exact details vary per mission, but “the Pet Sitter” is an experienced, trained operative who gets the job done. “The Pet Sitter” is only able to travel within the current “Service Area.”

Follow “the Pet Sitter’s” social media to stay informed of what’s happening behind the lines:

Happy Cat Month 2022

Happy Cat Month

For Happy Cat Month, here are some simple tips to keeping your cat happy, from your neighbourhood cat sitter. In no particular order:

1. Access to clean, fresh water at all times.

Some cats like drinking directly out of the faucet, but they should still have another source of water in case the water stops.

Likewise, if you use a pet water fountain that has zero access to water if the power goes out, then an additional bowl of water is needed.

2. Keep pet water fountains clean. If you have a water fountain, be prepared to completely disassemble it almost daily, including the motor. Replace the filter when it gets discolored or slimey.

3. Comb your cat as-needed. Some cats are mostly self-sufficient when it comes to maintaining their coats and don’tneed much help. Some need daily combing to manage matting and shedding. Some only need a weekly comb. Each cat is different. Combing out small mats is doable, but if you let the mats grow too big, it will take more time and effort to work out, until they have to be shaved off by a groomer. Don’t let it get that bad. Mats are painful to cats.

4. Trim your cat’s claws. It’s just like using a nail clipper, except you use a small pet nail trimmer and you only remove a tiny bit off the tip, about half a grain of rice. It is more comfortable for the cat, as their claws won’t snag on fabric, furniture, or carpet. Not all cats are able to sharpen their claws on scratching posts or outside. Keep an eye on them so that they don’t become overgrown.

5. Enrichment Enrichment Enrichment. Play with your cat. Get them a cat tree, some toys. And use the toys! Lick mats and food puzzles can make a big difference for certain cats. Some like music or certain tv shows. A lot of indoor cats enjoy smelling the outdoors. And there’s the universal favourite, the cardboard box.

6. Please, don’t antagonize your cat for social media.

Organic veggies for Guinea pig and rabbit clients

Due to popular interest, Cats and Hamsters is now pleased to offer rabbit and Guinea pig pet sitting and boarding clients a new daily fresh produce option – Cats and Hamsters’s Special Selection!

This new option will include a species-appropriate vegetable and fruit selection comprising a special selection of:

  • organic produce
  • produce grown by myself from seed in my community garden plot
  • produce from the public markets

I am excited to share that this summer I am trying a local organic farm share, La ferme coop Aux Champs qui Chantent, and will include produce from that share in the daily Special Selection. La ferme coop Aux Champs qui Chantent is a local, organic, worker-owned, worked-run cooperative. Their pick up locations include the Plateau and Petite Patrie. Their philosophy includes offering good, healthy food and making it accessible. So uncollected shares are donated to community organizations and they offer “Solidarity Baskets,” where a weekly basket can be subsidized via donation and members can request a basket at a reduced rate to match economic need.

The original daily fresh produce service for Guinea pig and rabbit clients is still available, and may or may not include some of the same items in the Special Selection.

Clients who prefer to specify a specific list of vegetables and fruit for their Guinea pigs and rabbits can choose the concierge service.

Trim your cat’s nails or get someone else to do it for you

I saw this great TikTok about overgrown cat nails and what that means for the cat:

I have posted a number of Facebook Lives and YouTube videos about how to trim cat claws.

Some cat owners think their indoor-only cat can maintain their claws solely via scratching posts, but I’ve repeatedly found this to be ineffective. Cats might be able to sharpen their claws on a scratching surface, but not all cats are able to do this, and the resulting claws end up needle-sharp! If a cat’s nails becomes overgrown, it will continue to grow into a circle until it embeds itself into the cat’s paw pad, which is painful and can lead to infection, as is shown in the TikTok above.

If you are uncomfortable trimming your cat’s nails, then have someone else else do it. Veterinarian clinics, pet stores, pet sitters, groomers, etc. will often offer pet nail trimming. Mobile groomers and pet sitters can come to your home so the cat doesn’t have to go anywhere. I offer this service on its own and I also include it without extra charge when I am cat sitting, because it helps everyone when cat nails are trimmed! If the cat gets very stressed, fearful, aggressive for nail trimming, veterinarians can sedate them for the nail trimming.

Small pet nail trimmers are best for cats and can be very inexpensive, like the model the vet is using in this TikTok. Like nail clippers, nail trimmers need to be sharp in order to cut the nail cleanly, so they will need to be replaced every so often depending on use. Maybe every other year for one cat.

Don’t worry about getting all of the claws at once – it’s perfectly fine to trim a couple and take a break. And giving lots of treats throughout can help to make it a positive experience for everyone!

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.