Pet Sitting – A Day in the life of!

Living the dream! A day in the life of!

 

Snuggle time!

As house and pet sitters working with Nina’s Nannies for Pets, we have been told we are living the dream, staying in numerous beautiful homes across the south of England.  I suppose to a point that is true, well at least as far as the lovely homes we get to stay in, but people who make these comments, forget that pet sitting, can be extremely hard work.

My wife Jacky and I, come from a background of years of animal rescue and rehabilitation in Spain:  often caring for large numbers of furry friends at any one time (up to 20 puppies at one time from birth, to rehoming them across Europe).

For this reason, we are known for taking on the larger and more intensive pet sits, ranging from cats and dogs to poultry, horses and occasionally sheep or cattle.

So what does an average day in a pet sitter’s life consist of, for one of this larger multiple animal sits?  The answer is, that every pet sit is different. Needing to be mindful of the requirements not only for the animals but looking after the home you are in temporary control off. It doesn’t matter if the homeowner says” just “Make yourself at home”, you never do, just in case, if you know what I mean!

We have been on sits where the owner is so organised that there is a detailed set of instructions for every day and possible situation we could think of, ranging from meal times to bedtimes. Recommended walks for the family pet and yes, you can take a cat for a walk on a lead!

A working day

Perhaps an example of one day at one of our busier regular sits may show you that sitting is not the high life but can be intensive and still very rewarding.

Four dogs ranging in age from one-year-old terrier, with bundles of energy, 2 older terriers and a fourteen year Great Dane Labrador looking cross (no one is really sure), who likes to do his own thing on walks. One Burmese cat who brings you presents, some are even alive (fun chasing them around), several ducks and chickens, a new forest pony and not to mention a large herd of prize cattle that varies depending on the time of year.

Luckily on this old Mc Donald’s farm, there is a herdsman who works on site during the week and visits twice on Saturday and Sunday. Thank god for him as can you imagine having to walk 40 plus cows every day even if there are two of us. Throw into the mix that the farmhouse is over 400 years old and heated by up to three wood burning fires that in the winter have to be kept going 24/7 to keep the house warm for both us and the animals and you start to get the picture. Did I mention the cat is allowed anywhere in the house but not allowed upstairs just in case?

The dogs (all of them have different characters) sleep downstairs but are always there to greet you in the morning waiting for the first bathroom walk of the day, a good 20 minutes later it is food time all have different dietary requirements, by the way is the cat still in by the fire I ask, he needs to go out.

Whilst I watch the dogs feeding and checking out each other’s bowl if given the opportunity to have someone else’s food Jacky checks the fires are still lit and any ash removed.

Ten minutes later pony who we have spoken to earlier lets us know she wants to be moved to the grazing field, that done the very vocal ducks let us know they want to be let loose, in a blur of feathers as we open the pen whilst ensuring the chickens stay put. I swear the ducks are laughing at chickens stuck in the pen as they make their escape into the garden for the day.

That done its back indoors for a well-deserved cup of tea and shower before taking the dogs out again.  We are lucky that with many fields to walk them we do not have any traffic or roads to contend with only the odd curious cow.

On our return, the herdsman is in attendance and we check with him that all is well.  By now the animals have been fed and are now resting and happy and we can have breakfast and still only 10 am. Check the fires are still okay before ensuring the house is still tidy and other cleaning chores such as our washing.

Now nearly midday the postman has been which woke the dogs, so they need to go out again after the excitement of his visit. The dogs love the cleaner who comes twice a week, so mayhem ensures on her arrival until she has spoken and fussed them before getting on with her work. Mayhem again when she leaves. The dogs then need to have a short walk before we can go out to run our errands. We are allowed a maximum of 3 hours away from the sit but we do not like to be away from out charges for very long as we never know if they are behaving.

We return to the welcoming chorus of dog barks and excitement, anyone would think we have been gone for all day. After the excitement settles down all will need a toilet break again after first making sure the house and the fires are still lit and in order.

As it is winter and just starting to get dark its round-up time for the ducks, checking the chickens are fed and the water trough is not frozen. Collect any eggs; pick up a carrot for the pony before returning her across the farmyard to her stable. Say goodbye to the herdsman having ensured everything is in order with the cattle. Although there is a herdsman in attendance during the day once he leaves the safety and security of the cattle and the farm now becomes our total responsibility. Luckily, I am happy to take on this responsibility.

Now dark but not yet 5 pm and the dogs require their evening meal again, under supervision.      The fires are checked again and the woodpile supply for them has to be replenished.

That sorted we can get our evening meal before taking out the dogs once again. All the dogs are very eager to be taken out so often as being on a farm it is both unsafe and unwise just to let them out on their own for many reasons. About 8 pm we can all sit down to watch a little TV, joined of course by three of the four dogs as the big old boy has his own resting place. The only disagreement between the dogs is who can get on whose lap for fuss. The third dog usually the youngest purchases himself on the back of the settee usually also on a human shoulder whichever one is free.

This makes the daily animal and human love in on the settee all worthwhile; we get our animal fix and is also a testament to the care we always endeavour to give having the animals except us so well that they are happy to snuggle up with us.

Bedtime arrives with a final walk by torchlight for the dogs; ensure the cat is also in. Stoke up the fires for the night, a security check of the house, making sure the dogs are safe and settled down and then we can retire: another day is done and another to follow.

Repeat Clients

Jacky & friends!

Both Jacky and I started pet and house sitting not only for our animal fix, having returned from Spain, but also because we believe in what Nina’s Nannies for Pets are trying to do. We have now just about completed 2 years as sitters and love it. We have a lot of repeat clients who are happy to put their pets and homes in our charge. All of our clients are lovely to work with and there is not a single pet we do not enjoy looking after.

Do we have our favourite houses and pets to look after? The answer is we love all our charges;  all are different and keep us on our toes.

As to a favourite client, the answer is the same and that would be telling anyway!

For information about pet/dog/home sitting as a profession, Become a pet sitter

Check list for your pet sitter

So you have booked your holiday, engaged a pet sitter and are frantically completing your last minute tasks.
Your cases are packed and hidden, for fear of spooking kitty and Tom who are both looking suspiciously at the front door. Clutching your passport, frantically checking you remembered the foreign currency, and of course your mobile phone for which you have become emotionally attached!

One last look around, a quick ‘be good while I am away’, to the cats and your gone, but what about your pet sitter?
Last minute note

A last minute note is essential. While your pet sitter will have already taken extensive notes , it is vital to inform your pet sitter of any changes to your mobile telephone number, emergency contact number, travel arrangements, hotel details, departure and arrival times.

Bins

Nobody likes to arrive home to a full dustbin and since the black bin, the green bin, the glass bin (and any other bin that has been added to the fortnightly collection), are put out on alternate weeks, you must instruct your pet sitter, which colour bin will require emptying while you are away.
Behaviour changes

Each pet is an individual and as Kitty or Rover reach their twilight years, adjustments may need to be made.
Cats can be prolific hiders. So alert your pet sitter where to look. Should your sitter be worried if cats do not come out to feed, or in the case of house cats, will they be waiting at the door in the hope of a quick escape!
As they age, cats and dogs can often suffer a decline in memory loss and their senses, sight and hearing can deteriorate, so please remember to inform your pet sitter.

Favorite toys

Dogs especially, will usually have a favourite toy which they just cannot be without. Cats too can be extremely fond of a catnip mouse, or curling up on the client’s old jumper, so alert your pet sitter in order that they may use them to interact or accompanying dogs on their walks.

Medications and recurrent illness

Is Kitty or Rover on any medications and if so, how often should it be administered, and for what reason? Are there likely to be any side effects and if so what kind?
Has your vet been informed of your holiday dates and that a pet sitter will be caring for your pet during your absence? This is important information and although your sitter should have a veterinary release form, a note on your pets file with any special considerations. harry in bed

The majority of vets will want to liaise with the owner should major surgery be required, so it is imperative that they have your contact details, or an appointed family member just in case important decisions need to be made.
Above are just a few things to remember for your sitter, in order that your pets will remain happy and healthy while you are away.

Emergencies may arise from time to time, such as a burst pipe in the winter, or a pond which needs topping up in the extreme heat, but a good pet sitter will take all this in their stride and whether you opt for a live in sitter, or just a pop in service, you should feel confident that your pets will be well cared for and safe on your return.

The Forgotten Rabit

During my eighteen years as a pet sitter, one animal in particular, seems to be the most forgotten – the humble rabbit.

You would think the film ‘Watership Down’, given its popularity, would have helped to educate people with regards to their living conditions and requirements, but sadly we continue to care for solitary rabbits, some living in cramped conditions and often overlooked in their garden hutches.

Rabbits are community animals that desperately need to live in groups.  In the wild a community can consist of up to a hundred individuals, living peacefully in their network of tunnels, so please do not deprive them from having company.

Hutches should incorporate outside space and be raised off the ground to allow air to circulate and prevent water logging.  It should also be secure and in the summer months, moved to shady position in your garden.

You should also be mindful that the winter can be perilously cold and your rabbits should be moved to a warmer area, where they will not be exposed to the elements.

A hutch can never be too big.  I have seen some ingenious living quarters, often designed and built by the owner.  Care should be taken however, to ensure that there are no sharp edges or escape routes and before attempting a ‘do it yourself hutch’, seek professional advice to ensure that the home is suitable, before the building commences.

It is essential that your hutch has both a living and sleeping area and large enough that your rabbits can hop around.  The outside space should be secure and safe from predators.

Frequent cleaning is an essential and a daily regime is extremely important. 

Any soiled hay/paper should be removed, and the toilet area cleaned. Beware of harmful cleaning products, so ensure that any products are rabbit friendly.

Dirty hutches can result in illness, such as sore feet and dirty bottoms, which can result in fly strike.  This is caused when the eggs of the fly are laid and then hatch into maggots, which unless caught quickly can be a killer.

For full details regarding animal care you can visit their website:-

http://www.rspca.org.uk/allaboutanimals/pets/rabbits

Owning and caring for rabbits, requires exactly the same commitment as owning a kitten or puppy and they will delight their owners if you are well prepared.  So please do not allow yours, to be the forgotten rabbits!

Goodbyes

This year, Nina’s Nannies for Pets have been deeply saddened by the loss of many old friends.  Clients and their pets who have used our pet visiting and live in pet sitting service for many years, have reported the death of their much loved cats, dogs and little furies.

In Hemel Hempstead we said goodbye to a little tortoiseshell cat called Titch.  In Potten End we recently mourned the loss of Penny, also a tortoiseshell aged 20, whom we had just finished a couple of weeks

Remembering old friends

previously.  Jazz, also 20 and another little cat from Eaton Bray, Daisy, a wonderful little Grey rescue cat from Berkhamsted, Phoebe from St Albans and more recently Mr Snuffles a wonderful old Lab from Cambridgeshire.  We really will miss them all dearly.

On a more pleasant note, Luika our two year old German Shepherd Dog has become a massive hit on facebook!  If you would like to follow his antics he can be found under Luika Cole, but more about him in blogs to come.

The volcanic eruptions continue to cause problems for our pet sitters, but we have managed to juggle sitters diaries in order to keep clients continuity and hope that the disruption to our time tables are not too long lasting.

Saying Goodbye To Old Friends

This year has seen the loss of many old friends, including Mr Speckles, a beautiful lop eared rabbit, Muffy, a 17 years old cat from Berkhamsted, Charley a newly adopted cat who was already 15 years old and Tigger, who was the eldest cat on our books at 21 years of age.

It is always a very sad occasion for us and our pet sitters, since attachments are formed in the first few days, and some are frequent sits when their families have property overseas, or indeed, if they are frequent flyers and require a pet sitting service throughout the year.

We have also bid a fond farewell to Janet and Ray Marshall, who have been with our company for the last five years. Sadly their last assignment will be in January next year, since they now have family commitments and will not have the availability to continue. They will both be sadly missed by both us, our other sitters and of course their regular clients. The door however, has been left open for their return, if circumstances change in the future.

Christmas is almost upon us and we have no further availability for our live in service until January 10, but we do still have spaces for our visiting pet sitter, pet sitting service in the following areas – Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted, Bovingdon, Leighton Buzzard, Dunstable, Northall, and Redbourn. I would strongly advise however, that you contact us at your earliest convenience should you require a visiting service for your cats or caged animals, since there are only so many hours in a day and we do endeavour to finish by 4 p.m. on Xmas Eve, Xmas Day and Boxing Day. There is also a preliminary visit required and since we only have the weekend in order to see new clients you will appreciate how little time there is left.

At Nina’s Nannies for Pets, we have had a wonderful year and seen expansion throughout the South and South East on the Country. We are now able to offer our pet sitting and pet sitter service in the whole of the London area and have added Norfolk to our port folio. We are still recruiting in these areas however, so anyone interested in becoming a live in pet sitter should visit

www.ninasnanniesforpets.co.uk/recruitment.html for further information. 

 

Just a quickie!

Here in the office we often receive the odd strange request, some of which are not to be taken seriously!  However, the most recent (a couple of hours ago), really took the biscuit.

A gentleman calling himself Mr Shere Khan, asked if we could care for a one eyed, incontinent anaconda during June – PLEASE.  I rather think that my reply stole his thunder when I explained that our current insurance would not cover this type of pet!  Needless to say the conversation was hastily terminated!!!

Did I ever tell you that a pet sitters life is never dull!

A Blooming Good New Year!

Wow, what a great start to the New Year!

Our phone has continued to ring off the hook and bookings for this year have been flooding in.  It seems that even during a recession, people are keen to continue with good quality care for their pets and continued home security during their holidays.

Our Dorset, Somerset,  London, and West Sussex branch have been particularly busy and we are heartened to see other areas of the country doing equally as well.  Details of our new pet sitters will follow shortly.

Heavy snow fall was particularly unwelcome recently and some of our sitters struggled to reach their destinations.  However, a pet sitters life is never dull and it took determination and dedication to battle through.  I am hoping that we have now seen the last of adverse weather conditions and we are all looking forward to Springs arrival and the promise of some much needed sunshine.