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

A Pet Sitter’s Diary

October 2017

A Pet Sitter’s Diary

Magic the puppy

So peaceful.    And then  ….  the baby alarm sounded.  Moses the poodle pup (4 months old) had started to stir.  I dashed from the bed throwing my dressing gown around my shoulders as I ran into the kitchen and opened the cage door to extract the most adorable puppy ever born.    As I picked him up he started to pee, and continued to pee down my dressing gown until I reached the back door and then he stopped!

It was so difficult to put him down onto the cold garden slabs.  He was adorable and like a living teddy bear.  His pleasure at seeing me was so touching but his pleasure at suddenly seeing his partially sighted brother was indescribable.   Poor Magic was subjected to repeated attacks from this little ball of ginger fur, huge eyes and a never-ending licking tongue.

The days were filled with regular play times in order to tire out the puppy and lots of cuddles for Magic so he wouldn’t feel left out.   Moses slept regularly in his cage as he needed his sleep for his development.  Watching Moses was a constant job when he was out of the cage as any lack of movement in his legs usually meant he wanted “out” but didn’t quite get the message to wait. Making sure Magic was cuddled and soothed and placated was also a necessity.

Walks were an experience.  Magic being elderly was slow and meticulous in his smelling of every corner and paving slab.   Moses, on the other hand, spent most of the walk standing on his two back legs and waving his front paws trying to win the attention of all passing walkers.  Which he did.

This pet sit was such a pleasure.  During the week I noticed Moses’s improvement in toilet training and routine.

January 2017

Moses – partially blind poodle

Three months later and the gorgeous poodles are even more gorgeous. Magic is still partially blind but may be considered a suitable candidate for eye surgery very soon.  Moses is now seven months old, still as adorable and a lot cheekier.  Night time cage is no longer needed and both dogs like to lie on their own blanket, on the floor, at the base of my bed.   Their gentle snoring is actually comforting and soothing.

Walks were determined by Moses whose furry face, huge brown eyes and wet nose would suddenly appear over the edge of the bed.  Whilst putting on Moses’ harness and Magic’s lead, Moses would grab the lead and excitedly pull Magic towards to door to hurry things along. Magic put up with a great deal of bullying from Moses but the playfulness will decrease in time.   Or will it?

My meals were taken in the kitchen whilst the dogs were eating.  This worked very well as they didn’t hurry their food in order to follow me around the house.

Evenings were spent sitting on the sofa with a poodle lying across each foot…

Pet sitting is an adorable hobby and job.  Why on earth didn’t I do it sooner?

Maggie with another furry client

Maggie Lennie

Which pet is best for me?

So you have taken the decision to welcome a pet into your family for the first time, so what pet is best for you?  Little four-year-old Peter is desperate for that beautiful fluffy bunny he fell in love with in the pet store window, while five year old Mandy has been pleading for a little kitten just like her friend Abigail’s.  Decisions, decisions, what do you do?

Pet ownership is extremely rewarding and I have long been of the opinion, that animal welfare should be part of the school curriculum, but back to the question in hand.

Please do NOT buy or adopt on impulse and do your research before welcoming any animal into your home.

At Nina’s Nannies for Pets, we are keen advocates of #adoptdontshop and would always suggest visiting your local animal shelter.  Pet stores are biased to selling their animals and in my opinion, are not best placed to offer the advice required, such as dietary requirements, socialisation and the correct feeding.  In my capacity as a pet sitter, I have seen countless Rabbits, Guinea Pigs and small furries (with the exception of Syrian Hamsters), being sold separately. This is heartbreaking given that those mentioned are community animals and should never live alone.

Over the eighteen years I have been in business, I have shuddered at the inappropriate housing of some animals in our charge, such as tiny Rabbit hutches with little space for them to maneuver, Chickens kept in tiny pods which are completely inadequate, even for the pets for which they were intended and Ducks with just a bowl of water in a small garden.

Impulse buying

When buying or adopting any pet, this should be a thought out, will prepared process.  If in doubt ask a pet professional such as a vet, or visit the Blue Cross/RSPCA website, which are awash with information about all manner of pets.

Consider your home circumstances.

  • What size is your garden?
  • Do you work all day?
  • Finances-can you afford the expense of owning a pet?

Which pet

In order to decide the above, you should consider your reasons for wanting a pet.  If it is primarily for your children, I would look to the small furies such as rabbits, guinea pigs or another hutch/cage dwelling creature.  My particular favorite are fancy rats.  Of all the little furries, fancy rats are by far the most intelligent.  They are extremely affectionate little creatures and far happier if kept in pairs.

As with all pets, please consider adopting, but if you really want a pair of young rats ensure that you go to a reputable breeder.

If you are looking for a more energetic companion, then of course a dog would be ideal.  However, if you work all day and require a more independent addition to your household a cat would be a purrfect fit.  Again, there are dogs and cats of all ages and sizes in rescue centers up and down the country, but if it is a pure bred that you desire, PLEASE, ensure that you chose a reputable breeder and remember to:

  1. Never buy from a pet store or answer an advert in the local paper. These are often the window for puppy mills and should be avoided at all cost.
  2. Remember that the Kennel Club provides details of accredited breeders with registered puppies for sale and look on their website for contact details.
  3. A good breeder with be happy to welcome you to their home, where you can see mum interacting with their puppies.
  4. Ask the breeder for the KC registration certificate and worming information. A good breeder will ask their own questions and their premises will be clean and the dogs happy.

A good breeder will always do the following:

  • Health test their breeding stock
  • Take excellent care of their dogs
  • Provide information and follow up care for those people buying their puppies
  • Offer a lifetime of support to those who buy their puppies
  • A good and considerate breeder, will have no more than three litter from a female in her lifetime and steer clear of any breeder who has different breeds of dog.

If you are still unsure, contact The Kennel Club who will be only too pleased to help.

I would strongly advise that your children are totally committed to caring for pet, since forcing a child into pet ownership will not teach them responsibility and you should be prepared to do all the caring yourselves.

Cost

Animals should be for life and not just an impulse buy.

Apart from the initial cost of buying your pet, be it from a store, breeder or shelter, pets are a huge financial commitment.

They have dietary requirements, suitable housing, grooming, holiday care and most importantly, health care.

Insurance is vital to the well-being of your pet and some can live for many years.  The average lifespan of a cat is around 12 – 14 years and we have cared for some who have reached 20 and above!

Small furies

Rabbits, mice, gerbils and rabbits make wonderful pets, but they need to be handled regularly.  Rats especially, make wonderful companions for small children, since if socialized they are extremely interactive and affectionate, in fact  I liken them to little canines in a rodent form.

All furies require regular cleaning and for some children this can be monotonous once the novelty of pet ownership has worn off.  In this case, parents must be prepared to carry out these duties and where possible encourage children to continue with their routines.

Rabbits in particular can fall prey to the dreaded fly strike, a truly gruesome condition which occurs when flies lay their eggs on the rabbits rear ends.  It is therefore imperative that their living quarters are kept clean and they are checked daily, especially during the summer months.

Dogs/Cats

The above are the most popular choice of pets, with thousands of families welcoming them into our homes.

The majority of dogs are both loyal and affectionate, forming close bonds with their owners.

When choosing a dog, you should insure that he/she is the right breed, type for your family, which is why it is so important that you research your breed before making your decision.

Puppies and kittens need a lot of training and socialisation and may not be appropriate for young children.  Adopting a calm friendly adult dog/cat however, who has been temperament assessed, may be a far better companion for your family.  

As with all pet/child introductions, it is so important that you help your child to see the world through their eyes.  Children would react if they were poked or prodded unexpectedly, so you should explain that animals must be treated with respect and kindness.

So have you done your research?  If so, which pet did you get and did you adopt?

 

 

 

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.

Meeting a real life dragon!

I would like to thank Theo and his wonderful team, for providing an inspirational and informative day at the SBS winners event on Friday 30 January.

It was my husband and business partner Doug Cole’s, first time attending a business event, and boy it did not disappoint.

Doug was diagnosed with MS at the age of 40 and I suffered a brain haemorrhage some six months later, which is why we decided to follow our dream of working with animals. Our business, NINA’S NANNIES FOR PETS was founded soon after.

It was always our dream to work with animals, but I am the extrovert, who works front of house and Doug is the steady hand that guides the ship, while still actively involved with the day to day dog walking and visits. No mean feat with Multiple Sclerosis!

We LOVE To Care

2014 has been an extremely busy year and we have welcomed new Pet Sitters from the Dorset, Bedfordshire, Bristol, Sussex, Surrey & Essex areas.  We are still recruiting for live in pet sitters, so anyone who may be interested please visit our Become a Petsitter page.  

Christmas is almost upon us!  Yes, is currently only ten weeks away and we have decided to have Christmas Day afternoon with our family, so we will be informing our visiting clients this week to ensure that they book early this year.  For all new enquiries, PLEASE be aware that this year we will be unable to take last minute bookings!  Our Visiting page is awash with information, so when Aunty Betty has decided to spend the festive period in the Maldives and Nigel from next door is going to relatives 90 miles away, remember your cats, bunnies and little furries and PLEASE book early.

This year has been very exciting for us.  As huge supporters of Pupaid, we were delighted to see the petition we had been promoting surpass 100,000 signatures and forcing a debate in Parliament last week. So congratulations to Marc Abraham for bringing this to the public’s attention and forcing the Government to listen. 

In our seventeen years working in the pet care industry, we have seen too many puppies who have been unwittingly purchased from Puppy Farms and back yard breeders.  The lucky ones have survived, but can carry hereditary and acquired diseases, often as a result of inbreeding.  The parents of these poor pups live in the most unim,aginable cruelty, deprived of human contact and living in the most squalid of conditions and are often killed when they are no longer able to breed!

Breeding MUST be regulated and these barbaric puppy/kitten concentration camps, banned, so PLEASE stop buy responsibly, or better still adopt. 

As part of our ’Adopt Don’t Shop’ campaign, we offer 5% discounts.  We ask only for a copy of your pets adoption certificate and our 5% discount will be implemented to our visiting and agency fee.

This year also saw us win the Theo Paphitis small business award and we cannot wait to meet the man himself.  Our badge is proudly displayed on our home page, with our certificate of registration and our insurance badge.  Hence our motto, at Nina’s Nannies for Pets, WE LOVE TO CARE.

Why microchipping your pet is so important

Tim’s story is a wonderful example of why microchipping your pet is so important.

We stumbled upon Tim, late last year when a client had warned us that she had been feeding a stray cat. She already had three cats of her own and despite her best efforts was unable to integrate the stray, so she asked if we could continue feeding the stray in her absence, which we did without charge.

Tim living rough!

Despite leafleting her area in an attempt to discover Tim’s owners, no one had come forward, so on the first day of our client’s holiday, I decided to take Tim to Barton Lodge Veterinary centre in Hemel Hempstead, in the hope that the stray had been micro chipped and his owners could be traced.

I sat in the waiting room full of trepidation and when Lorna, one of the veterinary nurses returned beaming, I knew that a microchip had been found.

Following a nervous wait the owner had been traced, who was dumbfounded to discover after a three year absence, their beloved cat had been traced and a reunion was planned that evening.

This is when we discovered that the stray was called Tim, who had disappeared from their London address during the winter months.  Despite weeks of searching, they abandoned hope of ever seeing Tim again and during the following year, they moved to Stevenage in Hertfordshire.  So how Tim was discovered in Hemel Hempstead remains a mystery!

Without a microchip, it would have been highly unlikely that he would ever have been reunited with his owners. Many people find stray cats and do not always attempt to find the owner.  Some are taken in by the people who fin them, while others are surrendered to a shelter.  Owners that have their pets microchipped are far more likely to be reunited with their pets should they get lost.

Thankfully Tim enjoyed a happy ending and I was lucky enough to meet his owners, who were absolutely delighted to have him home again.

One last hug before saying goodbye!

If a cat collar is too loose, a cat can get its paw underneath it and a paw caught in a cat collar can easily lead to serious injuries if not released quickly. I have seen cats suffer deep wounds and if not treated quickly can lead to surgery and a long convalescence period. Microchips however, are a permanent way of identifying your pets and they link back to the owner once it has been registered.

It is important however, to ensure that your details are kept up to date.  When Tim’s owners moved from London to Stevenage, they had the foresight to update their address and contact numbers and I am reliably informed that he is back home and ruling the roost once more!

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!

So you want to engage a pet sitter!

So you are going away and Great Aunt Maude, who promised to come in and care for Kitty each day, has suddenly discovered that she is due to have her hip operation on the first day of your holiday!

The neighbour has already expressed their dislike of cats and is forever chasing him out of their garden, so what do you do?

You have exhausted your contact book and someone suggests that you try a pet sitter.

Your first thought is shock horror. A stranger in your home is not what you had anticipated when you had booked your dream holiday to Barbados, but since you do not wish to expose little Kitty to the confines of a cattery, the option of a pet sitter suddenly seems very attractive.

Following your research you discover that not only do they provide extra home security, but they also take in the post, water the plants and even put bins out for collection. Perhaps the idea of a pet sitting service is quite attractive after all!

So now to the nitty gritty.

1. Is your pet sitter insured

2. Are they registered
3. Do they have a CRB check
4. Can they provide testimonials
5. Can you speak with their clients

If the answer is ‘Yes’ to all of the above, the chances are that you are employing a good, professional pet sitter to care for your pet(s) and provide home security while you are away.

With bags packed and passport in hand, you are now able to enjoy that well earned holiday, content in the knowledge that you will have happy pets, a well watered garden and secured home while you are away.

We are now able to cover the following areas for our live in service:-

http://cambridge.ninasnanniesforpets.co.uk/

http://surrey.ninasnanniesforpets.co.uk/

http://westsussex.ninasnanniesforpets.co.uk/

http://hampshire.ninasnanniesforpets.co.uk/

Animal Cruelty

I honestly believe that introducing ‘animal welfare’ into the school curricula will undoubtedly see a decrease in animal cruelty. I would therefore please ask all visitors and clients to sign and share our petition to ‘Introduce Animal Welfare into the School Curriculum’.

Animals have encouraged the moral and personal development of children, bringing social benefits to their communities. Scientific research has also proved the health benefits as well as promoting a general feeling of wellbeing.

Animals also bring out the nurturing instinct of a child and help them to understand the responsibility of owning a pet.

Therapeutic and educational benefits have been identified, especially benefitting those children with special needs. Their calming affect can also help to reduce stress, improve concentration and help to boost self esteem.

There may not be a ‘quick fix’ for animal abuse, but educating our children how to better care for our animals is a start. I would therefore ask EVERY person who reads this article, to PLEASE sign our petition. We can force change and we CAN make a difference. It is easy to tut tut at the horrific images of animal abuse, or feel sickened by the puppy who has just been put to sleep having been thrown from a motorway bridge!

I am therefore asking people to put their pen where their mouth is and to force our government to make animal welfare education part of the school curricula. Together, we can and will make a difference.

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/38361