Last Updated on: January 15, 2016 by Ingrid King
Today’s Guest post is by Renee Austin. Renee is the owner of Whimsy Cats, Northern Virginia’s premiere cat sitting service. Whimsy Cats specializes in cats who need special care such as administration of medication, fluids or insulin, senior cats, post-surgical care, and more.
It’s 5:30 a.m. and I’m just now turning the car onto the road, heading north for a few miles through the pre-dawn mist, slowing from time to time for the deer that linger along the roadside, and then turning east to join scores of other cars for the trek into town and beyond. It occurs to me that there might be only a handful of other drivers who are as pleased as I am to be on their way to work. In fact, there are times when I wonder if maybe I ought to be paying for the privilege. My clients are generous and kind in their immeasurable appreciation for the services I provide-and they spoil me. You see, I step in for those who want to vacation, or need to travel for work, or have to leave town for a family emergency. I watch over what they value most while they are away, easing somewhat, the strain of leaving cherished ones behind. I am the cat sitter, and I care for the ‘fur-kids’ and ‘fur-babies’ of a very, very wonderful group of people.
My first stop is the final for this particular client. The custom; sit on the step just inside the doorway and greet everyone as they swarm around me, chirping and rubbing (it’s one big group fur-hug), then off to the kitchen to prepare and serve a noisy breakfast, adding in the medications I picked up at the veterinarian’s yesterday. I keep one eye on the diners while reviewing the ‘exit’ checklist and finishing the housekeeping, make a quick dash to feed, water and count the little noses of the feral cats waiting in the yard behind the house, and then head back through to ensure that everything is in order. The visits to this particular home have involved overturned lamps and pillows, a partially devoured loaf of bread dragged into the living room, bottles of kitty medications scattered on the floor, shredded paper towels-all due to the antics of a very active ’hive’ of happy cats. Hopefully everything will still be tidy by the time ‘mom’ gets home. Before leaving, I wave goodbye to the little girl hiding under the desk, and then give each of the others, eight in all, snuggles and squeezes and a final, thorough once-over. The ages here range from several months to 18 years and include tripods, a whole array of colors and personalities and needs, and a blanket of unbelievable feline energy. They’re gathered at the large picture window, watching as I walk away down the driveway.
I’m back in the car with cat fur still swirling around me and a grin running from ear to ear. It’s time for the very long drive out to my next client, and after such an excellent start to the day, I’m ready.
It’s the same greeting here-smiles and purrs. Samson leans against me and gazes into my eyes while I’m preparing his insulin and medication, and I just have to stop and embrace him. I take a deep breath, hold it and him, and then let everything out on a sigh. In that one deliberate action my body and mind are completely relaxed. This is the reason why I drive fifteen miles outside of my usual range to come here. His younger sister has recovered from last night, when I sat with her in the basement as she hid from the fierce thunderstorms. She’s waiting at our play spot, opting out of the morning meal for some one-on-one time. We play a bit more after she supervises the clean-up and then the three of us hug and cuddle. I won’t be seeing them again for a few months so I linger. As I head for the door I look back and see, with some regret, that Sabrina is back at her spot…hoping.
Every stop follows a similar routine; a balance between efficiency and details, and entertainment and affection. There are notes, medications, premise checks, housekeeping lists, disinfecting, that all require focus and constant evaluation. And as each household has its particular flow and idiosyncrasies, so do my little whiskered ‘clients’. Between clients I’m weaving through traffic, diverting around back-ups, always reviewing details of the last visit to ensure I haven’t missed a step, and mentally rehearsing what will happen on the next.
I work mostly with cats that have special needs and chronic medical conditions, so in addition to having the ability to read their individual needs and preferences, I must also be able to tune in to their demeanor and posture, watch for subtle changes in behavior, detect that slight shift in the eyes that says things are not quite right. Cats can be a challenge in this respect. The natural tendency of a feline in the wild to mask any sign of illness carries over completely into the domestic realm.
On top of this, it’s up to me to remember favorite toys, activities, and comfort levels, and to recognize when someone wants rubs and reassurance instead of playtime on a particular visit. It’s important for me to provide individualized attention to each and every cat. While I can’t replace the family who has ‘mysteriously disappeared’, I am at least able to offer a different kind of routine that brings some level of comfort and security until everything is back to normal.
By 10:30am, I’ve finished at the nearest library after sending out progress reports and answering e-mails (I probably know every free WiFi location along any given route that I have to take). Then, I’m off to the mid-day visits and answering calls from clients checking in for updates on their kitties. Today will include a pair of cats – one that decides after eating that he just wants cuddles, and the other who is very shy and has finally come out of hiding to join us, then one special little guy who, on my arrival, leads me straight to his play station for tissue paper ‘facials’ and body rubs, and finally, the sweet older girl with kidney disease for whom I have to administer fluids under the skin.
I swing back around and have a few extra moments to check in with one of my handful of doggie clients. This little fellow has been back and forth to the veterinarian and can use a pick-me-up. His human has been extremely worried, and we’ve worked on a list of questions for him to ask next time he’s at the animal hospital. I’m then off to feed a handsome orange tabby and spend time with him on the veranda, and finally, I stop to give an insulin injection to one of my most challenging and unpredictable kitties. She’s a princess cat, and I never know whether she’ll be pleased to see me, or if she’ll try to run me out of the house before I can pull the syringe out of the bag. Tonight I get off with a nip on the ankle – a clear sign that the food service is way too slow.
Back home I do my own chores, feed and medicate each of the special needs creatures that live with me, and then, even though I’m a night person, collapse into bed before midnight. I’m road weary, but not cat weary. Within moments, my own special group is snuggled up against me, purring and sighing with pleasure – all of us, together for the next several hours.
Not too bad, for a full day’s work.
For more information about Renee and Whimsy Cats, please wisit her website at http://www.whimsycats.com.
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.