Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pet sitting hell week is almost over!

Thanksgiving and Christmas are different for pet sitters. While everyone else is off, we are working, and working hard. This ten day period was packed with visits and boarding dogs for me, and today is the last the day of the rush. I only have three boarding dogs left here (out of ten!) and two go home this morning. Whew. 

I've been sweeping and vacuuming up dirt and washing dog beds all day yesterday, my birthday. What a way to celebrate! With ten dogs here and rainy weather, they tracked in a lot of mud. My visitors included: Jet the German Shepherd, Willa the Boxer, Tally the Lab, Twyla, Bella and Harper, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Rex and Makaso, terrier mixes, Maya and Millie, dachshunds. Plus my four dogs, three shelties and a dachshund, and it was a full house! 

In addition to that, I was visiting clients including a cockatoo, two parrots, two horses, some cats, a couple of dogs and a guinea pig. Tomorrow I will be in full "rest" mode. But in this business, this is the time of year to make enough money to get you through January, so working really, really hard for a couple of weeks is well worth it. 

One of my clients blogged about her Cavaliers at my house on the Pet Connection. Read the last paragraph for a funny story.

The Christmas rush lasts longer, a full two weeks. I do regret that I can't head out of town to visit my family on the holidays, but my friends here have mercy on me and invite me over for a good meal and a few hours of human company. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ten things you might not know about ten different species

Fish can get constipated

Horses spook easily because they are prey animals

Tortoises can learn to come when they are called

If a cat’s head can fit in an opening the whole body can

A dog’s feet smell like Fritos

A rabbit’s teeth never stop growing

Ferrets like to poop in the corner

Birds can’t eat avocados

Snakes “hear” with their tongues; they don’t have ears

Hermit crabs shed their skin and grow out of their shells

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Give the Cat a Pill

Pills and shots: both are a challenge when your patient is a cat. As a pet sitter, you will be called upon to do both. We could assume the owners have a tried and true method of pilling their cat. I wouldn’t count on it. You may end up training them! I had one client who auditioned me. I literally had to stand there on the consultation visit and give his cat a thyroid pill to prove I could really do it. Lucky for me, the cat cooperated and I got the job.


My method, or at least the first one I try, is to wrap my left hand over the cat’s head from the back, with my fingers on either side of his mouth. My index finger pokes his mouth open, and with the other hand, I drill the pill down his throat. Then I close his mouth and stroke his throat until I feel him swallow. This technique is illustrated above with a photo of my cat Sterling, who actually allows me to do it.

Not all cats are so cooperative, so be ready for anything. I have been known to wear a heavy jacket and garden gloves to protect myself from flying claws and well-aimed teeth.

My vet has a canvas bag that holds the entire cat with just his head sticking out. Zipped into this bag, Kitty can’t scratch you, so you have a little more control. At least that’s the theory!

Vets and pet supply stores sell treats called pill pockets that you wrap the medicine in and give to the cat. Cats are masters at eating the treat and spitting out the pill, but it is worth a try. Put butter on the pill to make it slip down easily. Another tool from the vet, a pill gun, holds the pill on the end, and you plunge it down the cat’s throat and release the pill. This way, your fingers are further away from the cat’s mouth.

I have a client who has me wrap the pill in a tiny piece of lunchmeat, and Kitty eats it right down. Another has me put it in some juice from a can of tuna or cat food. For other kitties I crush the pill in a spoon and mix it into a bit of his wet food. When he eats the medicated food, I give him the rest.

The pet’s veterinarian or a pharmacist may be able to mix the medication in a liquid to make it easier to administer. Ask about this; the ability to do this will vary by the type of medication it is.


I often have to give shots to diabetic cats. Your best chance is to move quickly. I reach in from behind while the cat eats and give him the shot before he even has time to react. Lift the skin between the shoulder blades with your left hand, put in the needle with your right and push the plunger quickly. For insulin, the amount is usually so small it goes in fast. You do have to be careful not to push the needle through and out the other side of the tented skin- you’ll squirt the shot into the air and do the cat no good at all. For other types of shots where there is more liquid, you have to push the syringe slowly and evenly.

Dogs are so much easier.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Your client's neighbors

You may get the creeps when you think your clients' neighbors are spying on you, but they can be your best friend too. When I see the neighbors looking at me curiously, I will introduce myself and give them my card. They’ll call if the dog gets out, the sprinklers break, a moving van shows up, or they see any unusual activity. Neighbors have helped me find the main shut-off valve when a water pipe broke, called the police when kids broke in and had a party, and caught and held a fence-jumping boxer for me.

One of my most interesting neighbor experiences happened when I arrived at a client’s house to find their elderly collie dead in the back yard. After calling the client and getting instructions, I discovered the dog was too heavy to move by myself. I wrapped it in trash bags and asked the guy next door to help me carry the body to the car. We got out front, and here comes the busybody from across the street, wanting to know just what I was taking from her friend’s house. I don’t know if she thought I’d murdered someone or was camouflaging the fine china, but she wasn’t going to let me get away with it. It was a light moment in an otherwise sad day. 

In spite of her nosiness, I appreciated the fact that she was paying attention. I'm sure she drives everyone nuts, peeking out through the curtains as they come and go about their daily business. But what if you were gone and she saw the door left hanging open? Or the dog was running loose? This happened to one client. Their house was burglarized, and their Great Pyrennes was running out in the street. Thanks to the "nosy" neighbor, the dog was returned home and the police were called in a timely manner. 

Those of you who think pet sitting sounds like fun, and an easy job, should take note here. It's a big responsibility to care for someone's home and pets. Do you know what to do?

The photo here is one of my favorites: Brandy, a toy poodle I cared for for over 8 years.