House- and cat-sitting in a little village near Geneva

Swans on Lake Geneva at Vevey, hoping to share our lunch

It had been awhile since David and I did a pet- and housesitting gig for someone new, but we had a couple of weeks to fill between our latest cat-sit in Antwerp and the time I’d set aside for a long-wished-for trip to Corsica. On whim, I searched for something that might work. (See my earlier posts on pet- and housesitting here and here.) I was intrigued to find a two-week cat- and housesit in Thoiry, France, a small village nestled against the Jura Mountains just outside of Geneva, Switzerland. I wrote the owner, Lydia, right away; we had a great video chat and it was a done deal. Her tomcat, Leo, turned out to be the easiest cat-sit ever. He roamed at night and came home in the morning for breakfast and to socialize and nap. He never even used his litterbox during our stay. Lydia’s home was cute, comfortable and modern and a breeze to maintain with techy touches including a robot lawn mower and big, retractable awning over the patio. read more

Continuing Adventures in Pet and Housesitting

This sweet old girl patiently let me interrupt our walk to pose her with flowers. The autumn colors were just so gorgeous!

It’s been a while since I posted about pet and housesitting, but we’ve done quite a few since then (many repeats to much-loved Antwerp, Belgium) and we’re back at it, in Washington State this time. After spending two weeks in the Leschi/Mt. Baker area of Seattle proper caring for a sweet old Australian shepherd mix, we’re now weeks into a five-week cat-sitting stay in Edmonds, a charming waterfront community about 30 minutes north of downtown Seattle. We’re still trying to decide on where to settle long-term and Seattle and environs is an area we wanted to check out. It’s been a great stay and, as always, housesitting provides so much more insight into what day-to-day life in a place is like than some short vacation in a hotel or AirBnB.

We chose the Edmonds cat- and housesit many months beforehand, then decided more last-minute to do the earlier two-week dog- and housesit in nearby Seattle when David came across the posting on and realized that their stay ended on the day we were scheduled to start in Edmonds. We figured, “Why not do both?” The contrast in neighborhoods has been really interesting and worthwhile. Both homes are very nice, our current stay being in a lovely and spacious condo in the heart of Edmonds with balcony, views of Puget Sound, gas fireplace, and radiant floors. The pets are sweet and add that extra home-like feel we love.

On the down side, we faced our first pet health issue rising to the level of needing a veterinarian visit with the Australian shepherd mix, Rowan, in Seattle. Although old, deaf and on medication for congestive heart failure, she’d been spry, eager for her walks, and my constant shadow in the condo. Out of the blue one night, her jaw started spasming making her teeth clack uncontrollably and really giving us a scare. We sat on the floor with her, stroking her head until it stopped, afraid she was having a seizure. WhatsApp messaging with her owners in Portugal was reassuring; apparently she’d had the same symptom some years ago and it was related to pain from an infected tooth. She had a history of tooth problems and was scheduled for a cleaning and check up the next week when her owners returned. They asked us to just keep an eye on her and let them know if there was a recurrence. Unfortunately, Rowan’s jaw began to swell the next evening and was so much worse the following morning that one eye was nearly swollen shut, red and weeping. This sweet dog didn’t complain, just laid her head in my lap, showing total faith that we’d make things better. Messaging with the owners confirmed their agreement that we needed to get Rowan to the vet. We were up early and ready to go by 8am Saturday when the vet office opened. I was able to get Rowan an appointment on an emergency basis, but not until 11am. When Rowan began to drool blood, we headed out early, deciding we’d rather wait in the vet’s office should she have some sort of crisis. Thankfully, we’d just rented a car so we could transport her, since the Seattle neighborhood we were staying in was not particularly pedestrian friendly. This is when it can be hard being a pet-sitter. You just have to do what you’d want done for your own pet and hope all goes well. It helped that we were on the same page with the owners and they were just worried about Rowan and sympathetic to our position. Agreeing that it was probably a tooth/gum infection, the vet put Rowan on strong antibiotics and pain-killers urging me to call immediately if she had any diarrhea or vomiting… So, of course, as soon as we were back home, David was in the shower, and I took Rowan to the park, she had watery diarrhea. We had about 30 minutes before the vet closed for the weekend and the last thing we wanted was to have to put a sick dog back in our brand new rent car and haul her to some unknown–and unfamiliar with her– vet-in-a-box, so we left her home, dashed back to her vet, picked up more medicine…and all worked out in the end.

I relate this story just to remind everyone interested in pet-sitting that there is the potential for crises, big and small, and you need to be prepared. We love pet- and house-sitting and we’ve had wonderful experiences and met terrific people and animals, but the benefits come with real responsibilities. With older animals, there’s always that nagging feeling in the back of my mind that everyone has to go sometime, but please, please, sweet dog or cat, not while we’re taking care of you!

Speaking of older animals, the two cats we’re now tending in Edmonds are brothers, 17 years old. They’re loveable, arthritic old boys whose mom has them on an interesting Washington-state-sort of regimen of hemp oil “pot drops” and joint medicine masked by dollops of souffle-style cat food. They also have a steady cloud of pheromone “happy gas” emanating from a wall plug-in. It made us smile, but whatever the owner wants (and is legal, of course) is fine by us. The pets we tend are bound to miss their people, so we try to minimize the stress by giving them lots of affection and keeping them as close to their usual routine as possible.

Movie time with one of our cat charges in Edmonds

Edmonds has turned out to be a fantastic place to housesit. It sort of reminds me of a New Englandy, Pacific-Northwest Carmel. It’s quaint and picturesque with a beautiful seafront, a ferry landing, yacht club, lots of good restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques within steps of our housesit … and an old, one-screen theater that’s actually still in business! I’ll do a separate post on this charming town later.

I’m still very happy with  and arranged both of the above Washington stays through them. The site is well thought out, easy-to-use, security conscious and gets lots of traffic. If you use the above link, you’ll get a 20% discount and I’ll get a couple free months, so thanks to anyone who does. Learn more about the basics of pet and housesitting and other sites we’ve tried in my earlier post Pet and Housesitting: See the world like a local. While we intend to stay with Trustedhousesitters, I’ve come across a couple of other sites that are cheaper and may be worth a look. I haven’t tried them yet and can’t vouch for them personally, but for anyone who wants to economize a little more or just explore other options, you can check out and

A final note for owners looking for pet- and housesitters: While competition can be fierce for housesits in popular locations and nice homes, you do need to sell it a bit if you want to get the best responses. Photos of your pets are essential, but so are photos of where the sitter(s) will stay. Tidy up, if necessary, and at the very least post photos of the bedroom where your sitters will sleep, the bathroom they’ll use and your kitchen. Shots of the living area(s) and any view, yard, etc. are good, too. Without this basic information, we’ll assume the worst about the house and move on and so will most of the sitters you’d most want taking care of your home and pets.

November 2018

Pet and Housesitting: See the world like a local

Antwerp’s beautiful Grote Markt

David and I did our first pet and housesitting gig two and half years ago, in September 2014. We loved it and have done quite a few more, often for the same people (and pets). We’re about to return to Antwerp, Belgium, for our fourth cat and housesit for a wonderful couple who have become friends over the past couple of years. We’ll be in Antwerp for six weeks in a great Dutch-style house with two terrific cats in a neighborhood we love in a city and country we love and love exploring. We know and like the neighbors, as well as our favorite local shops, restaurants and beer bars. Pet and housesitting is a great way to temporarily step into another life and lifestyle and really get to know a place, to be something more than a tourist. You take on responsibilities (that we take very seriously), but you also get a free place to stay and a truly special experience. We love interspersing our own travels with these stays whenever a tempting opportunity presents itself. We often use a housesit to kick off other travels in the region, too. After our upcoming Antwerp stay, we’ll spend a few weeks tooling around the Baltics before flying home. It’s a much easier and cheaper flight from Brussels to Lithuania than anything I could find from the U.S.!

For the pet owner, it’s a great way to let your pets stay in their own familiar surroundings and not subject them to the stress (and potential exposure to illness) of outside boarding. It’s cheaper, too! A home is safer as well when it’s not left vacant. Sometimes housesits are offered even when no pets are involved.

Coming “home” to pets is a bonus to us
These two are sweethearts!

House- and Pet-sitting sites we’ve tried and our conclusions:
There are several sites out there to connect house- and pet-sitters with people looking for them. We’ve subscribed to three: Caretaker Gazette, Housecarers and Trustedhousesitters. (You’ll find a 20% discount for our favorite here.) I received one positive response from Caretaker Gazette–our first foray into this world–, but found most of their listings to be for true caretakers: b&b, small inn, or farm managers or long-term live-in caretakers. [I had major doubts about the Caretaker Gazette after I received an email from a homeowner saying he hadn’t authorized the posting of his ad which he’d placed with another publication. We no longer subscribe and will not again.] Housecarers seems to be a reputable site, but is very heavily Australia-weighted, and I found its web site awkward to use and let the membership lapse.

We have been most happy with, based out of England. It has worldwide listings, but the most numerous countries on the site are UK, USA, Canada, France, Australia and New Zealand. While there is still some room for improvement, overall their web site is well thought-out and easy to use. You can search openings without joining, but you’ll only see the newest postings if you join. This is important as competition is fierce for appealing locations. Owners are often swamped with applications. (The woman in Antwerp for whom we pet and housesit told me she got 30-something responses in the first day or so. Your vacation house in the south of France or on a Caribbean beach or your posh flat in London will be swamped with people wanting to pamper your house and pets.)

Creating your pet and housesitting profile:
Once you’ve paid your dues, create a profile introducing yourself and your relevant experience. Even if you’ve never been a house- and/or pet-sitter before, you’ve got experience if you’ve owned or cared for pets (or farm animals), been a homeowner, gardener, tended a swimming pool, etc. Be sure to post photos and any references. If you’re just starting out as a pet and housesitter, use other character references. We used the Executive Director of a charitable board I served on and a former law partner of David’s. We’d already had background checks done for our French resident visas, but you can get them done via Trustedhousesitters for added reassurance.

View of the Willamette River from the balcony of our first pet and housesit in Oregon

Getting your first gig:
Because it can be so competitive, you may want to start with something that might not be so high-demand. It doesn’t hurt to shoot for a week in Paris your first time out, but you might have more luck with something closer to home. Once you get a housesit under your belt and a (hopefully) positive review, you’ve got experience to bring to your next housesit and a budding resumé. Look, too, for listings where you might have an edge up. Our first pet and housesit was for a wonderful Oregon professor who was heading to an annual stay in Paris. My years as a Paris ex-pat caught her eye and our love of Paris is something we have in common. It didn’t hurt that she has two cats and David did years of cat rescue. People with horses will look for people with horse experience. Foreign language skills can come in handy; so can gardening and horticulture skills. I once saw a couple looking for someone with aquaculture experience. You get the idea. It also pays to scan the site frequently and jump on any new listings that appeal to you. If you’re the first to respond, you’re ahead of the game. The site has recently upgraded so you can see how many people have applied already. That’s a useful tool.

Owners will email and call to get to know you. Usually, they want to Skype, FaceTime, etc. It’s normal for them to interview several candidates before making a selection, although we’ve had them just say “yes” on the spot.

David cooking with cat in Oregon
…and cooking with cats in Belgium. He’s a popular guy!

Your responsibilities as a pet and housesitter:
Being a pet and housesitter isn’t just a free hotel somewhere. You’re staying in someone’s home and caring for a beloved pet. You’re there to take care of both. You should provide not only the basics for the pet(s)–food, water, exercise and “bathroom” needs–but also companionship and affection. If a medical issue arises, be prepared to take the animal to the vet. If unsure whether the condition merits veterinary attention, contact the owner if possible to find out their preference.

We pride ourselves on leaving the house as clean or cleaner than when we arrive. I like to keep any flower beds or flower boxes weeded and tidy, too, and will happily plant a few things, as well. Usually, the owner invites us to eat anything perishable in the fridge, but clarify that along with what spices, etc. are up for grabs. If we finish off something that would otherwise have been usable on the owners’ return, we replace it. Often, I set aside things that might get broken or spilled on (especially in the kitchen). I take photos of where items are when we arrive and try to put everything back just as it was when we leave. If there’s time prior to departure, we launder the sheets and towels. If there’s no time because of a quick hand-off (due to flights, etc.), we ask what the owners would like done. We offer to pick up groceries for the owners’ arrival and have cooked a welcome-home dinner on occasion. Just imagine what you’d expect and appreciate if it were your home and pet and do that. Get emergency contact numbers: for family, neighbors, vets, plumbers. Find out where the fuse box is and ask about any appliance quirks, etc.

Sharing my morning routine with one of our charges

Who usually pays for what:
For most pet and housesits, the lodging and utilities are free to the sitter. For some longer-term (multi-month) sits, the owner might ask the sitter to pay something towards utilities. Travel expenses are borne by the sitter. If private transportation is required, some owners offer the use of a car, but many do not so a rent car may be necessary in some locations. Factor in the costs before you commit to a housesit.

Staying long-term creates more opportunities to see local events

Things to think about:
We’ve only dealt with very nice, easy-to-work-with homeowners. Still, it’s only smart to do a little research. Read reviews. (They work both ways: owners review sitters and vice versa.) Use Google Earth to check out neighborhoods. Ask questions. You don’t necessarily need a contract (and I was an attorney by profession), but it never hurts to spell out your understanding in an email. At the very least talk about anything that might give rise to a misunderstanding before you accept the housesit. Trustedhousesitter does offer a housesitter agreement form, but it’s not intended to be a legal document.

When pets are involved, be sure you’re really up to the task. If you’re not comfortable with big dogs or horses, for example, don’t let a luxurious house or a dreamed-of locale tempt you beyond your capacity. Some pets require a lot more in-person time than others; think of a goldfish vs. a puppy. Be sure you can make the time commitment, and don’t expect to be as free as you would be on a self-paid vacation.

We fell in love with this big sweetie!

Once you commit to being a housesitter, nothing short of serious medical problems or death should keep you from showing up. Someone else is now counting on you to make their travel plans work, so don’t accept a housesit unless you’re 100% committed. The same applies if you’re an owner; your housesitter may be out pricey plane tickets and other expenses if you back out. The relationship depends on trust.

A 20% discount!
If you’re interested in giving Trustedhousesitters a try, you can use my referral link for a 20% discount. I’d really appreciate it since I’ll get an extension on my membership, too. Thank you in advance to anyone who uses the link!