For the first 24 years of my life dogs were the main animals in my family, with the exception of the time I lived in Kenya and we had a cat for a very brief period. It was only after I got married that I considered having a cat in the house, and that only because our house in Delhi at the time was on the ground floor and we were regularly invaded by rodents of all sizes. So I considered that first cat adopted in India more of a household staff member, gainfully employed to rid us of the miscreant rodents. What do you know, Simba turned out to be every bit of a scaredy-cat and would cower in the corner until I came in with a broom and ushered the rodent out. Hmpf.
Roughly 23 years later, I live with three cats whom I consider trusted family members, and do cat-sitting on the side. I belong to a cat-sitting network called cat-in-a-flat, which you can join as a sitter or owner seeking a sitter. The money is good, and so far all my clients have been adorably interesting, each with quirky characters and charms that affirm my choice of sidelining. (For the dog owners out there wondering, yes of course there are dog equivalents of this network!)
There is more to cat-sitting than just cleaning out the litters and refilling the food bowls. The codex is to be followed, and the cats are clients who need company and attention, and above all their emotional needs catered to in the absence of their human family. Not all of my feline clients are a walk in the park though, and with some, no matter how hard I try to coax them out of their corner by whispering sweet nothings and shaking kitty treats, they simply won´t budge.
Cats are creatures who will always carry two extra genes – one that reminds humans that we once worshipped them as gods, and another that tells the world that the cat sets the rules for humans, not the other way around. Once you wrap your mind around that, the rest falls into place.
I prefer to cater to the older cats, aside from the fact that they are more set in their ways and can be tough nuts to crack, primarily because they need the company more than the entertainment, just like their human senior citizen counterparts. As long as I receive complete instructions from the human housemates (you never own a cat, you live with it), it is smooth sailing.
The whole experience of cat-sitting is enriching, to say the least. Not only do I get to discover more of my city, but I get to interact with interesting people and cats alike. Yes, sometimes getting up a couple of hours earlier than I am used to is difficult, but the cats are always worth the effort, and they are generous with their gratitude.
NB: in the interest of privacy, the photographs of the cats in this entry are of my own cats