Ms ZiYou housesitter cat

Using housesitters – a mad cat ladies perspective

It’s no secret I love to travel frugally. And I don’t think it’s much of a secret that I’m also a mad cat lady. And my cat loves being at home. So although I’ve tried out many options for pet care when I’m away – getting in housesitters has proven to be a winner for me.


2019 has been a year of travel. I’ve been on quite a few trips and probably more than usual. One of the downsides of going away is I have to leave my rather temperamental cat. Previously I had taken him to a local cattery but I had been getting bad vibes and suspected they did not want my business in reality. I thought it was just me, but a few dodgy google reviews have indicated I am not alone.

So as I looked for alternatives, I struggled to find any decent catteries.  Compared to a free rein over a house and garden, a cattery pen is not that appealing. And so the idea of housesitters came to mind and I thought it might be worth exploring. After all, my cat loves this house. We’ve lived in two other houses together and I can tell you, this is his fave by far. It’s the biggest house, but truth be told, I think it’s the catflap that sells him.

Housesitting 101

What is housesitting? There are several variants of housesitting, paid or unpaid. I’m going to concentrate on the unpaid variety, which works on a barter arrangement. The paid version is more transactional trading labour for time. The barter of the unpaid version is free lodging for free pet and home care.

Now bartering is an unfashionable idea nowadays when we are used to money and everything being exchanged based on that medium. But I think bartering can really work well in housesitting. The deal is you let a housesitter stay for free, and they look after your animals for free. Housesitters tend to be either people on holiday or who want to explore different parts of the country. A lot work remotely or are retired. And so an ideal trade can be arranged between those wanting housing and willing to provide pet care, and those with the exact opposite needs.

Benefits of having a lived-in house and nothing steal-able

But onto a very important point. Having a housesitter isn’t for everyone. You have to be chill. And not worried about your sofa, things getting spilt or broken. So if you tend to keep your house like a showhome, or have lots of breakables, it might not be for you. Likewise on the valuables side. If your home is a burglar’s paradise, you are not likely to feel comfortable with a housesitter.

Luckily, my home is on the lived-in side. It is reasonably clean and tidy but has its fair share of scratches and scruffy marks. Not mention everything is used and second hand, so there is nothing worth stealing that you’d get anything for on the second-hand market at all. If anyone ever tried to burglar me, that’d leave disappointed and empty-handed.

Taking the plunge and using housesitters

Do you think it sounds scary? Letting someone come into your house? Handing over the keys and your beloved pet’s care. I believe that sometimes you just have to make a leap and trust people. Or more importantly, trust your senses and judgement.

Screening a potential housesitter is really, really important. Much like online dating if you get a strange feeling say no. No matter what. Check that your expectations match and they can cope with the nuances of your home. Arrange to meet in person or video chat and trust your intuition.

Good Housesitter Experiences

So far I’ve used three housesitters. And two of them I’d easily categorise as good to great housesitters. They were a pleasure to communicate with and made me feel my cat was safe and loved. When I returned home my place was clean and tidy – and bonus, they even left me leftover food! It’s always good to have milk when you return.

Bad Housesitters Experiences

On the other hand, one of my housesitters was not great. I didn’t screen her as well as I should have and it shows. She claimed to be a profesional house sitter than took free jobs between paid gigs. Yet google revealed a few other careers attempts. But I ignored the warning signs and went with her.

I got a message the day before I returned that a family member had taken ill and she had to leave. When I got home the cat and chickens had no food. And the house wasn’t very clean – the kitchen sink still has unwashed dishes. Luckily the animals were ok and I could easily sort the cleaning out. But I did kick myself for making a bad choice. Now I know what to look for I will be much more careful.

Would I do it again?

In balance yes I do feel housesitters are worth it. In addition to having someone to look after pets, it is reassuring to have someone looking after the house itself. Plants get watered and any potential issues nipped in the bud. And on the financial side, as it’s a barter arrangement housesitters reduce the need for petsitting expenses when you go away. And the best holidays is concluded when you come home to happy pets and a clean house.

Over to you

  • What are your thoughts?
  • Have you ever used housesitters?
  • Have you ever housesat for someone else?

Thank you for reading – please leave a comment below and join in the conversation. You can also connect on Twitter or contact me privately.

13 comments on “Using housesitters – a mad cat ladies perspective

  1. I’ve been considering doing some cat sitting in the future because I love cats and I love free accommodation. Would you ever consider doing it yourself as a way to make holidays cheaper? Ps. Your cat looks very noble 🐱

    1. Hi leftFi – saying nice things about my cat is always encouraged.

      And yes, once I can travel for longer I will start looking into housesitting myself. I’d love to do that sort of slow travel, and definitely see some of it in my future.

  2. I am (a wee bit) alergic to cats but would gladly house sit (unpaid) if it meant a free house in a trip.
    We like to travel lots and that puts us off getting any more mouths to feed.
    You don’t keep your pets, your pets keep you!

  3. I have just started researching house sitters, not because we have pets, but because we leave our house empty for long periods of time. (We are just about to embark on our 5th Slow Travel – 7 weeks in Athens…)

    A couple of years, we had friends staying for most of the time, or we were getting work done in the house. This year, it’s going to be empty the whole time. The idea of getting the grass cut, someone sleeping in the house pretty regularly is quite appealing. I don’t want to do the massive clear-out that would be needed to let it for 7 weeks.

    One to research a bit further, I think

  4. I am interested to know which house sitting sites you use. I have looked at a few on line. My partner and I love dogs and so I have thought of dog-sitting for a week. Some sites charge a fee just to look at the available house sits, which puts me off somewhat.

  5. We used to have a friend come and cat / house / plant sit when we were travelling. They had a much smaller flat and so was always happy to come, which was a real win-win. Like you our cat was older (well not like you, but like your cat!) and she was much happier in her own place. We never used a cattery.

    Now we’re come up for FIRE I’ve been looking at more travel options and spent a bit of time looking at the websites where you can pet / house sit. Sadly our cat passed a couple of years ago (at 19) but it does mean we are in the position where we could start to look at being the sitters. There are some amazing place to go so I guess you pick the country and location then look for options. Would be interested to know if anyone else has done this and also how they hooked up with either the sitter or person needing the sitter? Also, what are your expectations from the sitter? I guess it’s really important to set the rules clearly upfront.

What do you think?