Caitlin UltimoPet Parenting / Pet Stories

How My Spoiled Cat Turned Me into a Cat Sitter

My “Gracie boo-bah” kitty is my constant companion and cuddle buddy. In addition to putting a song in my heart (yes, I sing to my cat), my spoiled puss led me to a fun side hustle as a cat sitter. This is how it all started.

How I Met Gracie

“What about you?” I said as I gazed into the big green eyes of a petite grey-and-brown tabby.

It was a late summer day when my husband and I boarded the animal rescue van looking for a new family member to take home. While my husband lingered in front the kitten cages, I found our Gracie a few rows down.

When one of the rescue volunteers removed her from her cage and handed her to my husband, whom I signaled to take a look at the petite beauty, she shivered like a leaf and nervously shed like crazy. But as another cat in the van had a tantrum and meowed loudly, Gracie’s demeanor changed.

She coolly looked at the testy feline like, “What’s the fuss?” and clung to her new daddy’s chest. Eight years later, we can’t imagine life without her.

From Cat Lady to Cat Sitter

I always have been a cat lady. Growing up, I claimed an orange-and-white alley cat named Jinx who would come and go from my grandma’s backyard. Shortly before my Granny passed away, my aunt gave her a nervous black-and-white rescue named Buttons, whom I also considered mine.

But Gracie was all my own, and she was my first experience being a full-time cat mom.

Tracy with her cat, Gracie. Gracie inspired her mom to launch her own cat-sitting business. Photo Courtesy of Tracy Hopkins

Giving Gracie a forever home was the best decision my hubby and I have made as a couple, besides tying the knot. We don’t have children, so she is like our daughter, and she has us—especially her daddy—wrapped around her little paws.

When we first adopted Gracie, she was a timid 2-year-old and needed a lot of TLC. Now she isn’t afraid to belt a steady meow and let us know when she’s ready for her cat treats, to drink water from the bathroom sink, or for a belly rub.

Gracie has amped up my adoration for cats. She also has shown me that my calling doesn’t have to be huge or even connected to my longtime profession in publishing; it can be as simple as doing something I love.

For several years I yearned to trade in my full-time publishing career for a freelance lifestyle that included working with—you guessed it—cats. I realized just how serious my yearning was when a prospective employer asked me where I saw myself in five years and I responded, “Running my own cat sanctuary.”

That was not the best answer if I wanted the editor role I was interviewing for. But I spoke my truth.

After doing a cat-sitting swap with a neighbor, I had (as Oprah would say), an “A-ha moment.” So I ordered business cards, purchased pet sitting insurance and launched my business, HappyCat Brooklyn Cat Sitting, by posting flyers in my apartment building and advertising my services on social media.

Adventures in Cat Sitting: Lessons Learned

Cat sitting is about more than changing cat food and scooping poop. As a cat sitter, you want to make your clients feel confident that you have things under control while they’re away.

My experiences hiring a cat sitter for Gracie taught me what not to do. One cat sitter watered down Gracie’s wet food because that’s how her cat liked it, and another called me “freaking out” on Thanksgiving Day because she couldn’t find my girl, who was chilling in one of her hiding spots.

Tracy with her first cat sitting client, Sen, who is Gracie’s huskier doppelganger. Photo Courtesy of Tracy Hopkins

Then there was a formerly reliable family friend who turned into the cat sitter from hell. Despite multiple requests, she neglected to check in with me daily, always had an excuse for why she was late getting to Gracie, and inexplicably held two sets of our house keys hostage for a week after we returned from vacation. All of these are major cat-sitting no-no’s.

Because I know what it’s like to be a worried cat mom, I send daily texts to check in, include cute, candid photos of the kitties and give updates about eating and behavioral changes. Plus, as a token of appreciation, I leave new cat toys.

The Cat Client List

I used to think that spending time with other cats was cheating on Gracie. But I’ve learned that she’s not the jealous type—or at least she doesn’t show it. If anything, the cats I care for can pick up on her scent and know me as Gracie’s mom.

I have a unique relationship with each one of my cat clients, who all have different cattitudes. Like all quality pet sitters, when I’m with them, their well-being is my top priority. These are my regulars:

  • Sen, an affectionate tabby—and Gracie’s huskier doppelganger—was my first cat client. This lovable big boy likes to pounce on cat toy mice and will claim my lap for as long as I’ll let him.
  • Harry is a handsome—and skittish—black-and-white cat who turns in circles with his tail sticking straight up in the air when I come in to feed him. He’s a doll, but he will swipe at my ankles if I don’t give him enough attention.
  • Charlie is a stunning and moody black cat. Sometimes he’s my friend, but lately he just hisses and hides under the bed. I still sing to him and leave him his favorite cat treats.
  • Waffles is a waifish peach-and-white kitty who loves to slink across the carpet and leap from counters and tabletops. She’s a joy and even cozies next to me on the couch.
  • Henry is a distinguished dark gray-and-white senior cat with whom I’ve made the most progress. Initially, Henry wouldn’t come out to eat until I’d left the room. After visits over several months, however, I eventually won him over by hand-feeding him treats. Now he even lets me caress his cheeks and wipe the sleep from his eyes.

As my Brooklyn cat-sitting business continues to grow, I enjoy making new feline friends. But Gracie will always be my No. 1.


By: Tracy Hopkins

Featured Image: Via Tracy Hopkins

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