Cat Sitter Case Study: Sydney, CA
If you love cats and would like to jump on board with the gig economy, cat sitting with Meowtel is a fantastic option. We are the number one platform for in-home cat care, and our site makes it easy to connect cat lovers in cities around the United States.
Unsure of whether caring for felines in their own homes is right for you? You might be interested in reading this case study, which outlines the experience of one of our sitters, Sydney. You can find her under “Cat and Caboodle” on Meowtel, caring for kitties in and around the Santa Monica area.
Read on to hear more about Sydney’s experience as a sitter.
Tell me a bit about yourself: Where were you born?
What brought you to the city you currently reside in?
When I was four years old, I said I was moving to LA; I was moving to California. When I turned 18, I packed three suitcases and I lived in somebody’s walk-in closet for a while. I’ve built my life here! I’ve put lots of time and effort into everything. It’s been a struggle; I had to go back for a few years to help my mom. Now, I’ve been out here for five years as of next month and I love it here.
What is your sitter travel radius/area you sit in?
Six miles. Mostly in Santa Monica. Lately, it’s just been Santa Monica but I have been in Venice and Brentwood.
What compelled you sign up to be a sitter with Meowtel?
Extra money. I want to go to medical school, and working full time is not enough—especially living here. I don’t even have a car.
I am paid generously in my main job, but with student loans and everything else, it’s just not enough. Cat sitting is a more relaxing type of job. Most people will be like, “Watch Netflix, if you want to study, study. You can be here as long as you want!” There’s this couple, they call me Aunt Sydney because I’m there all the time. I met their cats when they were kittens. So anyway, they tell me, “sit and Netflix. Eat whatever you want in our fridge! Study if you want to stay extra time!” Clients are really nice.
What is your favorite part about being a Meowtel sitter?
Meeting the clients! And their cats. I mean, I love cats; I adore them. So, meeting new people and meeting their cats. Knock on wood, I’ve really had some amazing experiences with it. I’ve met some wonderful, wonderful people.
How long have you been a sitter with Meowtel?
A year! A year as of I think, this month.
Tell me about your own cat(s)! Name? Age? How did they join your family?
Well with my cat Delman, I wanted a kitten. Fredrick was with my brother at the time and I was really upset about that, and Milo passed away in 2016, so I really wanted a kitten.
Delman, photo via Melanie Deisz
I moved out of my house in Venice and moved in with my (now) ex. I wanted a kitten. I looked online at adoption centers. It had been weeks and I had seen a lot of nice cats, and I ended up spending three hours at Adopt And Shop (in Culver City) with him. They were so good to me—they actually make you go through a little bit of a process which is nice. I like that because I would hope they wouldn’t just give these animals to just anybody.
So, I went back the next day and picked him up. He put his little paw on the glass–oh my heart! I then I brought him home. I wanted to name him after one of my grandparents so since he was a boy, I named him Delman, which is my grandfather’s middle name.
And he’s two?
Yep, he’s two. And Fredrick is 15. I’ve always been into weird, goofy names. Fredrick just looked like a Fredrick to me.
When did you realize that you were obsessed with cats?
Oh gosh. I always grew up with cats. My mom and dad never wanted a dog because it’s a lot. They require a lot of stuff, so we never got a dog. We had Milo… and when Fredrick came into the mix… Ya know, they’re so chill and relaxed.
Sometimes I force my love on them. When it’s your own cat, ya know, ya just deal with it. I’m like, “Love me nooowww!” I guess since I was little. I just grew up with cats. As hyper as I can get sometimes, I’m just more of a relaxed, just let me sit in my bed kind of person. I, of course, do toys with them and stuff. I just don’t like having to be responsible for going out, making sure the dogs go out on walks. It’s too high maintenance for me.
If you could have your dream job, would it involve cats?
Sadly, no. I want to be a doctor. Medicine is my passion. If it means anything, if I did win the lottery, I would have a cat farm. You know, do adoptions through the cat farm and have it be just strictly cats. It would have all kinds of tunnels! But my heart is in medicine.
Has becoming a sitter with Meowtel taught you anything about yourself?
Oh gosh, yeah. I guess it’s learning to work with different people. I work with the same people all day; I work in an Accounting firm so it’s the same nine people. All day. Every day. So, it’s nice to be able to learn how to work with different kinds of people.
Fredrick, photo via Melanie Deisz
I’ve learnt about prioritizing my time now. As of this year, I’m just insanely busy. It taught me a lot about that. There’s so many things! It really has been the best. I love it.
I’m better at being on a schedule too, now. I have to do things like boom, boom, boom, boom, which is great. Sonya said, “You’ll be really busy on the holidays” and she was right. I was really busy. Working with all kinds of families. It’s been nice because I don’t really have anybody out here, so now I’ve made all these relationships with people. I end up missing their cats. Oh! Mrs. Finkle! I miss Mrs. Finkle. My buddy, my pal. It’s been really good.
What is the most rewarding part about being a Meowtel sitter?
I would say giving people ease and peace of mind. Because I know how I am with my own cats. I am very, very overly protective of them. I don’t let just anyone come into my house. I don’t really let them around other people too much. I just want to make sure they’re always happy and loved and not scared.
So, just making sure their mind is at ease because I know how I would feel. I mean, I never leave but I know how it would feel, especially with people going far away. Some people will go… to Tahiti, I think. One couple had gone there on vacation. And I was just thinking to myself, “How would I feel being so many miles away?” Like, that’s your child. I just know how I would be. I would miss them dearly. I sometimes flood people’s phones with videos, which people are grateful for. My phone is full!
How has Meowtel helped you achieve any personal, professional, or financial goals?
I guess professionally, I’ve tried using everything from this and applying it to being a doctor. You know, talking to people. I’m very, very good at talking but communicating things, sometimes, I’m not communicating the right words.
Financially, I wouldn’t have this (points to apartment), I don’t know where I would be without if I didn’t have the extra income. It’s been a huge blessing. Me and my boyfriend, at the time, broke up and I didn’t really have anywhere to go. Because of this I could get into this place. I hadn’t been on my own since college and I was so sick of living with my roommate. He was great, we just had opposite schedules. There’s a difference between living with somebody and living on your own. I think people were like, “You’re never going to live on your own in Santa Monica! It’s so expensive!” I’m doing it now!
Where do you like to promote yourself?
I’ve done Nextdoor which has been kind of good. Some people say they don’t want to go through a website. But wouldn’t you rather go through the website? I think so. There was one woman who had asked me if I would go outside of Meowtel and I was like, “I think it would be better for me to stay.” I tried to make it about safety.
Delman and Sydney, photo via Melanie Deisz
I started a Facebook page but I should start asking people, “How did you find me?” I guess word of mouth, too. I have had a lot of clients refer people to me, so that’s been nice. Another thing I’m doing, I just need more time, I wanted to put flyers and go to different vets around here and put my flyer up because I think that would be an awesome way to gain more clients. That was my other idea, and make business cards eventually.
With the Nextdoor app, they really like that they can see my main page and all my reviews and kind of go from there, so that’s been really nice.
What's one thing you do that makes your clients smile?
I have the thank you cards and I bought a huge $15 box of the little mice. So, I leave a magnet, a thank you card and little mice for each cat. And they really like that. A lot of people too, I usually tell them about myself, how long I’ve been a sitter, my intentions for medical school. Everything I make with this goes directly into my medical school savings account. I think it puts their mind at ease a little bit more because they know more about me, too. So, I’m just really personable. I always try to find something I can compliment them on.
Has there been a tough cat situation you've had to deal with during a reservation?
Oh, perfect example! I was sitting for these two tuxedo cats and this person had a three-level townhouse. It was huge. It had all these crevasses and all of these places. So, I think I was on one visit a day and I had gone there in the morning.
I went there in the morning and I couldn’t find them. She was like, “It’s fine, if you don’t see them right away, you’ll probably see one of them the next day.” And it was day two, and I was like ok. Everything was normal; there was no way those cats could have left. Other than the door that I came through, I mean I would have seen them, there was no way they could have gone. So the second day I was like, “Ok, I don’t see him.” By the end of my work day, I was in tears. Because I was like “Oh my gosh, like what if…” I just went through every possible horrible scenario. I didn’t text the client like, “Oh my gosh!…” I’m like, I’m just going to go back there tonight because the cats know that I come there in the morning and they always hid. My Aunt’s cats, same cat sitter for four years, she never sees those cats. Never not once. So anyways, I went back there that night. I literally walked in and he was sitting right in front of the door. I’m like, “Thank you!” I was beside myself. I texted her, “I went back, do not feel like you need to pay me extra or anything. I just wanted to clarify for my own peace of mind that both were in the home.”
And going back to your question about things I’ve learned, how to communicate with people and not go to that horrible place. Like, communicating the right way without causing them extra stress while they’re away, because you’re already away from your house and then someone is calling you with a dilemma. So, I’ve just learned how to work through that the right way. My number one goal is to make sure everyone is 110% happy. You can be happy, but I try to go above and beyond for people.
Who’s been your favorite client story since joining Meowtel?
Oh gosh. Mrs. Finkle is really funny. She’s hilarious, that cat. Ohhhh, I remember. It was a Persian, his hair was longer, it was right before they took him to get his hair shaved and he had a poop stuck to his butt. I had just met him so he was still learning me. I would never run at them; ya know, get low, let them come to you, let them smell you. I didn’t want to leave the poop on his butt and I didn’t want to chase him. So, I would inch closer to him and he would look at me. Oh, the joys of cat sitting. So, I kind of crept closer and he would back away a little bit. It was 45 minutes of this. I finally got the poop off his butt just to step in one I did not see, in my sock. I laugh about it now but at the time I was like, “Can I just go home?!”
And my other one I guess, is the kittens. They both like to go on your shoulders and knead and nurse. I had both kitties with them right here (motions to her shoulders). I had sent them a picture with me and the babies. People are just so great; she is especially one of my favorite clients. She’s just the nicest person. “That just melts my heart!” They’re the people that are like, “Eat whatever you want, watch Netflix, if you don’t have Netflix, watch your show.” She’s just so good to me. They’ll leave little things out for me. Like when I come, they leave little candies out for me. I love these people. Of course, I love, love their cats but I’ve always had amazing people. People will bring me things back from their trips. This one woman went to Japan and brought me back all of these little treats.
What’s the one toy that your cat clients unanimously love?
I usually bring a laser if they don’t have one. And they really love that. A lot of people don’t have them, so they get a kick out of watching their cat get really excited.
I guess the mice, too. These cats love these mice. The mice I bring, I don’t know if it’s maybe the smell of my house, but they always tell me ,“My cat is going crazy over the mouse! We have a ton of those but he wants that mouse in particular!”
I guess the other thing with this is, this (cat sitting) is my baby. This has been my baby. You can ask my mom, I’ve put hours and so much time in perfecting everything I do. I really put a lot of time and thought into all of this because it’s brought so much to my life. I am so grateful not only for the extra money but for the wonderful, nice people I’ve met. It’s just brought so much to my life so I think of this as my baby. So I try, I try to do so much for the clients and go above and beyond because like I said, I couldn’t imagine leaving them.
What do you think is the most important skill needed to be a successful Meowtel sitter?
Definitely a knowledge of cats. I saw immediately, you went low to the floor. Just an understanding. Dogs are so easily pleased. You can please dogs by just existing. Cats are a different breed. You know, they all have different personalities. Like his personality (Delman) is way over here and Fredrick’s is way over here. So I think, just knowing that.
I also think patience, because not all cats are going to open up to you right away, if at all. My aunt’s cat sitter, she sat for those cats for four years and those cats will not go near her. But you know, I’ll sit with a book and read for a little bit. If they want to come up to me, that’s fine. Sometimes I’ll just sit there, I’ll look at their toys or look at them and talk to them.
I think too, the biggest thing for me is putting the clients and the cats before myself, too in a way. Of course, in some ways, I have to put myself first but just making sure people are happy, too. I’m representing Meowtel, I’m representing myself but I’m also representing Sonya’s baby. You’re a part of the Meowtel community. It’s like with work. We have high-profile clients; A-List celebrities. I’m kind of their “show face” when they have new clients come in. I’ll be downstairs, show them around, be the first contact for them. Always making sure that people are happy.
We know your schedule is crazy busy! What’s the one tool you love to use to stay organized?
Oh my gosh, my planner. I don’t like using my phone planner; I like using my (physical) planner because I’m writing it out. Which people get a kick out of!
Oh, I have to add to something about what people really enjoy and what makes them happy. I take notes. For everything. I write down every detail that they tell me. Things that they like. I actually started my own little questionnaire of things I want to ask them. But yeah, this is my life saver. This is my life saver. That and like I said, I guess toys. I have a whole box of toys that Delman doesn’t really use anymore and so I’ll use some of those toys if they don’t have a ton of toys. Or if they seem bored with their toys, I try to, I try to bring different things for them so we can do different playing.
How many kitty client photos do you think you have on your phone?
Probably like 600. I go in and delete a lot. At the end of the week I try to delete. I try to set aside a half hour or so and go in and delete pictures. I cannot have this overflow. Plus I like to be able to go in to mine. People will ask to see pictures of my cats and I want to be able to go, “Oh yeah! Right here” and not be a total mess. At one point, I think I had 1000 pictures and I was like, I need to go through this.
What’s one piece of advice you’d like to share with our new Meowtel sitters?
Definitely ask questions like, “Do you have a spare key? Where is your spare key?” I think the other thing is ask the cat’s likes and dislikes for sure.
Just make it as personable as you can. Like, they’re my babies, Max is your baby. I mean, like I said, I go to work, I’m on my computer, working but I have my computer screen on my babes. Just really thinking about how you would feel in that situation is my biggest thing and I go into every Meet and Greet with that. You know, how would I feel? What are things I would hope that somebody would do for me or ask me? Definitely know that cats have different personalities.
You know, going above and beyond is my biggest thing. Sweeping the litter off of the floor in front of the litter box, it does a lot, it says a lot. My last thing too, you’re representing Meowtel. You’re representing yourself in a way, but you’re also representing Meowtel. So, ya know, don’t be on your phone the whole time. Usually during my visits, I’ll be taking pictures and I will send them to them right away when I’m there. Or if work calls, I’m sure that’s ok but it’s not like I’m going on Instagram and sending some snaps. You’re there for a half an hour; it’s not that long. And like I said, some people are like, “No, hang out, read a book, study, do whatever you want!” Unless it’s someone I’ve been with… like the kittens, sometimes I’m there for an hour and a half. I’ll sit and read. I’ll do my half an hour with them and then I’ll sit and read and whatever. They like me for a reason and I want to keep them coming back. I guess my other thing is treat everyone with the same respect, even the more difficult clients.
Everyone’s cat sitting tales are unique, and we love to hear about our sitter’s experiences—thanks Sydney! The most standout feature of Meowtel’s sitters are that they all absolutely adore cats. Some people call it crazy, we call it devoted. Whatever you call it, it makes for fantastic in-home care for anyone’s feline friends. Reserve a sitter or apply to sit cats today!