It’s very nearly springtime…

…I can say this with certainty because my dad sent me a picture of snowdrops from his allotment this morning! They may have been covered with a light frost… but they were definitely tinkly-bell snowdrops! Which got me to thinking of the things I want to do this Spring!

Build an outdoor catio for Lyla and Boop. We started plans for this last year, but with the great British weather, uncertainties over a house-move, a new kitten in the family – and general humming and hah-ing it got put off! But not for long… I’m busy doodling designs and pricing materials right now!

The Sunflower challenge. March is a great time to start planting your seeds in the house before popping them out in what will hopefully be a frost-free April. I’d like to have a Whiskers family competition; Me, Richy, Lyla and Boop.

Make Lyla and Boop new springtime collars. Last year I made Boop and Lyla pawprint cat collars for their Christmas box. Since then I haven’t spent nearly enough time getting to grips with my sewing machine but I think these two deserve something a bit brighter as it gets a bit warmer. I’d love to make a big batch of collars and sell them on behalf of some of the brilliant animal rescue charities in the area. Watch this space : )

Fabric cat collar

Boop’s homemade christmas cat collar (and Lyla’s poorly chin – all healed now!)

Eating Easter food (yom nom nom). I get so excited about hot cross buns with lemon curd and strawberry jam – you wouldn’t believe! Oooh and then there’s creme eggs. And chocolate crispy cornflake cakes with mini eggs and fluffy yellow chicks on top. And then there’s actual Easter eggs themselves. So. Really. I mean chocolate. I get very excited about all the chocolate! Oh. And decorating hard boiled eggs (I like to make them into cats, obviously).

Find baby animals! I’m on the lookout all the time. But specifically, I’ll be visiting Washington Wildfowl Park to look for baby chicks and listen to the otter talks. My favourite farms are Hall Hill in Durham and White House near Morpeth where you can bottle feed the goats… and then at a push, there’s always hanging out the window to look for lambs while driving. Especially black lambs. They’re special.

And of course… seeing old furry friends and meeting lovely new customers. It’s been a bit quieter over the winter months as everyone saves up their pennies for the summer holidays but already I’ve had the pleasure of looking after some of my favourites from last year. I’m also really looking forward to meeting lots of new clients who are busy organising their 2013 trips away.

For a quick read about home pet sitting please click here – or feel free to get in touch for a chat. I am always happy to talk about your furry friends!

Wishing everybody a happy and healthy springtime!

Rachel x

(The Cat Whiskerer)

Happy Christmas from Whitburn Whiskers

We pet sitters had a very merry Christmas at the Whitburn Whiskers’ headquarters! Our two furry family members were well and truly spoiled to bits – not least by some of the lovely presents our brilliant customers sent over (and our family, friends and Santa Claws!). And don’t forget Richy and I! The cards, chocolates, biscuits and other pet paraphernalia we received were so appreciated. And already eaten : )

Richy, Rachel and Jeffrey

Richy, Rachel and Jeffrey

Our kitten nearly grown up!

Our Boop nearly all grown up!

Christmassy Lyla-cat

Christmassy Lyla-cat

I love being a pet sitter in Sunderland and South Shields – I’ve had a brilliant year and met some brilliant new customers – pet people are my favourite kind of people… and as my collection of furry friends grows bigger and bigger I just want to say a big thank you for choosing me to look after your little ones. It really is a big decision entrusting them to a stranger – but I’ve got fond memories of each and every one and look forward to seeing familiar faces in the new year. And to two of my favourites who were sadly no longer with us this Christmas time, Chloe and Molly – I’m so grateful to have looked after two very special ladies : )

Whitburn Whiskers team huddle

Go team Whitburn Whiskers!

We’re really looking forward to 2013 and all that it brings. There’ll be lots and lots of pictures of pets posted to our pet sitting facebook page – maybe moving towards making a charity calendar for Christmas next year! I love seeing all the nice comments and likes for all the pets that we care about so thanks to everyone that’s contributed. Right! Think that’s enough sentiment from me – even Boop’s bored!!…

That's enough, Rachel.

That’s quite enough, Rachel.

Festive best wishes to you all,

Rach x

(The Cat Whiskerer)

A home cat sitting visit in Sunderland

Wondering what your cat sitter actually does while you’re away? Well, we try to make sure that our visits are fully focused on your cats (and don’t worry, they make sure of this too!). Let’s use the lovely Thomas as an example of a normal cat sitting visit to a one-cat household in Sunderland (NB: A ‘normal visit’ is one where we don’t need to administer medication, rush to the emergency vets, clean up any spills or accidents, call a locksmith when the key snaps, spend 30 minutes just FINDING the cat, fixing anything broken, calling an out of hours plumber…)

Thomas and me

When I arrive at teatime, Thomas would have already heard the gate open and be sat at the door meowing loudly. I let myself in and edge around the door so he doesn’t run out – cue Tom-cat winding himself around his legs until I sit and give him a proper fuss. Then I’d pick up his black and yellow string (with a bell on the end) and we’d head round the house together closing all the blinds and curtains. We then have a bit of a play around until…

String with a ring

Thomas leads me back to the kitchen where he would let me know that it’s FOOD TIME. I collect up all his bowls and glasses (Thomas likes to drink out of a tumbler in the living room) and give them a good clean. I decide whether it’s normal tea – or special treat tea – leave him to tuck into dinner.

Yom nom nom

While he’s chomping, I’d go to the conservatory to water the plants and and refresh his litter tray and pop out to the wheelie bin. Sometimes Thomas couldn’t make his mind up whether to eat – or come and play with me so to put him at ease I’d write out his diary and sit near him. This means he isn’t yo-yoing between the two getting indigestion!

No Rachel, play with me!

When I first meet a client and their cat, I like to ask what their favourite toys and tricks are – nothing makes a cat feel at ease like their own things. One of these ‘things’ for Thomas was a very soggy battered monkey toy that used to be his mum’s! I’d been advised to maybe pick it up with a stick – Thomas also likes to chase and chew sticks – but I still wasn’t prepared for Thomas’ reaction! Hissing and pouncing and battering! I soon saw what being on the wrong side of this wonderfully fluffy feline could be like!

Thomas and the monkey

That said, I don’t play rough with cats that I look after! I find that the relationship between cat sittee and cat sitter is a wonderfully complex one. They’re aware (almost immediately) that I’m there for them – and nothing else. This means that I’m bossed from food bowl to toys to neck scratches to face nuzzles in quick succession. But I don’t think they know I’m paid to do this. I think – they think – that they have to be nice to me (don’t tell them the truth!). Either way, we have a mutually respectful relationship. We play nicely and nobody gets scratched or bitten (especially not the cat).

Bubbly cat

Cat in a bubble

I want to make sure that while their pet owners are away – my cats get lots of special treatment too. This means I have lots of tricks up my sleeve to make friends with cats; whether this is special catnip toys, a cat laser pen, or catnip bubbles! Either way it’s lots more fun for us both to play different games every day – and keep them interested in my visits. Cats are naturally inquisitive so bringing something new nearly always perks them up and also gives me a chance of wearing them out so they sleep happily between visits.

What’s this? What’s this? What’s this?

Most cats like to sniff my shoes and they can’t get enough of my scruffy canvas backpack I take everywhere. I think they all want to mark their scent on me before I head off to the next house! That… or they just don’t want me to leave 😉

This bag smells like treats

Rach x

(The Cat Whiskerer)

Adventures over at Tynemouth

I went on a little adventure one afternoon last week and visited the land across the water; Tynemouth! If it hadn’t been so foggy you’d be able to see Souter Lighthouse and the home of this Whitburn Whiskerer in the background as well!

British Heritage site

Tynemouth Priory

Tynemouth always seems like a proper day trip because of the time taken to cross the River Tyne and get there! It’s so silly when I can see it and it’s-just-over-there! But maybe because of this, the two sides of the river are so very different. Tynemouth is lovely and quiet compared to the bustle of our own South Shields – and I am a bit partial to a bit of bunting in a marketplace.

Flowery British Summertime

Tynemouth is full of independent shops, brilliant for present buying or for decorating the house. Let’s see… I bought some birthday presents for friends, a new baby present, some lovely handmade cards and some fudge. Then Mr Whiskers took hold of the purse strings before I could run off waving my hands above my head like an overexcited toddler. So! A quick drive along the coastline took us to Whitley Bay and time for some…

A risky business –  and they accepted cards too!!

Let’s be clear though. I only spent £1.00 and it lasted a pretty long time too. But who could resist the temptations of a Coronation Street branded penny machine! (Not me)

Dooooo… doo doo do-doo dooooooooo

We also shared a tray of chips and had a very short walk – before the icy winds of last week took their toll. Lovely warm weather today though! Typical. Next time we’re over in Tynemouth and Whitley Bay we’ll either attempt a round of crazy golf, visit the old toy museum or maybe say hello to the otters at the Sea Life centre. Who says you have to go far for a holiday?



(The Cat Whiskerer)

Behind the scenes of a South Shields pet sitter!

Whitburn Whiskers is a happily married pet sitting team looking after furry friends all over South Shields and Sunderland. Your pets may have heard about us via the twilight bark (a reference for the Disney lovers out there!) but for most of our local clients, pet sitting was something completely new to them. It had been the first time they’d considered inviting someone into their home and trusting them with their littlest family members.

I’ve been told it can be a little daunting – after all, you’re handing over your house keys and putting a lot of faith into a stranger. The hope, at the end of my first meeting with a new pet parent, is that I’ve babbled on so much about myself that I’ve hopefully won you over is that you’ll see that I love and am dedicated to my job, and will do my very best to make sure that both you and your pets are happy when it’s time for you to be apart. With that in mind, I’ve given some thought to the questions I’m asked the most by new clients.

Oliver showing me how easy it is to lick your own nose

“So how did you become a pet sitter?”

Newbies are genuinely interested in how Whitburn Whiskers started – or “What a fantastic job! Looking after cats all day?! How did that all happen?” Well! I graduated from Newcastle University in 2009 and set out to conquer the world (well, I got an office job in Sunderland) but I took to it quite happily. Later that year Mr Whitburn Whiskers and I managed to buy our first home while he was working in Iraq doing private security (eek). One horribly worrying year later, I realised that I was never destined to be a corporate suit. I decided to concentrate on doing something meaningful (in denim) and hopefully something that would make me happy and a little less lonely when Mr Whiskers was away. What could be better than being with animals and meetings lots of brilliant new people. I’ve always looked after relatives’ and friends’ pets and had quite a little following going already but taking the plunge professionally was a great feeling. I’m still genuinely excited to meet new pets and love hearing owners talk about their furry friends and hear funny stories. I’ve never had a job that I’ve enjoyed so much.

Olly making sure I smell okay (I think I passed)

“What’s it like being a pet sitter?”

It took me just a little research to realise that pet sitting would be a full time job. I never do things half-heartedly for one – but every day is different and animals can be very unpredictable! It’s a huge responsibility promising to look after someone’s pet which involves going to vets during work hours – and those expensive emergency call outs too. Apart from that, deciding whether to get in touch with owners when they’re on a day trip because their dog looked a little lacklustre than normal – it all adds to the responsibility. I’m a natural born worrier! However, being available 24/7, 7 days a week, 365 days a year (apart from when I try to go on holiday!) means that you know my first priority is pet sitting. For those Downtown Abbey watchers you may have heard Maggie Smith saying ‘What’s a weekend?’ – well that’s me in reverse – I’m Whitburn Whiskering every day!

I work with lots and lots of pet parents when they need to be away and I’m learning new things all the time – no two pets are the same and that’s the point of Whitburn Whiskers! I’ll take the time to learn each of your pet’s personalities and tailor my visits to their little quirks and habits – whilst also being bitten, scratched and hissed at along the way! Then there’s the stomach bugs, peculiar toilet habits, hairballs, old age, all sorts of other biological loveliness – or my favourite – dogs that give up halfway through the walk and it’ll be a toss between the carry home/ shuffle and stop method.

Sapphire having her cuddle/brushing routine

“What do you like most about being a pet sitter?”

  • There’s few things in life that can beat the company of a cat nap. My memories of the London Olympics include sitting on a comfy sofa watching them with Wilma every day!
  • I love trying to take photos of pets looking happy and comfortable at home – and sometimes the odd funny photo! I’m told there’s nothing like returning from holiday and knowing your furry friend has enjoyed themselves – and it’ll make your next holiday or short break even better.
  • Working for myself – being my own boss so to speak is lovely. Of course, in reality – your pets become my boss. They soon settle into letting me know exactly what I should be doing when I come to visit!
  • Having worked as a cleaner when I was at uni, something I love is visiting people’s wonderful homes. I’m always on the lookout for inspiration for our house! *hums changings rooms theme tune*
  • When Mr Whiskers is home he often comes along with me and this is great for pets who want even more attention! Or for being the official Whitburn Whiskers photographer!
  • It’s lovely to see something you’ve put so much effort into grow. I spent hours and days and almost certainly weeks learning about how to make and design your own website, how to buy domain names and route them… well, let’s say I won’t be doing it again in a hurry! I’m happy every time I get a comment or a like on our facebook page – like a proud mother when someone compliments a lovely looking pet I’ve looked after.

“…And what are the worst things about being a pet sitter?”

  • This might be a little unexpected – but I hate, hate, hate front door keys! It’s never happened to me *touch wood* but other pet sitters tell horror stories of keys getting stuck in locks and breaking – or something I always try to check – being given the wrong door key. Nobody ever wants to have to ring and inconvenience an emergency contact.
  • The phrase “whatever the weather” is also very relevant! Rain I can handle, but flood and snow warnings send me flocking to my address book to make sure all my wards are safe!
  • And finally, one of the hardest things can be advertising – especially for a local business that is really trying to push the personal touch. I don’t want to be a pest or bother people who are trying to eat their tea. It’s really hard to work out what works without spending lots of money in the process so with all that in mind, word of mouth is by far the best way – and depends on our lovely clients chatting about us to their friends and families (hint, hint!).

So there you go – a little bit more information about me – and hopefully a bit more information about what it’s like to be a pet sitter in Sunderland and South Shields. Remember to look at our facebook page for pictures of happy pets – the proof is in the pudding as they say!

A walk in Whitburn with Bolly the Bedlington

Whitburn is a lovely village to be a dog walker. With walking routes leading into Sunderland, South Shields or up towards Cleadon – there’s always different directions to head off in. Today I made my way towards Seaburn following the coastal path with my new furry friend, Bolly the Bedlington – so-called because as a puppy, his head was full of bubbles (like Bollinger champagne). Yes that’s right – he’s a Bedlington Terrier of taste!

Hello Bolly!

This afternoon I found a bit of British summertime! It was warm and sunny with just a few friendly white clouds – and even Mr Whiskers joined us for the occasion…  mostly so he could pick up an ice-cream from Minchella’s in Seaburn! Mind, he’s useful for a photo or two 🙂 Whitburn’s a really dog friendly place to visit with plenty of fresh bowls of water for hot dogs on offer. Bet he’d have rather had the ice cream tho!

Bolly and Rachel

On the way back, Bolly nudged us towards Cornthwaite Park – like most dogs who know their area well – he obviously knew where he wanted to go! South Shields council have been busy bees and it was lovely to see a new anchor flower bed display (although I’m not sure Bolly was very interested). Living by the sea means I have a thing for anything nautical!

Cornthwaite Park in Whitburn Village

Bolly went back home for a nap and with the afternoon came the thunder and rain! Typical! Not allowed just one day without waterproofs anymore. Never mind ey? Indeed, Bedlington’s are considered to be first-rate water dogs and Bolly was no exception. This evening, he tried his very best to jump in every puddle I tried to avoid – and then wanted to drink from them all too. Instead he settled for some lovely tap water when we got back home.

Bolly the Bedlington

A well deserved drink

All in all, another lovely day to be a dog walker in good old Whitburn village.

Rachel x

Should You Get a Kitten to Live With An Older Cat?…

…We think so!

Less than two weeks and they’re just like the famous duos in history; Fred and Ginger, Batman and Robin, Tom and Jerry, Ben and Jerry, Cheese and Toast… mmm cheese on toast. Well… in this photo they are. The other 23 hours of today were a bit less peaceful (but we won’t tell if you don’t!).

All tuckered out

Rachel x

(The Cat Whiskerer)