For the first several years we lived in New York City, my husband and I had the perfect petsitter: our dear friend George, who happened to live just a few blocks south of us and had a cat of his own (so we were able to return the favor and take care of her when he went out of town). Our two cats adored him, so they had a grand old time when he came to visit. Better yet, he knew them so well that when something was wrong, he’d pick up on it right away; he once saved our little Jude from a health crisis by taking him to the vet for what turned out to be a dip in his kidney function.
We eventually moved to the Lower East Side, George moved out to Brooklyn, and we found ourselves in need of a petsitter in our new neighborhood. We didn’t know the locals too well yet, so we decided to research and hire a professional. Thanks to Google, the search was easy: We found a bonded and insured agency with impeccable ratings and references, and they had a sitter near us (I’ll call her Amy) with a flexible schedule. The agency offered to send her over for a meet-and-greet, and her getting-to-know-you session with our cats was a roaring success. She asked thoughtful, intelligent questions, she got along famously with the guys, and both my husband and I felt good about leaving them in her care.
Our confidence in Amy proved to be well-founded. She sent me extremely intricate updates on how the guys were doing every time she stopped by to tend to them, she often left our apartment cleaner than it had been before we went away, and she even mentioned that we should move some natural cleaning products that were stored a few shelves above the cats’ box, as they contained an essential oil that could be harmful to them if it dripped into the litter. We settled into a comfortable routine: I’d ask Amy about her availability and then book her online through her agency, I’d send her a redundant “see you when we get back!” picky-cat-person message right before we left, and we’d return from our travels to a pair of happy cats.
After a year or two, my “see you when we get back!” notes started to feel like overkill: Amy had worked with us many times, and she was so organized that she knew our routine better than I did. The notes would only serve a purpose if she forgot that she was supposed to be taking care of the guys, which she would never, ever do — until she did. I hired Amy and neglected to send my customary post-booking follow-up, we went away for a long weekend, and we were too busy vacationing to notice that her updates weren’t coming in as they usually did. Our only clue that the guys (who seemed chipper as ever upon our return) hadn’t had any visitors was the stack of cat food cans untouched on the kitchen counter. Well, that and the email I received from Amy a few hours later.
She had simply forgotten about the job, she said. She was so sorry, she was horrified by her lapse and the fact that she had endangered our cats, and she would understand completely if we never wanted to see her again. My husband and I looked at each other. Did we?
Amy had been utterly trustworthy in the years that we’d known her, and she’d made a mistake that my deviation from our routine could very well have compounded. She was clearly mortified and full of remorse, and I felt sure that she’d never, ever forget a client again. I also felt sure, to be honest, that I could make a mistake like hers in a similar situation; I’ve been known to write my grocery list on my hand so I won’t forget to buy toilet paper.
We’d come to think of Amy as a friend in the time she’d spent with us and our cats, and we decided to extend the same forgiveness to her that we would to anyone who makes an honest mistake. We accepted her apology, continued to ask her over to take care of the guys, and had a lovely relationship thenceforth (she’s since taken another job and doesn’t catsit these days, though I would happily have her back if she did). For my part, I’ve decided to let my freak flag fly and keep leaving picky-cat-person notes — and I’ve started entering my grocery list in my phone.
Would you continue to work with a petsitter who forgot about your cat? What would you consider a deal-breaker? Tell us in the comments.
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About the author: Lauren Oster is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She and her husband share an apartment on the Lower East Side with Steve and Matty, two Siamese-ish cats. She doesn’t leave home without a book or two, a handful of plastic animals, Icelandic licorice mints, and her camera. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.