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International Catsitter Laurel Steele.
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International Catsitting: What It’s Like to Catsit Abroad in Exchange for Free Accommodations

What’s cooler than being a catsitter? An international catsitter who travels to different countries to care for cats! We talk to one pro about her cool job.

Laurel Steele  |  Oct 10th 2017


I’ve had the privilege to live and travel overseas for the past six years. While my life abroad is exciting, I miss having a cat. But at the same time, I can’t imagine giving up my globe-trotting adventures. About two years ago, I was researching ways to save money on travel, when I came across the perfect solution: international catsitting.

International catsitting — the basics

International catsitting.

Photography by Laurel Steele.

The general idea behind international catsitting is that I care for a person’s cat(s), in exchange for a free home in an exciting foreign destination. It’s the ideal opportunity to combine my passion for travel with my love of cats. Plus, it saves me a whole lot of money on accommodation costs.

I got started by registering with a petsitting website and was soon contacted by an English woman living in Turkey who invited me to care for her cats for two weeks in a remote mountain village. I had an unbelievable time enjoying the local nature and spending my evenings curled up in front of a fire surrounded by four purring kitties. After that, I was hooked.

Favorite experiences with international catsitting  

International catsitting.

Photography by Laurel Steele.

So far, I’ve had the pleasure of petsitting cats in six countries, staying in major cities like Amsterdam, Basel and Barcelona. I’m currently enjoying 7 weeks rent free in a quaint Italian hamlet in the heart of Tuscany. All I have to do is give love and attention to the three cats: Mouse, Havuc and Roketta. Mouse, the definite character of the bunch, is currently rubbing against me to notify me that it’s time for dinner. 

My favorite catsitting experience so far has been in London, where I spent three months (again, rent free!) watching two twin kitties, Lottie and Lucy. Everything was going well, until I came down with a case of severe bronchitis. What could have been a depressing time, was made much easier by having two cats to care for me. As I moved around the house with my box of tissues, Lottie and Lucy followed me. The pair of them snuggled with me whenever possible. I swear that their purrs (and radiating body heat) made that time bearable.

What I’ve learned from catsitting abroad

International catsitting.

Photography by Laurel Steele.

International catsitting has become my preferred type of travel. It has taken me to places I didn’t even know existed and connected me with amazing people — and pets. I feel like I’m simultaneously at home and exploring the world. After a long day of sightseeing, I get to come home and veg out on the couch with a cat or several. It’s the perfect balance of adventure and comfort.

At first, I didn’t realize that petsitting is a lot of work. It’s important to consider how much time it takes to care for the cats each day. Some animals have strict schedules with frequent feedings, while others may require medications or special creams.

It may seem like a lot sometimes, but remember that, because of you, a cat gets to stay in his or her familiar home and enjoy human company.

Full disclosure: You will end up falling in love with these cats, and saying goodbye can be tough. However, it’s usually only a temporary separation, as the pet parents nearly always invite you back.

How to get started as an international catsitter

International catsitting.

Photography by Laurel Steele.

Petsitting can take you anywhere from a countryside home in England with a lone furbaby to a central apartment in bustling Amsterdam with an active tomcat. But you have to find these opportunities before you buy your plane ticket.

There are three major petsitting websites: Trusted Housesitters, Mind My House and Nomador. The first two primarily feature listings in the UK, while the third mostly offers petsits in France. However, you will find assignments all around the world through each of these sites.

Each site charges an annual membership fee, but it’s a fraction of the cost of what you’d spend on hotels wherever you go on vacation. Thanks to these sites, I’ve saved tens of thousands of dollars on living expenses over the past two years.

Pro tips for international catsitters

International catsitting.

Photography by Laurel Steele.

  • Get references from people you’ve petsat for. Even if it was just cleaning the litterbox for a friend when he was out of town overnight, a vote of confidence from a pet parent will build your credibility.
  • And get external references from employers or landlords. People are taking a big leap of faith in you, so do your best to show them that you’re responsible.
  • Add photos of you with cats. Whether they’re your pets or a friend’s, this is visual proof for the owner that you’re an animal lover.
  • When you write your bio, don’t forget to mention how much you love cats. Sometimes people carry on about their love of travel and neglect to say that they love feline company in equal measure.
  • Whenever you message a homeowner, include their cat’s name. This shows them that you’ve actually read their listing.

Thumbnail: Photography courtesy Laurel Steele.

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