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‘It is all about managing time'

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A vacation abroad isn't much fun if you spend the entire time worrying that your pets are miserable being boarded back home.

Many residents are turning to sitters to make their pets more comfortable while they are off the Island.

Since Heidi Baptiste started At Home Critter Care, her e-mail box has been jammed with people looking for an alternative to boarding their pet.

“A lot of people don't like the fact that when they board their animals at the vet's office, their animals stay in a cage, basically the entire time,” she said. “If you have two cats, they are used to being together, and they have to be boarded separately.

“It isn't exactly comforting for the animal. A lot of people don't like that.”

One of her clients, Alex Gibbons of Devonshire, wrote on the company's website: “Kyle and I recently went away for a week and didn't want to leave the cats at the vet so we called At Home Critter Care and she was awesome.

“She stayed at our house with the cats while we were gone and she sent updates with pictures letting us know everything was going well.

“Needless to say the cats were very happy, well fed and stress free when we got home.”

Ms Baptiste has had about a dozen clients since she started the business in December, and has had to turn people down.

“I wanted to do something that I liked,” she said. “This is pretty easy, and I have been pet sitting for years for my friends, I just didn't charge.

“I am an animal lover and I have two cats of my own. I would have more animals if condo rules allowed it.

“There is a real market for this. As soon as I started, I have been bombarded with e-mails asking if I could do particular dates.

“I am already booked until April. It just seems like every other day I am getting an e-mail.”

She works full-time at Fresh 'N' New and takes care of animals in her off-hours. As part of her business she will visit the house for regular feedings and cuddles, or house sit, depending on the requirements of the client.

Miss Baptiste said pets are sometimes a bit like children, in that they like to test the sitter a bit.

“Sometimes they are used to the male figure in the house, and they are used to that hold and that voice,” she said. “So it is interesting to try and get them to listen to you. They are exactly like children.

“They have bad habits and trying to train them can be challenging. When it is time to go to sleep sometimes they don't want to sleep.

“I recently took care of a German shepherd. He was a six-month-old puppy, but he was huge. He just wanted to play all day so that was cool.

“I love animals so I just like to see them happy and comfortable. When they are giving me affection that is the biggest reward. It is great when they get used to you, and want to cuddle.

“I do miss them afterwards. My last clients had two cats. One was so affectionate and slept with me every night. It has been two weeks, and I still miss that cat. He was the best cat.”

Ms Baptiste likes to meet her four-footed clients before she agrees to sit for them. She discusses with the owner the pet's favourite spot to hide, and their favourite toy.

She learns what their feeding schedule is and what treats they get. This helps to smooth the transition to her care.

Sarita Bremar-Smith also runs a pet-sitting business called Passion for Paw Paws. Mrs Bremar-Smith works in information technology (IT) during the day so she brings a certain tech savvy to her business.

She has a well-designed website, and she also offers clients, with the right technology, the option of a webcam so they can watch their pets from overseas.

“We get a lot of calls because of our professional looking website,” she said. “We are a registered company with Bermuda payroll and looking to get insured later on.

“I started my business Passion for Paw Paws officially last year, but I have been doing it for friends and family for a while.”

The idea came to her because at one point in her career she had to travel a lot and had to leave her two Persian cats Keiko and Misho, with her mother.

Once, when her mother was away at the same time as herself, she left her cats with a friend and that didn't work out so well.

Boarding her cats at the vet's office also didn't leave her feeling happy. Now that she is no longer travelling so much, she decided to start her own business.

“The pet sitting doesn't conflict with my IT job,” she said. “I could have upwards of three animal clients in the morning.

“If I have three clients I will be up at 5am and be at work at 7am.

“It is all about managing time. There have been times over Christmas where it was really insanely busy.”

Her company takes care of any kind of pet from cats and dogs to fish, hamsters and birds. They will pop in for feedings or do sleepovers if you feel your pet needs someone there.

“I try to keep your pets in their own environment where they are comfortable,” Mrs Bremar-Smith said. “The routine doesn't change. The craziest animal I have ever done was probably a terrier mix.

“It had so much energy, and was very vocal, jumping around and everything. It was high energy and when it was time for bed, he was never ready.

“I do miss the animals afterward, very much so. I really do have a passion for animals.”

She said she just happened to go into IT rather than veterinary medicine because she won a scholarship to a particular college that offered courses in IT.

“Otherwise, I just would have been able to afford to go to Bermuda College,” she said. “I couldn't realise that particular part of my dream, but I like computers as well. There wasn't anything to give up.”

Useful websites: www.athomecrittercarebermuda.com; www.passionpawpaws.com

Pet sitter Heidi Baptiste and her cat Smudge. (Photo by Glenn Tucker)
Pet sitter Heidi Baptiste and her cat Smudge. (Photo by Glenn Tucker)

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Published February 24, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated February 24, 2012 at 7:33 am)

‘It is all about managing time'

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