Cat sitting is easy if you've got the key.
If you've lost it — it's just the cat meowing on one side of the door, and you freaking out on the other.
I'm the neighborhood's designated cat sitter. Until yesterday, the panic episode of my pet-sitting career was when the neighbors across the street left town for two weeks, leaving me to care for their cats — and for the mice and fish the husband forgot to tell me about. Fortunately, their six-year-old yelled "Don't forget the fish" as they drove off down the street, and I investigated.
I feed cats, I pill cats, I let cats in and out. I find cats that have been locked overnight in a bedroom when the wind blew the door shut (phew!). I fill water bowls and I scoop litter.
My latest assignment seemed particularly easy because it involved only one cat, a 20-pound feline that lives contentedly indoors. He has an automatic feeding bowl and water dish, so all I needed to do was pet him, give him a few treats, and shovel the litter every few days.
Yesterday I went in, tossed my keys and purse on the coffee table, sat in a chair, and petted the cat for 20 minutes. I gave him two salmon treats, picked up my purse and keys, and realized that while my keys were on the coffee table, the key to the neighbors' house was missing.
I checked the floor, the counters, and the table tops. I checked the cushions of the chair where I'd been sitting. I dumped the contents of my purse on the floor and went though that. I checked the pockets of my jeans.
No key. The phone number for the neighbors' sister was on the information sheet in the kitchen; she was taking over cat care on the weekend, so I knew she had a key and I could, if all else failed, call her.
By now, it was time for me to leave for yoga class, and I decided to latch the front door from the inside, go out the back way, and leave the back door unlocked. Bad idea. This house has a door that automatically locks. I found myself standing on the back porch, locked out, with the sister's phone number on the info sheet in the kitchen.
"Meow," the cat said.
I went off to yoga class, came back late, and put off trying to locate the sister until this morning. After all, the cat had food and water, and was unlikely to die from lack of petting.
Searching old emails, I was able to find an evite from the neighbors, and, looking at the evite RSVPs spotted a name that sounded like it might be the sister's. Fortunately, she has an unusual last name. Using that, I was able to locate her on Linkedin and find out that she works for a small local law firm.
I called the firm. They greeted me in the usual arms-length business style, telling me that the sister was not available. Fortunately, I knew she was out of the office recovering from eye surgery. So I simply told them I was her brother's cat sitter and had locked the keys in the house with the cat. The person on the phone (who turned out to be the head of the firm) cracked up, and a few minutes later the sister called me back, laughing.
Her husband came over this evening to give me their key, and, sure enough, immediately spotted the original key where it had fallen — under the sofa.
"I was sure the cat had eaten it," he said kindly.