The Sporadic House Sitter – House Sitting Stories With Cathy Leeflang

Recently, we had a chat with Cathy. She has house sat in some incredible places including France and Panama (with many repeat assignments there).

She house sits sporadically and has a home base in Florida with her own cats. We learn how she has built this incredible life which allows her to travel 6 months out of the year.


Tell us a little bit about yourself – who are you, where are you from, for, do you do it full-time or sporadically

I’m a single 70 year old woman who currently lives in central Florida.  I retired from my second career three years.  My first career was the U.S. Army from which I retired after twenty years at the ripe old age of 39.  I worked in nursing in the military and was stationed in Washington, D.C. and Hawaii in my twenty years.  I then started working in the health insurance industry, in software development and data analytics for my second career of nearly thirty years. 

I always knew that I wanted to travel in retirement.  For the two years before I retired I started researching ways in which I could travel without a great deal of money because I knew my retirement income was going to be relatively modest.  I discovered workaway.info, trustedhousesitters.com and homeexhange.com and joined all three of them. 

But, when I retired, my mother and father were both living, and not in the best of health.  They were 87 and 90 and lived just two miles from me.  Me and my sisters took care of them for the next couple of years until they both passed away, in 2020 and six months later in 2021.  This meant that my travel plans were on hold for a bit. 

But, one month after my mom passed away, I was in Mexico, staying at a cat sanctuary that I had connected with via workaway.info.  This turned out to be the only ‘gig’ I have done via that platform.  But, I’ve gone back three times in the last two years, for a month each time.  I love it.  The first time I went to Casa Miao, there were 45 cats there.  Now there are more than 60.  It’s a wonderful place and the cats have a wonderful life there.

When I went there, I needed to find someone to take care of my home and my two cats.  I used THS to find my first house sitter, and, what a find that was.  Janet used to live in Florida, and her son and his family live ten minutes from me.  Janet is a full-time house sitter, primarily in Panama, but she liked to also do Florida sits so she could see her kids and grandchildren.  Well, Janet and I hit it off in the best way possible.  As a result, she has been back to take care of my house and cats a bunch of times over the last two years, for as little as four weeks and as long as three months!  Not only that, but, this January I ended up with a sit in Panama because she wasn’t available.

I am a sporadic house/pet sitter.  I own my home in Florida and have thought long and hard going fully nomadic, especially since I’m now spending about six months of the year travelling.  I’ve rejected this idea for several reasons – first and foremost, I have two cats.  Felix and Bella are both about 10 years old.  Since cats make lousy nomads, they keep me kind of anchored.  But, just as important, I really, really love my home, and, I like coming back to roost after my travels.  As a 70 year-old, I figure I’ve likely got about ten more years of travel in me and then I’ll need somewhere to land.  My house is where I want that to be.

Why did you do petsitting? What is the primary motivation?

I love that it provides me the opportunity to travel to new places more affordably.  Further, it’s ‘slow’ travel rather that crazy tourist travel with crowds and all the typical tourist spots. 

I like staying in a home, grocery shopping, leisurely seeing the sights, taking days to do nothing but chill.  I enjoy the pets and I provide excellent service to the homeowners in exchange for the experience. 

ut, another thing I really like, and have been surprised by, is the connections I’ve made.  This is true of both places I’ve sat, and, sitters that have come to my house.  I am already scheduled for a repeat sit in the UK and in France.

What was your favorite housesitting experience to date and why?

That’s like asking which is my favorite child or pet.  I’ve enjoyed them all, for very different reasons.  I think that one of the best things about house sitting is the variety. 

How did you find out about housesitting?

Just by researching it on the internet.  This was four to five years ago now and I don’t remember the details.

How many housesits have you had and where?

So far, I’ve had eight housesits, six on THS which is my favorite site to find house sitting assignments and then I have had two by word of mouth.  I’ve watched dogs in my home town, Panama and France, and I’ve watched cats in Kentucky, Washington DC, France and three different locations in England. 

Cons of House Sitting

I haven’t encountered any negative experiences so far, but, that’s always a possibility.  One thing I realize is that I’ve got to have a plan B.  And, enough resources to be able to get accommodations in the event of the unexpected happening.

Want to try House Sitting As Well?
There are thousands of opportunities to house sit around the world!
Learn how to get into house sitting

What’s been the biggest adventure so far?

This spring I was on the road for three months.  I started planning it last fall while I was in Europe and everything just fell into place.  I had three different sits in the UK – Manchester, Marlow and London, each 10-14 days. 

Then, I flew to Geneva to take care of two cute little Havanese dogs in the French suburb of Ornex.  I flew back to England to catch a cruise ship in South Hampton, and cruised for a week in the Norwegian Fjords.  Then, back to Ornex, France for another four days with the dogs before I went to Italy for a month. 

In Italy I didn’t have any housesits, but, my son and his wife came for four days, my niece came for a week and my brother and sister-in-law came for two weeks.  I stayed in Bologna for two weeks, went to the Dolomites for a couple of days, then drove through Tuscan for a week, ending up in Cinqueterra. 

Half-way through my Verizon sim card stopped working, so I had to get a local simcard.  This turned out to be a good thing because I learned just how easy and inexpensive it was.  I’ll save a lot going forward because of this.

At one of the sits, one of the cats went missing.  Fortunately, she left the evening I arrived when her owners were still there.  She strolled back in six days later – none the worse for wear.

Near the end of the three months, I had a mishap on an ebike.  I ended up on the ground, a week later my entire right lower leg and foot where very bruised and sore.  I was so glad this happened near the end of my trip rather than at the beginning.

How do you decide on a destination?

Well, for this last trip to Europe, it started with coming upon the listing of the two dogs in Ornex.  I just loved the way the home owner wrote and described her house and her dogs.  I reached out to her and we just really connected and she picked me. 

So, I knew that I was going to be there.  Then, I just looked for other sits in Europe around the same time.  My first preference is cats, so I do look for those first.  But, I’m also open to dogs, though, not big ones.

So, as for destination, I have an idea of where I might like to go and look for sits in those areas.  As soon as I’ve locked one down, that drives subsequent ones.  I like to plan on at least two-three months travel at a time.

How much luggage do you travel with?

Too much.  Its something I’m trying to get better on.  Even when I do a decent job at the start of my trip with packing, I end up buying stuff resulting in needing to buy another suitcase.  Its one of the things I definitely need to work on. 

Did you ever have any unusual pets to take care of or responsibilities that were out of the norm?

No.  I’m pretty selective with regard to which listings I apply for.  I know that I’m not comfortable enough, nor, strong enough to take on large dogs.  And, even with small dogs I will only take on two, maybe three. 

I would never apply to a sit with horses or donkeys or sheep.  Chickens I’d consider.  Parrots, maybe, I’m not too sure.  I would feel very comfortable taking care of a bunch of cats.

Was it hard for you to secure your first housesitting gig? How many applications did you have to send before you got accepted for your first assignment?

Not too hard.  My very first one was for a small dog in my home town, and, it was only for a few days.  It was a perfect opportunity for me to start to build my feedback.  Of course, I had been on THS has a home owner for two years before I started house sitting.  I think that really helped with my credentials. 

I’m not sure how many applications I sent to get the first one.  But, I still get rejected for a lot of the sits I apply for.  More often than not, I think I’m a great choice for them, but, I get declined, mostly without explanation. 

Tips for Others Wanting to get started?

Be flexible and don’t take things personally.  There’s a lot of rejection in this and you just need to be able to roll with it.  When you apply, READ the profile. 

Make sure this is a good fit for you, let the homeowner know that you understand what’s important to them, and, why you’re the right person for the job.  Start off local, or with last minute sits. 

Author: Britt

I am Britt. I have been house-sitting and pet-sitting for the past 7 years. I have cared for 25 dogs, 35 cats 1 turtle, and 1 rabbit over 80+ houses in 15 countries.

The opportunity to experience different homes, cultures, and communities has been extraordinary.

Through house-sitting platforms like Aussie House Sitters and Trusted House Sitters, I’ve connected with homeowners seeking reliable sitters. This unique way of living has allowed me to save money on accommodation, explore new cultures and meet new people.

Being a member of these platforms has broadened my horizons and opened doors to short- and long-term house-sitting jobs. I’ve found joy in providing excellent pet care and ensuring the home is well-maintained.

I get many questions about how to start as a housesitter, so if you have any questions, please reach out! I want everyone to enjoy this incredible lifestyle as well!

You can read more about Jay and me here!

Or connect with me on Facebook or in our house-sitting community on Facebook.

House Sitting in Salon-de-Provence
Me (Britt) House Sitting in Salon-de-Provence, France

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *