An artist’s approach to empathy
Julie grew up in California, but after college, she moved to New York City to pursue a career in acting. She even made appearances on Broadway! An artist through and through, she soon found new life working as a commercial artist and sculpting portraits in bronze, glass, and marble.
Much like acting, Julie feels that sculpting requires a certain compassion that has translated over to her passion of pet sitting. “Doing portrait sculptures demands empathy if you are to do it well,” she reflects, “You need to feel yourself in another person’s shoes to better understand their personality. Now, of course, I try to feel myself in another’s paws!”
Above all else, Julie ensures that her clients, and their kitties, can sense kindness, respect, and and understanding. She notes, “ It’s an intimate affair being allowed into someone’s home, building, and life to care for a pet.”
With cats as her constant companions
Julie views empathy as an important skill that she has been working hard to cultivate since early childhood — and she learned it from her own cats! At one point in her life, Julie was the guardian of 7 feline friends. “It was like living in the Serengeti plains, and I was allowed to join them in their habitat, which was my apartment.”
During that time, she also learned how to give oral medications and sub-cutaneous fluids, as well as easing other ailments that trouble aging cats. Without so much as a second thought, she even turned down an opportunity to sail the Greek Islands. “I would not leave my cat that needed fluids daily for kidney problems.” That was that.
Today, Julie is the guardian of this golden girl named silly (who prefers the lower case like bell hooks). “Believe me, silly is quite spoiled,” Julie says with a contented laugh. After a costly bout with liver inflammation, silly begrudgingly switched from commercial canned foods to a healthier diet that includes fresh salmon from the supermarket.
Now, life is good. Silly is 14 years old, and together, Julie and her cat dance, play tag, and enjoy a ton of games every day. Silly especially loves to be massaged and hugged. “Playfulness is good if they want it,” Julie mentions, “My silly is a touchy-feely cat, but some aren’t. I respect their boundaries.”
An expert with the toughest kitties
Julie recalls that her first few assignments were with what others would consider “problem cats.” “To me, there are no aggressive attack cats — only cats who feel fearful and become defensive.” In fact, Julie views these kitties as more feral and closer to their ancestors, which is something to be cherished. “If you sit down and really listen and watch, they will let you know how they wish to be treated… with love and respect.”
One kitty only ever appeared as a bump under a blanket that didn’t want to be disturbed. However, after Julie read to her and played music, she began to come out and get more comfortable. “Cats will come around on their own time schedule, not yours. It’s that wonderful independent streak that makes them so special.”
Whether there are shy, sweet, or even first time owners’ cats, Julie is happy to share her intimate knowledge of felines with whoever requests it. She often brings toys and a radio to her pet sitting appointments. For some clients, she even offers advice such as how to rearrange furniture and cat trees to give kitties a better view out the window.
A word of advice
As for how to keep your kitties calm while you’re gone, Julie offers the following advice, “Remember to leave a light on, and some classical music. Call Katie’s Kitty for the finest cat sitters in New York City! We are insured and bonded to boot!”
Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.