Real Life

REAL LIFE STORY: Meet the Aussie woman who travels the world looking after other people's cats

''I couldn't resist my feline of wanderlust.''

By Courtney GReatrex

Madolline Gourley, 30, from Brisbane, Qld, shares her story

At my desk, I rested my chin on my hand and stared out the window, dreaming of being somewhere else.
"Wish I could go on more holidays," I sighed to my colleague. "It's just so expensive."
Returning to my office job after a couple of blissful weeks exploring the United States had been tough. I'd had such a good time and wanted to see more of the world, but money was tight
"Why don't you try house sitting?" she suggested. "I've done it in the local area and lived rent-free!"
Sounds amazing, I thought. Since my family lived locally, I wasn't interested in house sitting nearby, but if it meant I could go back to the US, that would be a dream come true.
I'd grown up with cats, and I knew how to look after any furry friends so I thought I'd explore pet sitting, too.
Right away, I googled 'pet sitting' and signed up to a platform called Trusted House Sitters, which connects volunteers with pet owners.
I put my profile together and searched for pets in America that were looking for a carer. A few days later I came across an ad for a couple in San Francisco, who were going on holiday and needed their cat Harvey looked after.
I've been able to make my travelling dreams come true. (Image: Supplied)
I applied for the job and after an interview over Skype, I got it. I was so excited! All I'd have to pay for was plane tickets and living expenses.
Six weeks later, I headed to the US and explored a few cities before arriving in San Francisco.
As I rang their doorbell, I wasn't sure what to expect. "Welcome to our home," the couple said, beckoning me inside.
After 15 minutes showing me around the flat, they introduced me to their adorable cat.
"This is Harvey," the woman said.
"Hey little guy," I said, scratching behind his ear.
After that, it was just me and Harvey for 10 days.
Harvey had been a feral street cat, so he was a little afraid to get too close to me initially, but as the days rolled by, we became friends.
The apartment was stunning. It had a view of downtown San Francisco and was within walking distance of everything I wanted to do. I enjoyed wandering the streets and admiring its unique, colourful homes.
Once or twice a day, I'd feed Harvey and throw a few toys around for him. I'd water some plants, too.
I kept in regular contact with the couple by sharing messages through WhatsApp.
How's he getting on? They'd text, and I'd reply with cute snaps of their kitty.
After a few days, Harvey was sleeping next to me in bed.
I've met so many feline friends. This is Jaspurr from Brisbane. (Image: Supplied)
When I returned home, my friends and family were keen to hear how it went.
"Wasn't it weird sleeping in another person's house?" one mate asked.
"It's no different to a hotel or B'n'B," I shrugged.
But I'd well and truly caught the travel bug, and immediately started planning my next trip.
A few weeks later, a pet sit came up in Boston for two Persians. Their faces were so comical, I applied right away.
When I arrived three months later, I fell in love with the adorable cats. One was 14, and the other was 13 so they were happy to be fed, given some love, and then be left alone to sleep.
It gave me plenty of time to explore the local area. I took day trips to Salem and New Hampshire, and loved the freedom this type of travelling gave me.
By staying in pet sits, I save thousands of dollars which I then used on having more experiences.
One of my favourite things about staying in other people's homes is seeing how they live. Exploring the different laundry appliances and kitchen accessories was fascinating.
Staying at one woman's house in Cincinnati, I slept on the most comfortable sheets.
"What type of sheets are these?" I asked her later.
"They're made out of bamboo," she told me.
Back home, I knew I had to buy them for myself.
This is little Hans from New York City. (Image: Supplied)
While some people might get lonely travelling around the world solo, I don't.
I'm always so busy exploring that I never think about the fact that I'm by myself. Now it would probably even feel weird to travel with a companion!
Over two years I've visited more than 20 house sits across the US, a couple in Brisbane and one in Tassie.
"Why don't you write about your experiences?" a pet owner asked me once.
I'd never thought about sharing my stories of travelling and looking after these furry friends. But so many people wanted to know about my adventures.
Why not? I thought. It'd be a great way to document my journey.
I set up the One Cat at a Time blog and was stunned when more than 100 people read my first entry.
At home with my own cat Gracie.(Image: Supplied)
It was thrilling to have strangers from all over the word read my story, so I kept posting and even set up a Facebook page.
In the future, I'm hoping to travel more around my own backyard. I'd love to explore Western Australia, as well as visit the Top End.
I hope I can inspire others to see the world in a cost-effective way!
To read more of Maddoline's stories, visit onecatatatime.co

read more from