Woman saves R300,000 by babysitting cats while travelling the world

Woman saves R300,000 by catsitting while travelling the world

Uhm, this is officially our dream job! Where do we sign up?


The pandemic has put a screeching halt to travel plans for millions around the world, but when tourism does open up again in the near future, one woman has inspired plans to save money while overseas instead of spending it. How? Simple! Instead of looking for fancy accommodation, this woman looks for houses with cats.

Madolline Gourley, 31, works as a government contractor in Brisbane, Australia and loves to travel! But, she knows the importance of saving money. So, when she heard from a co-worker who ‘lived out of a suitcase’ and found accommodation by catsitting for other people in the area, an incredible idea sparked in her.

Madolline went home and started Googling house sitting websites and stumbled upon a few which advertised clients who were looking for someone to move into their home and look after their cats while they were away. So, in October last year, she signed up to one – and started catsitting for people around the world.

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The first ad Madolline responded to was to someone in San Francisco, America, who was looking for someone to look after their feline while they went away over the festive break. Madolline applied and after a Skype interview with the owners of the home, she was chosen as their housesitter.

Madolline jetted off to the American city and looked after the couple’s cat for 10 days. The woman admits that she had no idea what to expect but the couple made her first housesitting experience a dream. “They seemed like really nice, genuine people, and I was fortunate to get my first house and cat sit through them. Had the experience have gone, or ended, poorly, I probably wouldn’t have considered another international house and catsit,” she says. “This couple definitely helped shape my experience and made me keen to try it again.”

Over the years, Madolline has catsat for people in New York City, Boston, Seattle, Santa Fe, and Cincinnati in the United States, as well as in Tasmania, Darwin, and Sydney in Australia.

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She says that she “wouldn’t have gone on these holidays if it wasn’t for housesitting opportunities” and that she has saved over R300,000 in accommodation costs over the years.

“One of the homes I stayed in, up in the Boulder mountains, was on a small bit of land. It had been architecturally designed and was one of those ‘no expenses spared’ homes – even the showers had filtered water,” she says. “I remember looking at properties in the area on AirBnB for the time I went and it was about R100,000 for the time I stayed. There’s no way I would – or could – pay this much for a holiday rental so I feel fortunate to have been able to stay in such a property for almost nothing.”

Madolline admits that she isn’t paid to look after the people’s cats, but feels that the opportunity to explore new places is a fair exchange for the work. She adds that being paid violates the terms of her tourist visa and prefers to play it safe.

Interestingly, Madolline says that people are looking for sitters for all different types of animals - from dogs and birds to sheep, chickens and llamas, but “prefers to stick with cats as they tend to be more low-maintenance” and that jobs can last “anywhere between one night to six months or more.”

Image courtesy: Madolline Gourley

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