When you've been housesitting for as long as I have, you run into your share of problems, disasters, and emergencies. From micro-issues to near deaths, these are some of my scariest experiences yet.
Housesitting lets me love pets and live for free in luxurious homes all over the world, but it is also a great responsibility to care for homes and pets, especially in a foreign country. This is a collection of the craziest tales of the craziest times!
the one when the power station blew up
Once upon a time, a local sub station just blew up. It took out the power of the entire town for a whole day. Sure, you can make due without power, but the scariest part was not knowing if or when it would be repaired and turned back on because it was a totally unprecedented event in the area. Everyone was pretty much freaking out.
Trying not to open the fridge or flush the toilet are a walk in the park compared to watching the battery on your phone slowly dwindle down to nothing with no electricity anywhere to charge it. That's a whole new level of fear.
the one when the cat licked a toad
Once while petsitting the most adorable cat ever, a torrential downpour of a rainstorm caused a lone toad to sneak himself under a window pane and into the house. The most adorable cat was a curious kitten who was constantly playing with anything and everything, and immediately took off trying to see what new friend entered.
When my peripheral vision saw the stranger, noticed it hopping around, and that it was in fact a toad, I lunged over to grab the cat just as she had her mouth stretched around it's back. Some quick mouth rising got the toxins from the toad's skin out of her mouth, and after a few spitting bubbles later, the kitten was alright, and saved from toxicity poisoning.
the one with all the water cuts
Once at a very rural housesit in the jungle, we kept getting almost daily water cuts with no notice. They would happen anytime, anyway and last any length. When water is off briefly, you know to try to store it, save it, and use it wisely.
But when it's off often, and long lasting, it's extra scary when you're caring for pets who all need fresh drinking water, and you have to quickly and continually store water as much you can so no-one runs out. Water cuts suck big time.
the one when the storm caused a flood
In a penthouse apartment, there was once a crazy thunderstorm that lasted all night long. I peacefully went to sleep listening to the sheets of rain against the balcony windows. A few hours later, the sound was a lot louder and a lot less peaceful.
It had since soaked through the roof, into the wall of the bathroom, and was cascading out the water hole behind the washing machine, causing a flood. I had to instantly spring into action, cleaning and mopping up water. I also had to contact maintenance and hire a technician to professionally fix the leak. Several tech visits and several days later, problem solved.
the one when the earthquake sent shockwaves
One time, there was a nearby earthquake, and although it was in the ocean, it was so powerful that it sent shockwaves throughout the island I was on. It happened in the middle of the night, so the scariest part about it was the bed shaking me awake and waking up to see everything in the room shaking. A pretty scarily rude awakening indeed.
the one when monkeys set off the alarm
At a very rural sit in a jungle, I lived among a family of macaque monkeys who used the house and surrounding trees as their own personal jungle gym. It was really cute until one night when I woke up at 3am to the house alarm system blaring.
It turns out the monkeys triggered the alarm sensors on one of the balcony doors by jumping around on the balcony, so I had to check all the doors and windows and reset the entire alarm system and the power system by hand in the middle of the night.
the one when the smoke alarm was too high
In a very, very, very old apartment building in Europe, I once used a pan that had some oil left on it which caused just the teeniest bit of smoke to set off the smoke alarm which was in the kitchen. It was in a ridiculous location and also ridiculously installed on the very high 16+ foot ceiling.
I literally had no ladder or furniture at all tall enough to reach it. So, amidst the blaring noise, I had to borrow a very tall neighbor with a very tall ladder in order to reach the darn thing and turn it off.
the one with the sick chicken
Once while caring for a group of chickens, I got to know their behavior and personalities pretty well. So one day, when one of them was acting slightly off and standing oddly, I examined her and discovered that she had a condition called sour crop.
Chickens can't vomit so you have to hold them upside down to induce vomiting but also take extreme care that they don't aspirate. I had to separate her to treat her until she got better, was able to eat and drink normally, and return to the flock.
the one with the cut cat toe
Once a cat I was sitting came in from her cat door limping. I knew I had to investigate, so I examined all her legs and discovered a small laceration on her toe. She ran all over the countryside so she could've done this anywhere and it could also get infected just as fast, especially if she's left alone to lick it.
I wanted to fix it without a trip to the vet that causes more stress so I cleaned and soaked the wound, kept her inside, and kept her paw clean and dry until it successfully healed, and she was free to go on her way.
the one with the broken intercom
One time, during a massive storm and power cut, it somehow also zapped my apartment's intercom system. Once the power was back on, I did my normal power checks, figured out what had happened, and then had to arrange for a technician to come repair it from both ends to get it working again so that I could unlock the doors to the building.
the one with the sick kitten
Once while watching over 100 cats at a cat refuge, I was keeping an eye on a few newborn litters, a few elderly special needs cats and one very sick little kitten with possible kidney failure who was separated in another room, eating special food and getting medicated treatments.
This poor kitten was not improving and all my vet tech instincts told me she needed fluids at a hospital. So, although I didn't speak the language, I had to contact the emergency contact and arrange a meeting and a pickup to get the kitten to the emergency vet.
the one with the dog that ate chocolate
Once a homeowner left their house early in the morning, and left a package of chocolates on a bowl out on the kitchen counter. Their dog then decided to counter surf and devour them them all.
When I arrived and literally caught him in the act, I sprung to action with hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting, and got him to expel every last one of them undigested, and therefore saved him from toxicity poisoning.
the one with the missing chicken
At a sit with 20 chickens and roosters and several large coops, I let everyone out in the morning and collected them in the evening. During the day, they were free ranging all over the land and forest, out of my sight.
One night, while doing a headcount, I noticed someone was missing. Although it's common for larger birds or foxes to kidnap them, I was pretty devastated, and spent every next day watching out for the poor missing chicken and hoping she'd return.
the one with the tiny sick fish
Once while watching itsy bitsy tiny fish, I would do an itsy bitsy tiny headcount everyday when I fed them. I noticed that one fish was getting a swollen belly with a bit of discoloration on it. I figured it could potentially be blocked, so I separated it into another bowl to keep an eye on it and withhold food, but sadly I woke up to a dead fish the next day. Poor little Nemo.
the one when the plate melted
Not checking a seemingly normal-looking plate for a microwave symbol was a big travel fail when I stuck it in the microwave for just a couple minutes and it completely melted into a puddle, with billowing plumes of smoke that took hours to clear out of the kitchen.
After this, I ask people if they use convection ovens rather than the normal ones. This is because it has a feature of even distribution of heat in the microwave which improves its performance. This increases its capacity to take smoke and reduces the chances of such mishaps.
the one with the abandoned kitten
One house I was at had a reputation for being the animal lovers of the neighborhood, and while I was there instead, a neighbor came over one night at 10pm and handed me a newborn kitten he found in the street, and then took off.
I explained he should put it back but I then had no choice but to keep the kitten with me to keep it warm and alive. I had to contact the local animal society to get someone to come pick him up and get the kitten into care right away to save its life.
the one with the wifi that ran out
At one housesit, while promised wifi, instead I was left with a small reloadable wifi stick with just a few gigs on it. To refill it, I had to take a bus to the nearby town, and visit the cellular store and purchase the add-on data. Well, I made this journey twice and they couldn't re-fill it either time, so instead I just had to sparingly use my cellular data while slowly running out of wifi data. It was not good scary times.
the one with the Monitor lizard
One day, at a housesit that had a few small ponds, and cats and chickens that liked to drink from these ponds, a large monitor lizard got into one of them. I immediate noticed a very dinosaur-like staring up at me from in between some leaves. Fearing an impending disaster, that it may get the fish, or the cats, or the chickens, or that the cats may get the lizard, or who knows what else - I had to get it out myself and carry it off the property to relocate it to a nearby stream. A very scary few hours indeed.