I have the local Animal Control saved to my contacts, mostly for when I see a dog running loose and regretfully from the consult that ended in a bite. Never did I think I would have to report one of my clients to the authories. If anything, the people who hire me err on the side of spoiling their animals rather than neglecting them.
A couple of households I visit spoil their dogs rotten: organic treats, professional grooming, toys, adventures ... no gift is too much for their beloved pooches, and I couldn't agree more! The part that I don't get is how cats in the very same households are kept: sequestered to the basement, mats of undercoat in their fur, litter boxes overdue for scooping ... what gives?
Well, as long as the animals' minimum sufficient level of care is being met, I give. I brush the cats until they're silky again and get the litter boxes as good as new. I've stayed extra to sweep the litter and fur off the floor while the cat beds are in the wash. I've gagged while washing out days if not weeks old cat food dried on to bowls. Although their time with a fresh, clean environment is only limited to a few days after I care for them, at least I know that I have made life a little easier for them in the short run.
That was good enough for me until one of these clients downsized to an apartment. The dog, of course, got full run of the apartment. Without a basement to keep the cats in, he put them his garage. This person had been a client for years and I desperately hoped that the garage was climate controlled, stocked with feline enrichment activities, and most of all a temporary solution before the summer hit. He showed me the setup in April, which was livable: one scratching post, an area rug, and a tinted window. This was by no means how I would keep my cats, but who was I to judge someone who was clearly doing the best he could with a sudden financial hardship? How could I grab his cats and kick him while he was down? And the poor guy, he was actually proud of his problem solving.
In May, I did my first cat sits in the garage set up. The only sound drowning out my nagging conscience was the attention starved meows from the two cats. I seriously considered taking them to my house for the week, who would notice? Well, the client, if he came home early. I decided the cats needed house warming gifts: a cooling mat, oscillating fan, and window seat. This was in addition to my complimentary garagekeeping services. I made a big production out of taking out the litter, dumping the water, and recycling the food cans (Yoohoo! Management! Over here!). By the time I was finished with my garage flip, this client had cost me money and unpaid time. But I could at least sleep at night, until ...
August hit and I was invited back to cat sit. The garage was smelly and unkempt, at a temperature of just below sweltering. And all the cats wanted was attention. I took their bowls up to the apartment for cleaning, as the client never did. When I put the bowls in the sink, the ample light of the kitchen showed me something I missed in the garage: maggots.
My first instinct was to wash them down the drain, but I realized I needed to take a picture. I'll spare you and not post it. You're welcome. Sobbing, I called Animal Control and anonymously reported my client. The officer told me I could send the picture, but I actually shouldn't have cleaned anything up. As gross as it is, they need to enter the residence and see everything for themselves.
The client was understandably livid and not so understandably shocked to find the Animal Control notice on his door when he returned from vacation. I lied through my teeth and denied all involvement (I can just see the one star review at the top of my Yelp page now). The officer did not find enough cause to issue a citation or remove the cats, but this whole ordeal did get the rental office's attention and they gave a deadline to get the cats out. I found a pet boutique willing to display the cats in their display crate. The client said the cats were better off in the garage than in the boutique and he would just "put them down" if he had to.
I know bait when I see it and I didn't take a bite. It probably had maggots in it anyway.
Weeks past my comfort zone, the cats were finally rehomed to a family of the client's choosing. I continue to walk his spoiled rotten dog and to wonder why his cats didn't get the same level of affection.