A cat on loan or a dog to walk
Bachelor communication and information studies
‘If I’d have to describe Kiwi in a few words, I’d say she’s sneaky and very sweet’, says Hinke. She and her boyfriend are regularly honoured with a visit by their neighbour’s cat, who slips in the door when they don’t pay attention. Kiwi has come by ever since she was a young kitten.
Despite that adventurous spirit, Kiwi was rather shy in the beginning, Hinke recalls. ‘When we tried to pet her she’d run away. But now she loves us. Kiwi really is one of the sweetest cats I’ve ever met. When she’s feeling cuddly, she climbs up to your face and nibbles on your nose or puts her paws around your wrist.’
She’s almost like a dog, says Hinke: ‘She guards the house and loves to sit by the window to see everything that is happening outside.’
Their neighbour appreciates that Hinke and her boyfriend spend time with his cat. ‘He doesn’t always have the time to give Kiwi attention, so he’s happy she has a second home.’ However, they don’t feed Kiwi, because they want her to know that her real home is at their neighbour’s. ‘It’s amazing to have all the fun of having a cat without the costs and worries’, says Hinke.
Initially, Aziza wanted a dog or a cat, but she didn’t have the space or the time to be a responsible owner to one. She eventually decided to move a companion into her room that fit better with her lifestyle. ‘Rabbits are a great alternative to cats or dogs.’
Bunny Mickey is a real personality, she says. ‘He’s very picky about who he likes. With some people, he sits next to them and lets them pet him. With others, he’ll stay away.’ Having Mickey in her life has even coined new vocabulary: ‘My rabbit is very relaxed, so much that my friends started saying they are “mickeying” when they relax.’
According to Aziza, keeping Mickey’s cage clean isn’t as much work as she anticipated. And while the equipment you need for a rabbit is a bit of an investment, Mickey costs her about five euros a month, she estimates, which is doable on a student budget.
Nonetheless, she warns, taking care of an animal, no matter how small, always takes up some time. ‘Don’t just let your rabbit sit in a cage the entire day. Keep in mind that they need social attention and that you have to let them roam around.’
Master marine biology
When she joined the Facebook group Expats with dogs in Groningen, Sarah, who is originally from Boston, USA, came across a post by a family that was looking for someone to walk their dog, Wolfie.
‘He’s funny, adorable and has lots of energy’, Sarah says of Wolfie, who’s a Kooikerhondje, a small spaniel-type Dutch breed. ‘One time, we came across a couple of boys who were walking a puppy. Wolfie and the puppy both got really excited and decided that it would be really fun to run in circles around my legs. I got caught up in their leashes. It was honestly like that scene in 101 Dalmatians’, Sarah says laughing.
Wolfie hasn’t seen much more of the outside world than the park, because of corona, which means he sometimes gets nervous around other dogs. Loud noises or joggers can be scary for him, too, but according to Sarah this has already gotten better.
Whenever she enters the house, Wolfie always instantly picks up one of his toys, as if saying he’s ready to play. ‘We call his favourite toy his doppelganger, because it looks just like him.’
The thing Sarah is going to miss most about ‘her’ dog once she has to leave Groningen is the homey feeling she gets when Wolfie excitedly greets her at the door when she comes to pick him up for a walk. ‘His whole body will wiggle and he has these excited little yips’, she says.
Master applied social psychology
Iris has been dreaming about having a dog for a while, but her studio isn’t spacious enough for an animal that big. As the next best thing, she signed up on the site Hondjeuitlaten.nl, where dog owners looking for a walker and people who are eager to spend time with animals can get in touch with each other.
This is how she found Teddy, a ‘very enthusiastic’ light brown Pomeranian who isn’t scared of anything. ‘She really likes people and would just walk along with anyone’, says Iris.
When she first met Teddy, Iris was amazed by the wooden dog game Teddy’s owner brought with them. ‘There are different boxes and her owner put treats inside. Teddy had to use her paws and her nose to slide the wooden pieces aside to get to the treats. It was really cute how eager she was.’
One thing Iris learned quickly is that no food is safe for Teddy and she has to make sure nothing edible is lying around the house when she looks after the dog. ‘Her owner told me she will find it, even if the food is in your bag and the bag is closed.’
The current arrangement is ideal for her, Iris feels. It gives her the chance to find out what it’s really like to have a dog and what responsibilities come with it. ‘And now with covid, I’m by myself all the time. I do take walks, but it’s so much more fun to have an animal to walk with.’
Bachelor spatial planning and design
Back home in Goa, India, Havana-Kay had three rescue dogs and a 22-year-old rescue cat. Because she missed her own pets dearly, she decided to sign up on the site Pawshake, hoping to connect with someone whose pets need to be looked after.
Currently, she walks a dog, and before that, she cat-sat at two different places. She would play with the cats, feed them, change their water and sometimes their litter. Her customers are mostly young couples and families. Every once in a while, Havana-Kay takes a book with her and stays at the owners’ place for a couple of hours, because their houses are a lot nicer than her ‘crappy, small student room’.
Besides the extra money she makes, one of the biggest perks is the feeling of responsibility, she says. ‘It’s nice to have to look after someone other than yourself. I don’t really see it as a job, but more as an opportunity to spend time with animals.’
Keeping track of your schedule is vital if you’re a pet-sitter, Havana-Kay has learned. One time, she was supposed to take care of two kittens, but had accidentally booked a holiday to France at the same time. ‘I didn’t realise that the dates overlapped and had to ask another friend to please go there and feed the cats. Everything turned out fine, but at the time I was super stressed.’