Roosevelt Islanders

Roosevelt Island's Best Cat Sitter Expands

David Stone
Handle With Care Cat Art
Handle With Care Cat Art
© Deborah Julian

Have you ever worried that the person in whose care you've entrusted your cat while you're away may not give your best feline friend - or friends - the attention they deserve? Or even the amount you paid for - in advance?

Deborah Julian's been there, and when it happened to her, she acted, starting a Roosevelt Island cat-sitting service designed to guarantee your cat or cats the best of care when you can't be there to do it yourself.

Maybe you know the feeling.

You come home after a trip. Your cat's acting funny, maybe jumpier than usual, needier or just sort of out of it? What happened when you were gone? Did you get emails or calls to let you know of a concern or just as a thoughtful reminder that all is well?

You didn't? No wonder you're surprised.

You look, and you find that the money you left for the cat-sitter has been picked up. So, you know she or he was there - at least once.

Full Disclosure: I am happily married to Deborah Julian, and yes, I even sometimes visit the kitties too. The experiences I'm about to share are ones we both went through.

Cat-Sitter Hell. Twice.

Twice, we hired Roosevelt Island-based cat-sitters, and twice, something bad happened in eerily familiar ways.

First off, unless you're suspicious enough to enlist your doorman or concierge to keep tabs for you, you don't know when or if your cat-sitter arrives or how much time they spend. It's all based on trust, and think about it, they've got your keys. And your cat is 100% dependent on them.

Keep that in mind.

We had a shocking wakeup call when we came home a day earlier than our first Roosevelt Island cat-sitter expected. We found that our suddenly nervous but usually ravenous cat had an entire bowl overflowing with food he hadn't eaten. His litter box was disgusting, days worth of poop and urine crowding it, and in what turned out to be a telltale tipoff, the toilet seat we always closed was left up.

We put the pieces together. If the litter box mess wasn't evidence enough, the overflowing food dish told us that this cat-sitter's strategy was to leave enough food to be sure our cat didn't starve . He'd flipped up the toilet seat to make sure water was also available. The plan? Since the cat-sitter mistakenly thought we'd return the next day, he'd come in and clean up the mess in one, economical visit, removing all evidence, apart from an inexplicably unhappy cat.

An anomaly, we thought, and a lesson learned. We take our responsibilities for our cats seriously. They are family and should be treated so. 

Then, it happened again. Another Roosevelt Island-based cat-sitter left a similar disaster behind due to bad timing. We had a pair of cats by now, and not only were both their bowls overflowing, but the litter box was a disgusting disgrace. For our cats, it was like having to use an old-fashion outhouse in desperate need of servicing.

But there was worse. Their water bowl was licked empty, and a bag of collected litter, probably from the one time our cat-sitter showed up, had been absentmindedly left on our dining room table. It took days to get the smell out. And, of course, there was the toilet seat left open again. It took even more days to convince our fanatical by nature black cat that this was definitely not the best place to get a good drink, in spite of his standing there, insisting that the lid be lifted.

When my wife called this cat-sitter to demand an explanation, she was told she had "an anger problem." That, she did.

When vacation time came again, we were forced to acknowledge that finding a trustworthy local cat-sitter was unlikely. We had to scramble, finally locating a service operating out of Queens.

For Every Problem, A Solution

Not long after that, Deborah decided that she could do something helpful for our neighbors while also doing something she really enjoyed: looking after cats in the way they should be looked after.

Five years later, she has gotten to know a delightful array of cats with a staggering variety of personalities. Many have become her buddies, feline friends who recognize her and come running when she visits.

Sometimes, she brings usually surefire toys, colorful ribbons, to try getting in some play time. After all, the cat gets only a half-hour per visit. It should be more rich than just dishing out some food, cleaning and watching the clock tick. Some cats prefer cuddles over play. Others hide, shy with people they don't see every day. But all get individual, personal care geared to their needs and interests.

Ultimately, her goal is for you to find your cat acting as if you've just been out for the afternoon when you get home, no matter how long you've been away.

Until recently, Deborah has confined her cat-sitting to Manhattan Park because she worried that taking on other buildings might create too much to be handled with the right level of attention to the cats. She turned down requests to follow when cats moved to Manhattan. But then, a special pair took up residence in Rivercross, and she said, "Yes." She realized, as long as she strictly limited her commitments, other Island buildings were doable.

Happy to Meet New Cats

And their people, of course.

Beginning in June, Deborah will start accepting a limited number of assignments outside Manhattan Park. Meeting new cats is so rewarding that she wishes she could do more, but even New Yorkers are limited to twenty-four hours a day and a finite supply of energy. If you would like to be on the short list or to meet and discuss, email her at

Your best feline friends will be glad you did.

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