AUSTIN (KXAN) — You’ve gato be kitten me. They did what, meow?
Evelyn Shields and Vanessa Roy, co-owners of Austin Cat Sitters, both woke up Monday morning shocked like the rest of us with inches of snow on the ground all around Central Texas. Their mood was also dampened by something else.
“We woke to no power. We lost it at some point early, early on that Monday morning,” Shields said. “It was cold and it was dark.”
But Shields had another job do as an American sign language interpreter at a local hospital.
“There’s no canceling that,” she said.
While at the hospital, Shields received many messages from her managers at Austin Cat Sitters that things were going sideways.
“One visit has happened, none of the other sitters can get out. They can’t get anywhere,” she said, recalling what her managers told her.
Many of the animals’ owners were out of town when the winter storm hit last week and were unable to get back to town. On top of that, no other staffed cat sitters were able to venture out until later in the week to care for those pets.
Shields told her managers, “Okay, assign me all the visits,” and she started circling the city in a four-wheel-drive Jeep — a vehicle she and Vanessa bought last year in January. Their Prius did not start because of the cold.
Shields did most of the driving around while Roy walked to cats nearby. She braved snowy, sometimes steep roads to visit and check on their clients’ cats. The three photos below are from her drive on Tuesday:
Shields visited more than 30 cats on her own from Monday through Wednesday. She traveled as far north as Lakeline Mall and as far south as Slaughter Lane.
“We just went into focus mode of how do we get this taken care of,” she said. “We don’t miss visits.”
Shields visited the cats Pumpkin and Spice in an apartment complex with no power. Luckily, they brought a flashlight to find the felines in the dark. This allowed them to also send photos back to their owner to confirm the purring pair’s well-being.
Then there’s Ace, who lives in the Riverside area. He was in more dire need.
“I had become concerned when I noticed in his litter box there was a little blood in his urine,” Shields said. “So I immediately called mom — that’s what we do. Within the time I was on the phone with her, about five minutes, he used the box two more times, which is a severely concerning behavior and it was bloody. We made a decision that mom needed to find where to bring him in the midst of no power.”
Roy and Shields transported him to one of two emergency vets open on Wednesday night and then back home with medication. Since then she has followed up with his owner and Ace is doing well.
Shields also shot a video of her drive down a hill at an apartment complex to check on a cat whose owner was stranded in Colorado.
“I went up and down it on both Tuesday and Wednesday to visit Villy who had no power, heat, or water,” she said.
Conditions were so cold that Shields found Villy’s water bowl frozen over. She added visits as needed until his owner could get back.
Shields’ other cat sitters started helping with the load by Wednesday as conditions slowly got better later in the week.
Overall, she was simply happy to care for the cats around Austin.
“We’re always very happy to hear when our clients are happy. That’s a big thing for us. What we’re trying to do is take care of kitties in homes and make sure they’re okay,” Shields said.
“Hearing from the clients, their expression of relief, obviously gratitude is wonderful to hear, but their expression saying, ‘I didn’t worry. I was able to have a relaxing vacation cause I knew you had it. I didn’t have to have concerns about anything not getting done.'”
“It’s a lot of cat love for us. We are cat people and then just knowing that they’re getting what they need is what really makes us feel the best.”
You can learn more about Austin Cat Sitters on the company’s website.