Cat Calls

Meet successful New York City cat sitter Jeanne Adlon.

By Karen Jones

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At the start of each day, Adlon goes through her client list to prepare for her house calls, while her cat Magic lends an ear.
Jeanne Adlon has one mission in life: to help animals, particularly cats. As New York City’s first full-time cat sitter, she has cared for hundreds of furry felines while their owners are away.

But her story begins with a chance meeting in the 1960s with Cleveland Amory, a celebrated entertainment critic, animal activist and author of the beloved classic book “The Cat Who Came for Christmas.”

“In school, I had studied to be a fashion designer, but I have always loved animals,” Adlon says. “I had heard of Cleveland’s anti-animal cruelty organization Fund for Animals here in New York. We met by chance, and I asked him about doing volunteer work. Four months later, I was their full-time Assistant East Coast Coordinator.”
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Some of Adlon's feline charges adopt her as another parent. Here, she and Milo share some quality time.

Amory was completely devoted to bettering the lives of animals everywhere, Adlon says. His cherished feline companion and muse Polar Bear (star of “The Cat Who Came for Christmas” and two other bestsellers) was a frequent visitor to the office. “They had a truly special bond,” says Adlon, who cared for Polar Bear when Amory traveled.

Ready for a change, Adlon left the Fund for Animals in 1974 to open Cat Cottage, the first A to Z emporium for cats and their owners in Manhattan. The store was an instant hit and attracted an eclectic crowd. “John Lennon came in several times,” says Adlon, adding that, on one occasion, he hoisted a large cat tree onto his shoulders and hurried downstairs to a waiting limousine.

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Adlon's house calls take her to every conceivable Manhattan dwelling, from one-room walkups to magnificent pre-war buildings.
After occasionally boarding cats in her store, Adlon was asked by one customer if she would make a house visit because the owner was reluctant to board her cat. Adlon said yes, and New York City welcomed its first official cat sitter.

Thirty-four years later, Adlon still pounds the pavements of The Big Apple with her Cat Calls cat sitting service. She cares for cats in their own homes when their owners are traveling, making sure food and water bowls are filled and litterboxes cleaned. Though she has nothing against boarding, she feels that, whenever possible, cats are more comfortable in their own environments.

“When owners travel, the routine is changed, and that is stressful. Cats tend to do better in familiar surroundings,” says Adlon, who also administers plenty of TLC and play with her charges.

Meanwhile, the cats might be content, but the unforeseen and the unusual is part of Adlon’s 24/7 routine. In order to fulfill her duties, she has walked up 20 flights of stairs in total darkness during a blackout, climbed up a fire escape and crawled in a window when the owner’s door keys didn’t fit, slogged through a blizzard on Christmas Day and dealt with a bevy of eccentric owners and challenging surroundings.

Her stories run the gamut from hilarious to horrific. Among other things, she has had to feed diva cats in special Waterford dishes, assure an anxious owner that her cat will keep kosher during the Jewish holidays, sprinkle oatmeal flakes on a kitchen floor to check for a shy kitty’s paw prints, stare down aggressive alpha cats, and dodge a menacing tarantula. Through it all, her sense of humor and dedication to her work are the same as the day she started. “I am lucky to be doing something I love,” she says.

You can reach Adlon to ask her a question about your cat by clicking here for our Ask the Cat Sitter column on You can also follow her on Twitter or visit her website.

See more articles by Jeanne Adlon>>


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Reader Comments

Cathy    Hubbard, OH

6/23/2011 4:32:59 AM

Great Article. I have Cleveland Amory's books. They were great! I wish you lived in my area Jeanne. I would love to have someone like you watch my kitties.

Galadriel    Lothlorien, ME

6/22/2011 10:48:43 PM

Good for her!

Eleanor    Saint Petersburg, FL

6/22/2011 9:26:59 PM


debby    oxford, MN

6/22/2011 7:40:42 PM

wish i had someone like her good story

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