Patt Doyle is a bonafide cat lady if there ever was one.
During a recent interview, she sported a purple vest — the color used on all of her business marketing materials — adorned with a pin of a silver cat over her heart, and dangling earrings with the word “MEOW.”
But Doyle doesn’t actually own a feline companion herself. She and her husband have a dog named Daisy, who hates cats. So Doyle gets her feline fix through her business, Pampurred Pet Care. Her official title, as it appears in her email signatures? Purr-fessional cat sitter.
But unlike the idea of a cat lady in popular culture — an unsociable loner — Doyle is quite the opposite. She turned 60 last week, “I’m a crone, woohoo! Which means I’ll be instantly wise,” she joked about her April 1 birthday, and making a reference to the elderly woman folklore character.
Doyle’s a jokester, honest about herself and passionate about her beliefs. A tattoo on her arm reads “Everyone has a pulse” over the top of a rainbow-colored lifeline, that she says has a number of meanings: 1) she’s vegan and believes animals shouldn’t be killed for food, and 2) in memory of the 49 people killed in the 2016 shooting at a gay nightclub called Pulse in Orlando, Fla.
“So I’m a vegan, dog-owning cat sitter. That’s the way life goes sometimes,” Doyle said.
Pampurred Pet Care
Location: Various locations, depending on client.
Revenue: In 2018, $12,000. In 2017, $9,000. “In Forks, my best year was $23,000. But that was a year where I went almost an entire year without a day off,” said Patt Doyle. Doyle charges $25 for a daily visit, or $75 per night for an overnight stay. She said she has around 35 clients.
Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Outlook: The bureau doesn’t track independent pet sitters specifically, but the more broad “animal care and service workers,” which covers many different types of jobs. Employment in the field is expected to grow 22 percent through 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Doyle grew up in Oakland, Md., and attended school in West Virginia. She hopped around the United States working as a park ranger for the National Park Service. She met her husband, she said, while working at Dinosaur National Monument, located on the border between Colorado and Utah. He worked for Bogachiel State Park near Forks, where she moved to live with him. Often only able to find seasonal work, Doyle took up pet sitting while in Forks, starting in 1996. While working there, she even influenced former Gov. Gary Locke to initiate a proclamation for a special pet week and was featured on the cover of The Forks Forum newspaper in 2000. Later, her husband transferred to Battle Ground State Park.
These days, she primarily focuses on cats and no longer works as a park ranger, but supplements the pet sitting with a part-time job as a special education assistant at Laurin Middle School. The school offers health insurance for herself and her husband, who lost his job. The two live together in a 55-and-older facility in Battle Ground. However, Doyle occasionally stays the night at a client’s home if needed.
“It’s majority cats. I have about 35 clients. That’s how many I sent out for Christmas cards this year, anyway,” she said.
She has an allegiance to cats for a few reasons. When she started her pet business in Forks, it rained a lot, and she got tired of trudging through water with people’s pups. While cats may be easier from that point of view, Doyle still feels felines make you work in other ways.
“You know what, dogs are so easy. You give them a treat and they’re done. Cats make you earn it. And when you finally earn it and they want you to pet them and they’re curious about you or they come sit next to you, once you’re on the cat-approved list, oh baby,” she said. “That is the deal right there baby, when you finally earn a cat’s trust. That takes time.”
I tailed Doyle to a cozy home in Battle Ground, where she would tend to a 17-year-old cat named Posha, whose owners were out of town. She talked about her job, perspectives on people keeping litter boxes near the food dishes (don’t do it) and why she decided not to have children.
Have you had any conflicts caring for a particular animal? Have you ever had to deal with animal control or anything dramatic like that?
Since I have an eight-page contract, I try to take care of things. One of my questions is if you die, who gets custody of your pets? If your pet dies, what do I do with its body? That’s always a showstopper: Who’s got custody of the pets? I’ve had to use that about three times. One time a client died. She had left two dogs and two cats. I started to take care of her pets until her family came. They didn’t want the pets so I found new homes for them.
What is it like dealing with the death of someone’s pet?
Sometimes I think (the pets) can choose when they go, so they’re like OK, the pet sitter loves me and I can have her do it. One of my great honors is when people go to get their pet euthanized and they ask, “Patt, will you come with me?” They want somebody who understands because a lot of people don’t get grieving over pets or when pets die how traumatic it can be. When you have a pet that gets you through somebody dying of cancer, whatever traumatic event is going on, you revisit that because that’s the pet who got you through it. So when this happens, it’s a double whammy.
A lot of people seem to have this idea that cats don’t need anyone to watch them.
(Said in a mocking voice) “Cats are so independent they don’t need anything.” A lot of people say that but cats are predators and they tend to hide their illnesses. And, they are pets, they are used to us being around. I have people who hire me because they appreciate and want their pets to be taken care of to their level. That’s my job. When you have the kid next door take care of your pets, you worry if they lock the door. I’ve had people call me and say, “Oh I went away and they didn’t even scoop the litter box once.” My competition is grandma and the kid next door.
Have you ever had a client that you just completely disagreed with?
Absolutely. I hate plastic. You cannot get plastic (dishes) clean and it gives cats blackheads on their chin. You should try to always give cats ceramic, metal or something else. I have a client, I haven’t heard from this client for a while — how would you feel if your kitchen had your toilet in it? Like the laundry room, litter box and like a foot away, the water and the kibble. I’ve told clients no. I’m like, “I’m not going to do that.”
How many hours are you putting in a week for cat sitting?
It’s wildly various. The beginning of the month (of March), I didn’t have any sits. Yesterday I had three sits. Today I have Posha until Sunday. Saturday night I move into a house with two Chihuahuas.
So you’re probably busy a lot during weekends and holidays.
Absolutely. Thanksgiving and Christmas are my “making money, honey” times. And I do charge extra for holidays.
Have you ever considered expanding?
I have had employees when I worked in Forks. I’m not a good boss. I want it done exactly my way. And I have the key to people’s houses. I have insurance, a business license and those kinds of things. You can have employee insurance, but I barely trust my husband to follow my directions, let alone … I’m not good at managing that many people. I feel like my business is very personal.
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What do you have hopes for in the future?
My plan was to work part time for somebody else until I got my business going better, but now that I have to provide insurance for my family, I plan on working with the school district until I’m 65. Then I actually don’t have plans. I can see me doing this for a while.
You mentioned a family — do you have children?
I’ve heard of people who decide they don’t want to have children say they have their “fur babies.” Is that something you subscribe to?
Their fur family. … I’ll tell people, I was a seasonal park ranger doing my own thing for a long time. Darn, I forgot something, I knew it. But you know, the reason I really don’t have kids, for one, is that you cannot protect them. My family has nasty genes. Multigenerational alcoholism. They’re OK, but one sister is an attorney, the other is in prison. You don’t know what kind of kid you’re going to get. Nature versus nurture, there’s that balance. I don’t want to take that risk. Nowadays if you have a kid, you’re stupid. It’s hard, money-wise. I’m sorry, they’re going to have to deal with climate change.