01/31/2012 04:39 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Distinct Charm of Animal Owners

Ever since my landlord told me about my building's strict no pets policy, I have fantasized about getting a puppy or kitten. Actually, I find most pet owners to be a fascinating, yet charming, breed. Consider these statistics from the American Humane Society:
  • A majority of dog and cat owners give their furry friends Christmas gifts, spending a whopping5 billion during holiday season. 10% of them carry photos of them around in their wallets. 34% of families take their dogs on family vacations.

Hotels have caught on to this pet traveling trend, offering your four-legged friends all kinds of perks: a ride in a Rolls Royce to the groomer, karaoke sessions, even surfing camp.

In fact, a dog's life is pretty good at The Fairmont San Francisco where pups can indulge in a doggie mini bar complete with organic peanut brittle cookies and other goodies. The Fairmont Miramar, gives the term pampered pooch a whole new meaning as the spa offers an array of services like dog massages and facials.

While the dogs kick up their paws at hotels, most felines (89% of them) stay home. But many kitties are just as indulged. Just ask Jeanne Adlon, who became NYC's first full-time cat sitter more than 35 years ago.

From five-floor walkups to Park Avenue penthouses, Adlon has traveled all over New York City to lovingly care for hundreds of cats (including those owned by celebrities) while their owners are away. Her new book, Cat Calls: Wonderful Stories and Practical Advice from a Veteran Cat Sitter (Square One, $14.95) is filled with anecdotal cat tales as she offers her unique brand of common-sense advice. (Susan Logan, editor of Cat Fancy, co-authors.)

"My clients are like family to me," shares Adlon. But some families are a bit odder than others. One owner required that the cats keep kosher for the Jewish holidays -- which meant eating Matzo. Another asked Adlon to feed the kitties in Waterford crystal goblets. ("They probably didn't know that they were eating from crystal, says the beloved cat sitter, "but that's what the owner preferred. They were actually rescue kitties.") Or how about the family who allowed their cat to scratch one designated Louis XVI chair? The idea was that if the cat gained claim to one item, pawing the daylights out of it, it would leave the rest of the antique furniture well enough alone!

But one of Adlon's greatest memories was when she had a store for cat lovers and received an impromptu visit from a fellow feline aficionado. His limo pulled up, the guy entered and asked to purchase the tall tree house on display, (which incidentally, was used by the cats in the store and covered with cat hair.)

"Let me order one for you," replied Adlon. But the man had his heart set on the display one, despite the hair. He placed his money on the counter, said, "keep the change," and was off with the elaborate climbing structure and back into his limo. The cat-adoring guy? John Lennon, who liked to drop by to pet the kitties in the store. Because no matter who you are, says Aldon, "cats provide unconditional love. They will give you in return what you give them."

Maybe I should ask my landlord if he'll reconsider?

To learn more about Cat Calls and Jeanne Adlon, visit,