Tales of a Domestic Cleaner: An Animal Too Far?

Posted on 17th June, 2011

One of the best things about running a domestic cleaning business is being able to escape from the computer and go out and meet people from all walks of life – and

their pets!


We’re very animal-friendly here at Adore Cleaning. Some might think this a wee bit daft, but we make a point of tailoring our service to suit animals too. For example, we always make a note of a pet’s name so that if the owner is out when the cleaner arrives, he or she can come in gently and address the pet by name.


If a pet is vacuum cleaner-phobic (and let’s face it, most are!), the cleaner will make sure that he or she is gently enticed into the safety of the quietest room or the garden while the cleaner does the work. When the cleaner leaves, he or she makes sure that all the right doors are open or closed to ensure that Tiddles or Eric or Thumper still has access to water and a favourite place to sleep or watch the world go by. How do the cleaners remember all the different instructions for pets from our hundreds of clients? As all our clients know, we create a detailed checklist for each home, and on these we note carefully each pet’s requirements.


We’ve had some amusing encounters with animals over the years. Monty from Withdean, for example, is a determined little dog who loves nothing better than a good old tug-of-war with the mop. He’s such a colourful character that now we refer to the job as “Monty’s clean”.


Cato the cockatiel, who lives in Hove, is another favourite. This tiny bird sat on the index finger of my left hand while I completed a cleaning checklist with his owners. He loves perching on the top of a door, then swooping down to land on the head of an accommodating human (hence the name “Cato”, which as any Peter Sellers fan will know, comes from the name of Inspector Clouseau’s manservant, who had a similar habit).


A swooping bird, no matter how tiny, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so we made doubly sure that we chose the right cleaner for this job!


Shortly after we introduced our cleaner Heather to Cato and his owners, Heather sent us an email saying “little Cato is adorable. It’s the first time I’ve ever cleaned a home with a bird on my head!” Somewhat unsurprisingly, a headscarf swiftly became Heather's chosen attire for this job. Heather also learned to take a few tissues with her each week, because Cato loves to be stroked gently down his back with a scrunched-up tissue.


It’s not compulsory for cleaners to do any of this of course. We take very good care to ensure that we match the right cleaner to the right client, with hours to suit both cleaner and client. If a cleaner has a phobia to dogs, or wants to work in a pet-free home, we’ll introduce him or her to clients who don't have those pets.


Our clients’ homes range from small apartments and bungalows to large country houses and mansions. We also have clients with farmhouses, and there is one we particularly enjoy visiting in a pretty Sussex village during lambing time! Last time I was there the lambs came up and nibbled my hand – a real treat for a townie like me.


Pets’ names can also be a lot of fun. One evening, when we were discussing cleaning with two new clients in Steyning, we happened to ask their cat’s name.

“Chairman”, came the reply.

“Chairman?” I said. “That’s an unusual name.”

The cat’s owner coughed. “Er, it’s Chairman Mew.”


 We’ve also learned not to assume that a household is pet-free. On one occasion when we went to discuss a weekly clean for a young professional in a minimalist city apartment in Brighton, we walked around the flat and there wasn’t a sign of a pet anywhere. We mistakenly assumed he didn’t have any. He replied, “Actually, I have. I’ve got a frog. It belonged to my ex-girlfriend and when she left the frog stayed here.” It turned out that said frog was kept in a tank on a shelf in his bedroom, and the reason we hadn’t spotted him was because his tank was obscured by the bedroom door when we walked in. You live and learn! UPDATE: froggie was eventually rehomed. One of the cleaners fell in love with him and the client was delighted to ler her take him away!



On the subject of amphibians and reptiles, probably one of the funniest experiences – or tragic, depending on your view – occurred when we visited a couple near Littlehampton. After we met the resident dog, his owner Chris led us into a conservatory where we found a small sofa, and enormous glass tanks lining every wall. The conservatory seemed to fulfil a dual purpose: place for human relaxation, and reptile house. They had all kinds of creatures in there, including snakes. One little chameleon had an endearing habit of tapping on the glass when he wanted to come out.


Suddenly, Chris reached into a tank and said, “Let me introduce you to Wizard the Lizard”. Alas, Wizard and I were destined not to meet. I suffer from a strange but not altogether rare condition that I can only describe as TTS – Turner’s Topographical Syndrome. Whenever I’m about to encounter certain insects or reptiles – lizards are a good example – the earth has a frustrating tendency to expand rapidly and push me far away. So, when Chris turned around to introduce me to Wizard, I had already travelled far beyond reach into the room behind.


Our operations manager Catherine smothered a laugh as she stroked Wizard. Chris simply said “Oh”.


Happily, TTS doesn’t prevent me from meeting rodents or – in that particular case - snakes, so I was able to regain my composure eventually. Then it was Catherine’s turn to lose hers.



This blog post was written by Lorraine Turner of Adore Cleaning

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