Cat sitter troubled by rail strikes in the UK

I have become a full-time nomadic cat sitter since Dec 2021. My main areas for cat sitting are Europe (two cat sits in France) and the UK (24 cat sits in England and Wales including two repeat sits so far).

I do not own a car so I travel by public transport (bus, train) in the UK and by plane or train/Eurostar to Europe from the UK. I have had to rearrange my travel dates or cat sitting assignment dates several times in 2022 due to the frequent rail strikes in the UK. I always discuss the transport predicament with my hosts and sometimes I arrive one day earlier/later than originally agreed. Sometimes I travel on the day before/after a scheduled strike when the trains run infrequently and schedules are uncertain, making arrival times at the HO’s place rather unpredictable. A rail strike in November also affected an airbnb break in Devon that I had booked when I did not have a confirmed cat sit for that week. I ended up having to arrive at my paid accommodation one day later than planned, ie cut short my holiday by one day. Tbh my whole life is one long holiday as I do not consider cat sitting to be work, but you know what I mean!

I did not have to book extra paid accommodation due to rail strikes yet, but I can imagine that happening soon. As a nomadic sitter, I do not have a home to return to in the UK/Europe if I postpone travel due to the rail strikes - it means having to stay on at an assignment one day longer or book paid accommodation somewhere (hotel, airbnb etc). Like now, due to the rail strike on 26th November I just found out about which was to be my moving day to a new sit.

Are other sitters having these problems too? I am hoping that the UK government, rail companies and unions will sit down and resolve their disagreements soon. It has been a frustrating year for those travelling by train whether regular commuters travelling to/from work or foreign & domestic tourists who travel for pleasure.


Hi @cat.tails,
Yes it affected a sit I did that isn’t that far from my place in London that took just over an hour to get to but coming back during a rail strike it took me over 7 hours!
Unfortunately I can’t see this being settled anytime soon and in fact the rail unions have announced there will be more strikes for the next 6 months.

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Well done @cat.tails on your success in your achievements and obvious enjoyment in your cat sitting adventures. I can so relate.
You seem to have managed well In your strategy, communication and foresight to meeting your commitments. So my question is,
Is there really a problem when solutions are and can be found?
It’s a rhetorical question that does not require an answer. Like you and many others, we have been challenged but managed. The services have been very good at providing alternative transportation options and announcing the strikes so that arrangements can be made.
Keeping that line of communication open with HO is crucial. They want you to come just as much as you want to get there and in my experience they have been very understanding and accommodating and helping out as much as possible.
Best wishes and happy tails! :cat2:

Hi - thanks for your rhetorical question :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

The problems are not always completely solvable:

1/ I am a perfectionist and I do not like to let HOs down or to inconvenience them. When I say that I will arrive on a certain day at a certain time, I like to keep that promise.
2/ I have found it frustrating because the information regarding revised schedule is not always available on the days before/after a strike day. It is often a case of turning up at the station and hoping for the best.
3/ Financial losses do occur. So far, I lost one night’s accommodation due to not being able to arrive on the date I had booked (no trains running that day). That is not too tragic, but I would still class it as a problem. This time (25th Nov) will also involve financial loss because instead of staying in an airbnb that I booked a while ago, I will now have to find an airbnb or hotel in a more expensive town in the UK.
4/ Due to rail strikes, I spend a lot of time rearranging transport and accommodation. It requires more than one click!

Usually we get at least two weeks notice of a rail strike but this time there was only 8 days’ notice. That makes it harder for me to arrange accommodation if I cannot get to the sit on the correct day (26th November).

I don’t think that we all should get used to this continuing inconvenience of frequent rail strikes. In my opinion, the boys (they are mostly men) in the gov’t, rail companies and unions need to sit down and start talking/negotiating seriously. Problems can always be solved if all parties involved are willing to talk to each other.

It hasn’t affected my sitti g but has impacted my personal travel. It can also be frustrating when they cancel the strikes at short notice when you’ve already worked around the strike days. There is a pretty good coach/bus network in the UK, have you looked at that. Takes longer but is fairly efficient and generally very good value.

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Not sure if it works in the UK: but you can check out BlaBlaCar. We also used to hitchhike, maybe also worth getting back to! Buses could also be an option (depending on where you need to go).


hi - there is no coach/bus to the town I am travelling to for the next cat sit. It looks like the only solution is to cancel my London airbnb, travel to a nearby town one day early, get a more expensive airbnb in that town (twice the cost of the London airbnb), then go to the cat sit the next day which is the day the sit is supposed to start.

I agree it’s a terrible inconvenience and most certainly occurs delays, hardships in many areas. Ideally it would be great if this would be settled. In the meantime we have to find our own way. That’s just how I operate.
When I was there experiencing this, I started to look for longer sits, used more coach services, avoiding the rail if possible for example.
For me, when I can’t control what is, I change my strategy.


I feel you. It’s not just the UK. So far we’ve been lucky to have narrowly escaped airport strikes in Belgium, railway strikes in the UK and France, and bus/metro in Portugal.
Travelling has definitely become trickier and the rise in hotel/Airbnb prices doesn’t help either.

Fingers crossed things will calm down in 2023!


Yes, you are right! I have changed my strategy for 2023. I just have to get through the remaining three sits for 2022 that are already confirmed and hope there are no train strikes in December and early January.

I am just about fully booked until the end of June 2023. The first half of 2023 is booked out with a 100 day Jan-April cat sit and a repeat sit with a different HO in April-June that is just under two months long. I will most likely also do a repeat sit in Aug-Oct 2023 that is 5.5 weeks long. I think that after doing 29 sits in 2022, the idea of doing fewer/longer assignments in 2023 seemed quite appealing. Plus the numerous train strikes in the UK often make/made travelling from sit to sit problematic.

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yes, fingers crossed for less strikes in 2023. I think that the negotiators have to start negiotating!

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Brilliant! You will get through this and onward to new and better experiences.
Have fun and best wishes with your travels and all the gorgeous kitties in your future.

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haha, yes, I will get through it!
As an example of how the info is often slow, I just got this reply to a message I posted at the GWR FB page:

Hello, just to confirm, we are currently assessing the level of service we will be able to operate on Saturday 26 November and will provide an update on as soon as possible, so at present it is not known which trains will or will not run so your train may not actually be cancelled. Your ticket is only valid for travel to XX, but I would advise that you await for the timetable to be confirmed and then refund the ticket to repurchase for a different location should your journey actually be cancelled

So… for now, I will do nothing - perhaps my train will run as originally planned! I had just done some research on airbnb and various train itineraries for the 25th. I think I will be better off now going for a walk in beautiful south Oxfordshire where I am currently doing a cat sit…

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Yes, I have had issues with this. Had to get expensive ubers and taxis instead

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And they do not refund the whole cost of the ticket. They keep the service fee.

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Sorry to hear about your extra expenses

Oh, I see!

Earlier I was looking at an alternative ticket to a nearer town than the one I actually need to travel to and on the day of the strike (26 Nov) the ticket is more than twice the cost of the ticket I had bought to the town that is closer but in the same general area (the two towns are only 6km apart). I’m wondering if it is because it is not an Advance price ticket (I always buy my train tix well in advance), or if they hiked up the prices on a strike day! All in all, it is quite frustrating.

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I live in the UK with no car. Just a few tips in case it helps anyone:

  1. If your plans are flexible, some rail providers will honor strike day tickets for travel a day or two before or a few days after, it’s not always a lost cause if there is a strike.

  2. Check any of the ‘rail splitter’ sites both for cheap tickets and ideas of where you can re-route. You don’t have to buy your ticket on these sites, but they will give you an idea of options.

For example, I was traveling from my corner of Essex to Gatwick. A ‘normal’ ticket from my local rail station would cost 50 pounds. By using one of these sites I could get to the same place for 10 pounds cheaper, and I took the same exact trains I would normally use. Instead of having one ticket, I had two single tickets from point A to B and B to C. You don’t have to actually break your journey but you do need to follow routing rules and pass through that station.

These sites can be useful if only part of the rail network is on strike. Maybe you take a bus to a station along the way and pick up a different rail network. They provide additional detail to supplement what you may figure out on Google maps.

  1. Avoid Sundays when possible if traveling by local buses. I’ve done some of those long trips when the trains are on strike and a one hour train journey becomes a seven hour day of buses.

Often there are more options and travel to more remote areas during the morning and evening commute and school runs Mon-Fri. Near me there are some private companies that run buses aimed at high school kids (they are public bus journeys, anyone can take them, some people commute to work on them too), but they pick up and drop off in more remote areas to get the kids to and from school. It can be a win-win if you leave or arrive early in the morning or after 3 PM.


I’m just wondering if you can make use of National Express? I know it doesn’t reach everywhere but it’s cheaper and more reliable than trains in the UK at the moment.
My home is in Cheltenham (currently rented out while I’m ‘downunder’) and has been for nearly 16 years. I like to go to London frequently and always used National Express.


There is no National Express coach to the town I need to get to. I am now hoping that the trains will either get me to the town I need, or at least to another town 6km away on the strike day - rail tickets are showing up for that town on 26/11.

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