By Daniel Quagliozzi
All of us deserve a vacation once and a while. Just some time to get away and go somewhere else, without a care in the world. But, as a cat guardian, it's often very hard to step away from our homes for more then a few days without calling in reinforcements to take care of our furry friends, while we bask in the sun or hike a mountain trail, miles away from home.
I am extremely fortunate to have friends and colleagues at the SF/SPCA that are available to look after my senior cat, Matilda. In her golden years, Matilda is not the kind of cat that you can just put out a fresh bowl of food and water and leave. She requires a savvy cat sitter who knows her well and can tell if she's feeling a little wonky. With cognitive dysfunctions, spinal arthritis, intermittent vomiting, low appetite and the need for subcutaneous fluids every few days, Matilda is quite the challenge to care for. Again, I am extremely lucky to have a great cat sitter that not only gives her love and attention, but was kind enough to document each day with pictures!
World's Best Cat Sitter : Donna watches over my broken down cat Matilda
If your cat is lower maintenance, the best thing to do for long absenses is to ask friends or hire a pet sitter to check in – to feed and provide fresh water, clean the litterbox, and groom your cat at least once a day. Ask them to engage in some interactive playtime with your cat. It will provide exercise and mental stimulation, and the exercise can reduce stress. Someone who is familiar with your cat is ideal.
If you are going away for more than 2 weeks, it is best to have someone who can spend the night at least a few times a week while you are away.
When hiring a cat-sitter:
- Get references from friends, your vet, or local animal rescue.
- You may prefer to use a pet-sitter who is bonded and insured, and they should offer you references if requested.
- Ideally, have the pet-sitter meet your cat before you hire them, to see how they interact with your cat.
- Make reservations early, as pet-sitters can get booked up quickly, especially during holidays.
- Leave carefully written instructions for the sitter about where food, litter and medications are located. Also note your cat’s preferences for grooming, treats, affection and interactive play.
- Buy extra supplies in case your travel plans change.
- Make sure your cat has an ID tag and microchip. Have current photos available in case she gets lost while you are gone.
- Have a friend who has a back up set of keys and is willing to be an emergency contact.
Make sure the pet sitter has your contact information for the duration of your travels.
- Have a written letter authorizing the pet sitter to approve emergency veterinary care in your absence.
- A written contract outlining fees, method of payment, and the terms of the services offered (amount of time spent with pet, time of day they will visit, other services they will provide such as checking mail or watering plants) is recommended
Sometimes there is no choice but to board your cat. Boarding can be stressful, as your cat will be out of their familiar territory, surrounded by strange people, noises, and smells. If you must board your cat:
- Call ahead of time; kennels book up quickly during holidays.
Many vet offices and animal hospitals also do boarding.
- Visit the kennel before committing.
Many kennels require proof of up-to-date vaccinations, so inquire ahead of time about what shots your cat might need.
- It’s best to bring along familiar items for your cat – bedding, something with your scent, toys and whatever food they currently eat. Also bring along any medications your cat needs.
- Give the kennel detailed information about your cat’s preferences and needs, as well as your contact information.
If your cat is staying at someone else’s house…
Although not ideal, sometimes you have to take kitty to another home to stay. A “safe room” should be provided for your cat – away from noise and other animals. Some cats will need to stay in one room for the duration of the visit, depending on how outgoing (or shy) your cat is and how comfortable they are with strangers, other animals, and new environments. Security is a big issue, so make sure there is no chance for your cat to escape (through open windows, cat doors or other doors left open) – if she does she will be lost and far from home.