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6 Ways to Make It Easy for a Friend to Watch Your Cats

Choose the right person, leave specific instructions, and plan for multiple eventualities.

Catherine Holm  |  Aug 19th 2015


Sometimes we have to leave our cats for days or even weeks. I love to travel and explore, but I hate leaving my cats. So I make sure things go smoothly at home. I want to have worry-free travel, I want the cats to be happy while I’m gone, and I want no problems to crop up. Problems might surface, but I do my best to minimize the chances of this. Here are some things I think about.

Instruct your person on your cat’s nuances

If your cat-watcher is your live-in partner, this might be a little easier. But cats can be subtle, and we might not know things are wrong if we don’t know how to notice. Specify things you know that could signal that something might be off with your cat. These things might be apparent to you, but a partner or friend might need help knowing how to look for idiosyncrasies. Is a playful cat suddenly hiding, for example? Is there suddenly diarrhea in the litterbox?

Be reachable — or have a contingency plan

Make sure that in case something comes up the person in charge can reach you via cell phone, land line, text, or email. There are circumstances where you might be hard to reach. For example, I love to wilderness camp. Some of the places I’ve been to are remote and I’m out of contact. In such cases, your cat-watcher needs a contingency plan. Your partner or friend should have the contact information of another friend you trust to advise in such a situation. Better yet, your friend or partner should have the contact information of your vet (with payment prearranged, if that is possible), and be willing to take your cat to the vet if needed.

Plan for the expected

Do you know that your cat has a sensitive stomach and is likely to start throwing up while you are gone? Plan for this and have the appropriate treatments on hand, with instructions for your cat-watcher. For example, Zorro (my Ragdoll) is very attached to me. He also has a sensitive stomach and can get stressed when I am gone. When I have to travel, I make sure my husband knows where the probiotic is, and how much to give Zorro if needed. I also make sure that Zorro doesn’t get into food that disagrees with him (like Chester’s Fancy Feast), because a change in diet would probably set off Zorro’s sensitive stomach symptoms.

Zorro loves it when all is well at home, and he tends to get a sensitive stomach if stressed.

Zorro tends to have a sensitive stomach when he’s stressed.

Plan for the unexpected

I think of myself as a control freak. When I leave, I tell the person watching my cats to make sure window screens are secured and storm doors are latched. My cats don’t go outside. If this is the situation in your house, make sure your friend understands that things need to be very secure. Some cats love the puzzle of opening doors and windows. This describes my clever, problem-solving Norton.

Chester loves his Fancy Feast, and I have to make sure that other cats (like Zorro, with a sensitive stomach) don’t get into it when I’m gone.

Chester loves his Fancy Feast, and I have to make sure other cats don’t get into it when I’m gone.

There are infinite “unexpecteds” you could plan for. If the partner or friend might need to get your cat out of your living space in a hurry (vet emergency? natural disaster?), make sure cat carriers and food and supplies are in a convenient location.

If bored, Norton loves to solve problems, like opening doors. I’ve not seen him try a window screen, thankfully.

Norton loves to solve problems, like opening doors. I’ve not seen him try a window screen, thankfully.

Leave precise instructions

If it’s critical that a cat gets a half a teaspoon of some medicine daily, specify that. Make your instructions clear and easy to follow. Cat care, especially if there are multiple cats involved, can get detailed and overwhelming, so don’t add unnecessary disorganization.

Consider hiring additional help

If it will be too much for a partner or friend, and if you have the means, you might pay a professional cat sitter to help or provide all the care. Your live-in partner might be perfectly willing and capable of looking after the cats, but other obligations might make it difficult for him or her to provide adequate care and attention. Line up a person who understands cats, who ideally knows your cats, and who is willing to take action if needed.

How do you make it easy for your partner or friend to watch your cats if you have to travel or leave for a few days?

More by Catherine Holm:

About Catherine Holm: Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr, the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.