There are time when you need to leave town or be gone for a few days and, you need to leave your cat(s) behind. If you’re anything like me, you worry about all the possible things that could go wrong that could affect your cat’s health and safety. But worry is never good for any of us, and I’ve always suspected that our cats pick up on our worry. It can’t be good for them, either. So, it’s in everyone’s best interest to set up things smoothly for your cat sitter — whether a professional, a good friend, or even a neighbor — so that cat-watching goes well and is as problem-free as possible.
Here are some tips on how you can make the process as easy and pain-free as possible for your cat sitter and your cat(s).
Take the time to gather all of your instructions ahead of time, and go over them with your cat watcher ahead of time. Some things that seem like easy routines to you may be missed or overlooked by someone who is not familiar with (your) cats.
For example, if it’s important that your cat get a specific amount of food per day, make this clear to the pet watcher. If you have several cats, and one must have different or special food, the pet watcher needs to understand why that’s important. The pet watcher also needs to know the best way to carry out these instructions. For example: If it works best to feed the cat with different food in a separate room, point that out. Try to think of everything, and try to put yourself in the mindset of a person unfamiliar with your cats and your routines.
Make a checklist for your cat sitter, if your situation calls for it. Make sure your sitter has good and quick access to emergency phone numbers (such as your veterinarian), and make sure that your sitter knows the location of your vet. Naturally, make sure that your sitter can easily reach you, and knows your itinerary.
What if something happens while you are gone? Even if the pet sitter is willing to get your cat to the vet, you will greatly facilitate things if you let the veterinarian’s office know that you will be gone. See if you can prepay, so that the cat sitter runs into no snags on their end. For such cases in the past, I’ve given vets a credit card number in case of emergency. If your vet knows and trusts you well, or you’re a long-time customer, they may carry a balance until you return and pay for any accrued bills.
Along these lines, it’d be a good idea to have cat carriers ready and easily accessible, in case the sitter needs to make a quick trip to the vet with your cat. You never want these things to happen, and they usually don’t. In my many years of watching my friend’s cats, I only had it happen once, and thankfully, it was nothing serious.
Not to be negative, but think about everything that could possibly go wrong while you’re gone, or could prevent your cat watcher from taking care of your cats. Then, make plans so that you lessen the chance of these things happening.
If you live in snow country, for example, will the cat sitter be able to to get in your driveway (if you have one) or have access to your living space? Are there doors in your house that a cat could inadvertently close and trap themselves in a room? Prevent that from happening beforehand. Are there cords out that a bored cat would chew on or could possibly get hurt with? Are there things that could fall over and hurt your cat?
Of course, some of these are things you want to think about all the time, but bored cats without the companionship of their people may get into more trouble. Try to become your cat for a moment and imagine that your people are gone. What kind of trouble could you get into? Then, arrange things so that trouble doesn’t happen.
Finally, put yourself in the shoes of the sitter. They may not know your cats well. Tell them about the personality of each cat. If there’s a place that the cat hates to be touched, the sitter needs to know that. If the cat is normally lively and extroverted (even with strangers), and the cat hides under the bed during your absence, it may be valuable for the sitter to know that this is not normal behavior for your cat.
I was watching some cats and a dog for my niece recently and noticed the dog eating grass on day three of my stint. I knew that this was not normal behavior for this dog. I contacted my niece, who was grateful for the information. The dog sometimes gets a nervous stomach when his people are gone. My niece told me to give the dog a probiotic, which she had for this purpose. She was grateful that I had taken the time to notice this unusual behavior. You will want your sitters to be aware of unusual behavior too, so do everything you can to educate them about what’s usual and unusual for your cats.
I’m sure you all have suggestions about how to best prepare your cat watcher when you have to be gone; share your thoughts in comments, please!
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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of 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 a short story collection about people and place. 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.