As a cat owner, is there any greater honor than being asked to feed someone else’s feline while they are away on holiday? Well, yes, obviously, but being asked to step into the role of temporary cat caregiver always feels like a compliment. It suggests both a level of responsibility and an acknowledgment that a member of the universe’s most finicky animal species likes you.
Last week, a couple of friends took a jaunt to European climes and asked me to feed their cat Maximilian Jeffrey III for a week. I accepted. This is what Maxi looks like:
While feeding and checking in on Maxi every day though, I realized that strange and curious thoughts often pass through your mind when taking care of someone else’s beloved cat. Here are five of them.
The standard protocol when feeding someone else’s cat is to focus on the main priority — giving the feline food. Maxi has a healthy appetite and doesn’t seem to have any obvious food quirks (though he did once fish the remains of some strawberries I’d eaten out of the trash). Feeding him for a week was a breeze.
After the first day’s feeding, I attempted a play session with his favorite laser pointer. But Maxi didn’t seem interested, preferring instead to slink after a sunbeam to lounge in. That’s fine — I get that the warmth of the sun’s light is more appealing than an artificial red dot you’re never ever going to experience the satisfaction of catching. But how long should I hang around in an attempt to engage Maxi in play?
As I left the apartment that first day, I definitely felt a pang of guilt for Maxi’s lack of a sporting session.
You’re looking after someone else’s cat because they are not home and so likely enjoying some sort of respite from day-to-day life. This is obvious. But I’m never quite sure how frequently and in how much depth you should update a cat’s vacationing owners.
In Maxi’s case, his humans went to Iceland. Being that they were overseas, I didn’t want to send tons of photos of Maxi that might result in a whopping data-roaming charge. But I still felt obliged to email at least one pic of Maxi every time I fed him.
I know from experience that when other people have fed my cat, Mimosa, seeing an actual picture of her (even if she looks a little spooked at her temporary chef) sets my mind at ease and calms any worrying.
Every cat owner has their own opinion on the best way to care for a cat. It’s usually based on a mix of personal experience and advice from a vet. In my case, I think giving Mimosa treats after a play session is a fine reward; it’s like stopping off at a bar on the way home after a long bike ride.
Maxi’s owner, John, however, is a staunch advocate of the mantra that the play session alone is a treat and that it does not need to be rewarded.
I compromised by secretly leaving treats in Maxi’s bowl each time I left.
Let’s be honest — no one actually enjoys scooping up his cat’s poop from the litter box. Ever. I do it dutifully at home, and Mims’ little litter box presents don’t reek as long as she’s on a premium food diet and errant cans of Fancy Feast haven’t crept into her bowl.
Cleaning out Maxi’s litter box made me nearly retch, though. Not that he’s an unclean cat — he left his nuggets buried and clumped neatly like he’s supposed to — but the odor of another cat’s litter box always seems to smart.
Every time I feed someone else’s cat, I’m struck with the fear that the cat will somehow escape. I lock the door on the way out and check it multiple times, even though I know that it’s physically locked.
In Maxi’s case, even if he managed to open the door to the apartment, he’d still have to navigate through two other locked doors in the building to come anywhere close to escaping. But the idea that he might somehow go walkabout while I’m looking after him always leaves me a little nervous when I leave.
What about you? Do you cat sit for friends? Do you retch when you scoop another cat’s poop, too? Let us know in the comments!
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About Phillip Mlynar: The self-appointed world’s foremost expert on rappers’ cats. When not penning posts on rap music, he can be found building DIY cat towers for his adopted domestic shorthair, Mimosa, and collecting Le Creuset cookware (in red). He has also invented cat sushi, but it’s not quite what you think it is.