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Get the Best Care for Your Cat While You’re on Vacation

A pet sitter? A house sitter? Boarding? Here are the pros and cons on five options.

JaneA Kelley  |  Aug 7th 2015


Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the July/August 2015 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.

As much as we love our cats, most of us can’t be home with them 24/7, 365 days a year. There’s bound to be a time when we have to be away for longer than an overnight trip. So, what will you do with your cat when that time comes? Let’s review our options.

1. Ask the neighbor’s kid

Pros: Cheap or possibly even free; he or she lives next door or nearby.

Cons: Teenagers might not be responsible enough to show up every day and spend time with your cats. They might not understand how to handle a cat properly, notice signs of illness, or deal with an emergency.

My view: Better than leaving your cat alone for days, but it’s still taking a chance.

2. Have a friend house sit

Pros: Someone will be with your cat most of the time, which reduces her stress level; your home will be more secure because it’s occupied.

Cons: Your friend might not be as cat-savvy as you are and might miss signs of illness or stress. He or she may not do things like cleaning litter boxes daily. Other kinds of accidents can happen, too; I had a house sitter who almost set my place on fire because of a cooking accident.

My view: If you really trust your friend or family member to show up, know the signs if something is wrong with your cat, and not burn your house down, this is a reasonable option.

3. Hire a cat sitter

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A woman and a gray cat by Shutterstock

Pros: A professional who understands cat behavior
 and health will visit your cat every day. Your cat’s schedule will be uninterrupted, 
and he’ll have the security
of being in a familiar environment. A cat sitter can bring in your mail and check that your home is secure. Probably not as expensive as you think.

Cons: You might be uncomfortable having someone you don’t know too well coming into your house while you’re away. If you don’t check references, you might be disappointed in the services you get. It’s more expensive than the neighbor’s kid or having a friend hang out at your house.

My view: The best and most cost-effective option, and the one I use for my cats.

4. Have your cat boarded

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A cat in a cage by Shutterstock

Pros: Your cat will be at a “kitty hotel” under the care of professionals skilled in animal care. Depending on the facility, the staff might be able to manage cats with special medical needs.

Cons: Most cats find it stressful to be in a strange environment. If the boarding kennel also houses dogs, the barking and yapping might stress your cat even more. Boarding facilities have very strict requirements about vaccinations, which might not align with your and your vet’s judgment about what’s best for your cat. The most expensive of all the options.

My view: If you want to board your kitty, visit the facility and take a full tour to make sure the place is clean and safe.

5. Board your cat at the vet

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A vet holds a cat by Shutterstock

Pros: Probably the best option if your cat has serious medical needs — diabetes, asthma, or late-stage kidney disease, for example.

Cons: Expensive, and your cat’s medical care will increase the price. Your cat will spend most of her time in a small cage. Unless your clinic is cat-only, dogs might be in the same room with her. The smells of the vet’s office may be stressful.

My view: If I had a cat with serious health problems, I’d board her at my vet in a heartbeat, no matter the price.

Whatever choice you make for cat care, be sure the person taking care of your cat knows how to contact you and your veterinarian. That individual should also have the phone number of your building manager, landlord, or a neighbor in the event of an emergency.

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal rescue volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.