When I need to get away for a few days, one of the first things I consider is the care and well-being of my two cats, Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix. Do I bring them along and risk chaos and blood loss? Do I leave them behind with some extra food, lock the door, and assume they’ll remain in good health? Do I hire a cat sitter or persuade a trusted friend to look after them in exchange for free beer?
I want the luxury of enjoying a worry-free vacation, but for that to happen I need to know that my cats are happy and safe and have not escaped through a second-story window or died in a fire (I’m a worrier in the extreme). A lot of planning goes into ensuring my cats are well cared for while I’m away, so it can be frustrating when non-cat people are dismissive of the issue. They often use one of my least-favorite phrases to express their nonchalance: "Oh, they’re just cats."
Yeah. Well. They’re also my best friends, so bite me. Here are four phrases I hate to hear when I tell people I’m going on vacation and worrying about my cats.
1. "Oh, they’re just cats, they won’t even notice you’re gone"
Cats are creatures of habit. Every morning, Phoenix sits by the door, waiting for me to let her into the sunroom, and Bubba sits by the bathtub, waiting for the carnival to start (by which I mean the shower, but don’t tell Bubba it’s not a steaming cauldron of undiluted magic, because he’ll never believe you).
And every evening when I get home, my cats are waiting by the door, their wide eyes staring up at me. I know, I know — they’re just cats, but it’s almost like they’re expecting me.
2. "Oh, they’re just cats, they won’t miss you"
Cats’ alleged independence has been grossly exaggerated. It’s true that, unlike dogs, they will quietly poop in a box instead of whining to go outside, and they will bathe themselves as needed (albeit with their own saliva). But that’s pretty basic stuff. It’s like saying a human child is independent because she knows how to brush her hair and unwrap her own string cheese.
Don’t tell them I said this, but Bubba and Phoenix are actually giant pansies who demand loads of attention. Phoenix wants to be held while I’m brushing my teeth, and Bubba’s body weight seems to increase five-fold every time I need to move him off my lap. My cats are all up in my grill all the time, so it only stands to reason that they would note the absence of said grill.
3. "Oh, they’re just cats, you can just leave them extra food and water, and they’ll be good"
Yes, they’ll be good — for about a day. Think about it: Would you want to eat stale food and drink scummy water that’s been sitting out for more than 24 hours and probably has your roommate’s drool and partially chewed dinner floating in it? Neither does your cat, especially since these tiny predators are notoriously picky about having the freshest water around. Seriously, Bubba and Phoenix wait until I’m done showering and lick the bathtub. So don’t expect them to be cool with sipping the nasty stuff while you’re lounging on the beach or eating pecan pie by the fire, or whatever.
As for those perpetually regenerating, fountain-esque water bowls? Those are great — until your cat knocks one over the way my childhood cat did when we left him alone for a week. Luckily he was fine, but he basically chugged the bowl of water we gave him when we got home. I have much more peace of mind knowing someone is refilling my cats’ bowls fresh from the tap each day.
4. "Oh, they’re just cats, they’ll entertain themselves"
Yes, they will — by attacking your houseplants, curtains, couch cushions, new rug, glass candleholder, electrical wires, shoelaces. I’d much rather have them work out their excess energy and deep-seated need to kill on my mom and a feather toy or my boyfriend and a bag of catnip.
Perhaps most importantly, playtime gives my occasionally reluctant but mostly agreeable cat sitters the chance to make sure my cats’ energy and general interaction levels are up to par — and allows them to respond appropriately in case of emergency or illness.
I know — they’re just cats. But I like to know they’re safe if only so I can enjoy my vacation, OK? So if you’re looking after them while I’m away, please just let them crawl on you for awhile, and then text me and say they’re awesome so I can get back to peacefully eating these caramels on the beach.