I recently returned from a seven-day trip visiting a relative. Life has been busy at home, and I left in a hurry. It had been a while since I’d been gone a few days. I also left in a bit of chaos, with some big decisions in the air about career choices. Perhaps the cats picked up on that.
My significant other takes grat care of the cats when I am gone. He feeds them well (too well), loves them, and plays with them. But this time, they all seemed to miss me times 10. Usually, one or two cats might sulk a little. This time, everyone sulked. They ate, and nothing went wrong, and they all slept on the bed with my hubby, but they seemed sadder than usual. When I came home, they were more overjoyed than usual to see me. For some reason, this time seemed a little more intense than previous times.
What have I learned, and what would I implement in the future? Here are some thoughts after returning from this trip.
I believe our cats pick up on our emotions. I was a bit stressed when I left for this trip, due to life stuff that had nothing to do with the trip. (I was much more relaxed when I came back.) I may have stressed the cats with my own mental state. More important, I may have forgotten certain calming things that I could do to set the cats up for a calm time, because I had my mind on my own stuff.
Cats love routine, and it throws them off if it’s is altered. I try to keep things as similar if possible if I have to leave. This may be a little more difficult if your cat sitter has time constraints and can feed or stop by only at certain times. But if you have a roommate or S.O. you live with, that person might be able to keep the cat feeding schedule similar or identical to yours. Now is not the time to change the diet. Keep everything as consistent as possible. Even continuing to clean the litter boxes daily, for example, keeps things the same. If you play with your cats every evening, for example, perhaps your roommate (if you have one) can also imitate this schedule.
I left in such a hurry that I didn’t think about this. But if I’d had my wits, I would have made sure that some of my clothing, for example, was out on a bed or a couch so that the cats could have some reminder of my scent. I do have some of my clothes out in the laundry room (always) and I’ll often find a cat snuggled on the clothing there.
This is a great time to make sure the cat or cats have access to the bed (if they don’t already). The bed is full of the humans’ scents, and the cats love it. I honestly think my cats are at their happiest when they’re napping on the bed (or the well used couch).
Kieran gets a special treat two times a day (a soft chew for joint health) that he loves. I made sure that my husband gave him his treat. He really enjoys this ritual. Similarly, Norton has a ritual of riding my husband’s shoulders every morning, after my S.O. gets up. Norton really loves this routine, and we made sure it happened daily.
I know I’m not the only one who does this. When I call home on the phone, S.O. will hold the phone up to an interested cat and I will talk to the cat, telling him how much I love the kitty. The cats love this too and will rub up against the phone and turn up their purrs.
Holistic veterinarian, author, and speaker Judy Morgan says cats should never be left alone for more than 24 hours.
“If you need to be gone for more than 24 hours, have someone come by to check on the cats, clean the litter box, and put out fresh food. This person should spend time with the cats, playing, grooming, or petting while they sit in their lap.”
Morgan says that cats like companionship. Have the pet sitter come by to meet the cats and become known to them before you have to go away. Many cats will hide from strangers, so you want them to know the person who will be coming by.
Morgan also suggests the use of plug-in pheromone diffusers that are soothing for cats when you will be away. Leave soft music playing, and leave a sweatshirt or something with your smell for the cats to snuggle on.
Pet care expert, columnist, and author Darcy Matheson also finds scented reminders helpful in easing a cat’s loneliness when you are gone.
“A scarf or t shirt in their cat bed, or favorite snoozing spot, is a scent-based reminder of your love,” Matheson says. “This will decrease the amount of stress your feline feels when you’re forced to be away from them for an extended time.”
Do you thoughtfully plan to make it less stressful for your cats when you have to leave? What do you do to help keep your cat from missing you so much?