If you’re leaving your cats in the care of a pet sitter over Thanksgiving or the upcoming holidays, take a minute to review this Cat Sitter Checklist (courtesy of About.com’s Franny Syufy). Here’s what you should include in your checklist:
Provide your vet’s name, address, phone number and office hours, including info for the nearest emergency clinic.
Letter of Authorization for Emergency Veterinary Treatment
Authorize your pet sitter by name to seek emergency care for your cat(s). Leave signed blank checks (write “for veterinary care only” in the check memo), or make arrangements in advance with your veterinarian.
Your Itinerary and Cell Phone Number
Ideally, schedule a daily call, and if nothing else, use it as an excuse to talk to Fluffy.
A List of Your Cat(s)’ Medications
Schedule time beforehand for the cat sitter to visit your home and observe while the medications are being administered. If you have any doubts at all about your pet sitter’s ability to give these medications, consider boarding your cat at a veterinary clinic instead.
A List of Your Cat’s Food and Instructions for Feeding
Cats are very schedule-oriented, and they expect their regular food to be available at the same time every day. Also make sure your cat sitter understands the importance of providing fresh, clear water for your cats at all times. An automatic water dispenser (ideally, one with a supplemental reservoir) is the best way of ensuring fresh water for cats.
Complete Litter Box Instructions
If necessary, emphasize the importance of observing the waste contents of each box. Loose stools, or stools with mucous or blood are red flags, and indicate that a call needs to be made to your veterinarian without delay.
What to Do if Fluffy Escapes
Make sure your pet sitter will be careful in entering or exiting your home to prevent your cat’s escaping. She should know exactly what to do if that happens.
Leave Your Scent in Fluffy’s Bed
The sense of smell is one of the cat’s most important senses, and they are most comforted by the smell of people and things they hold most dear. Leave several of your old unwashed t-shirts or pieces of sweatshirts permeated with your scent in your cat’s bed and in other corners and nooks where she might sleep during the day.
Daily Play With Your Cats is Essential
Don’t assume your cat sitter, whether professional or not, understands the meaning of interactive play with cats. Your trusted next-door neighbor might really be a “dog person” at heart, and won’t understand that cats don’t like the kind of rough, hand-to-hand play that most dogs enjoy.
Review List with Sitter before Leaving
Go over your cat sitter’s list of important information with her before leaving, then post it in a prominent place in your home. Make sure she knows where to find medications, food, and litter.
When You Return…
I also recommend that you use some of your CSI skills when you return to determine if the cat sitter was a keeper or a loser. Do your cats seem happy, relaxed, and content (admittedly, not always easy to tell if your cat is one who “punishes” you for leaving)? Was the right amount of food eaten in your absence, as indicated by the amount of food remaining?
Once we used hubby’s brother and sister-in-law as cat sitters for a weekend trip. When we returned, the water dishes were bone dry, kibble dishes were empty, and not a single can of Fancy Feast had been opened. Despite being provided with comprehensive documentation of the cats’ feeding schedules, personality traits and food preferences (including neat rows of cans labeled with the respective cat’s name and photo), the sitters ignored everything. Fortunately, none of the cats were on meds at that time, and were probably not out of food for more than half a day, but those sitters were never ever used again. The cats refer to it as “The Guantanamo Incident.” So think twice about using family over professionals, and if you do use family, make sure they are cat lovers and are capable of reading and following simple directions.