I travel a good amount. Some trips are a night or two and others are multi-week. In this post I share what I have learned about leaving a cat for longer trips.
Going Away For a Few Weeks
If you are going away, you have five basic choices:
- Have a house sitter that will take care of the cat (and your house).
- Have a cat sitter come in daily to feed your cat, play with your cat, and scoop the litter.
- Take your cat to someone else’s house where they will be fed, played with, their litter changed, and generally taken care of.
- Board your cat.
- Take the cat with you.
You know your cat the best and every cat is different, so you need to decide what works best for your cat. I will base this discussion on my situation which is:
- I only have one cat.
- Because I live in a semi-urban area on a busy street, she is a total indoor cat.
Remember a few things about cats:
- They love routines.
- They “own” their territory.
- Contrary to popular misconceptions, cats are very close to their humans.
Options For Leaving Your Cat
1. Have a house sitter that will take care of the cat. This is easily the best option if you have a trusted person to do it. Finding the right person may be harder than it sounds. Tips:
- Make sure the house sitter and cat are comfortable with each other with you around.
- Make sure the house sitter knows the little ins and outs of the cats routines, and have them emulate your the routines as much as possible – when the cat eats, how the cat plays, when and where the cat likes to be petted.
2. Have a cat sitter come in daily to feed your cat, play with your cat, and scoop the litter. For a trip shorter than a week this is the second best option. It is not good for longer trips because the cat will be alone a significant number of hours. Normally a cat sitter will come once a day and spend about 20 to 30 min at your house. Tips include:
- Find a reputable cat sitter and let the cat get to know them with you around.
- Like the house sitter, make sure the cat knows the ins and outs of the cats routines.
- Leave plenty of toys out and hidden treats. If the cat likes to sit in an open window and the weather is right, by all means leave the window open. Let the cat sitter know to close it in case of rain.
- If you can find a trusted friend who might stop by on an occasional afternoon to play with the cat, this works well.
3. Take your cat to someone else’s house. For a trip longer than a week, this is the second best option. Tips:
- Spend the night with the cat in the “new” house when you bring the cat there. That helps the cat get settled and define their territory at the house which will begin with wherever you slept, perhaps a guest room or your childhood bedroom.
- Bring their litter box and food/water bowls to the new house. Make sure the cat knows where both are (especially the litter box).
- This one really seems to help: Leave whatever clothing you wore when you took the cat to the new house. Ask the host not to change the sheets where you spent the night. Your scent will be there, and the cat knows you will come back to get your stuff (and them).
- Bring some of the cats toys, scratch pad, and even their favorite cardboard box.
Boarding the cat. This is the option of last resort, and I have never done it so have nothing to add other than find a reliable, highly rated, and trustworthy place.
Take the cat with you. There is so much that goes into this decision, and again, you know your cat the best. If you are visiting someone’s house, the rules about boarding apply except you will be there the whole time which certainly helps.
How Close Are Cats To Their Humans?
About my statement “Contrary to popular misconceptions, cats are very close to their humans,” studies have shown that for a hungry cat where their human has been gone all day, given the choice between being petted and scratched, playing, or eating, the hungry cat will most often pick in order:
- Being petted and scratched
And that really does demonstrate their attachment to their humans.
A Special Note For When You Are Seriously Sick or Incapacitated
Bad things occasionally happen in our lives. If you are hospitalized for an extended time, or bed-ridden at home, hopefully you have someone who can reliably take care of your cat. I can’t think of anything worse than unexpectedly going to the hospital for an extended time only to come home no longer having your cat or dog.
Fortunately there are organizations that will help. I wrote about one of the volunteers of such an organization in a previous post: Sparky the Dog With No Eyes and Randy the Humanitarian