Caring for your cat when you’re away

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Cats may seem independent, but they can become unhappy very quickly if their needs aren’t properly met when you go away on holiday. Choosing the right kind of care will give you peace of mind while you’re away.

Cats rarely go on holiday with their owners. Aside from the fact that it’s much more impractical than taking a dog away, cats are very territorial and therefore feel most secure in familiar surroundings. Put simply, they’re homebodies!

Timed feeders can be useful for short weekend breaks, but they aren’t suitable for longer trips – so a holiday for cat owners usually means a change in routine for their pet. Finding the right kind of care for your cat while you’re away depends on their personality: a laid-back puss could settle into a new routine comfortably, whereas a highly-strung moggy might bolt at the first sniff of change. Choose with care and prepare well, and you should all experience a relaxing break.

Neighbourly love

Asking responsible friends or family to look after your cat in your own home causes the least disruption and is a low-cost option. However, some cats will get lonely if left in the house with only a brief visit once or twice a day. This can cause anxiety, which could result in urination around the house or, worse, leaving home completely. Another thing to consider is that if your neighbour is only calling in briefly, they could miss signs of your cat becoming unwell.

If your neighbour has been kind enough to agree to feeding duties, why not ask if they mind extending their visits slightly, to include some socialisation time? You could also request that they feed your cat at regular times, to keep up a sense of routine. Thoughtful gifts or souvenirs from your holiday will help show your appreciation for the extra effort.

Professional pet sitters

An alternative is to pay for a professional pet sitter, meaning someone either calls in regularly to feed and socialise with your cat, or will live in your house while you are away. The beauty of a live-in sitter is that your cat will have company all the time and your home is cared for. If you do take this option, always use a pet sitter who has either been personally recommended by someone you trust, or who comes from an agency that makes all the necessary checks for you.

As cats can be wary about strangers and the new smells they bring into the home, it’s a good idea to invite a pet sitter round for a meet-and-greet prior to your departure. Let them play with and stroke your cat, and perhaps feed puss a prized treat or two, helping your cat to form positive associations.

Choosing a cattery

If your cat has a relatively relaxed nature and likes the company of others, a cattery is a great option. They’re normally cheaper than cat sitters and can provide a reliable, professional standard of care if you choose the right one. Standards can vary enormously so a recommendation is a good place to start. Visit in advance and, as well as checking for general cleanliness of the units, litter trays and feeding bowls, talk to the proprietor to get a feel for how they will take care of your cat. They should be welcoming, ask plenty of questions about your pet and allow you to have a good look around.

Heading off

Cats can be very sensitive to the pre-holiday hustle and bustle – they are canny creatures and can sense when something’s up. Try to keep your preparatory activity calm – avoiding the frantic, last-minute ‘pack-and-dash’ will help keep everyone’s nerves in check. Plug-in pheromone diffusers can also help to create a soothing atmosphere in the house and reduce any stress felt by your cat.

Whoever is looking after your cat while you’re away, you need to be clear about your pet’s requirements. You might like to use this checklist, which covers the kind of information to leave your chosen carer:

  • The best way to socialise with your cat – is she OK with being picked up and stroked?
  • Information about your cat’s usual routine, such as how often she goes outside or when she normally sleeps.
  • Her favourite toys (and where to find them when they’ve been hidden!).
  • What kind of food your cat needs, how much to give, and preferred times of day for feeding.
  • Her favourite treats, and how often to allow them. If you don’t want your pet fed between meals, say so.
  • Any medication your cat might be on and how to administer it.
  • Any conditions that the carer should be aware of, and how to spot the signs of illness.
  • Your vet’s contact details for emergencies.
  • Your own contact details.
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