Cats are usually independent and far less reliant on your close company than dogs can be. Adult cats also sleep two thirds of their day (more in their senior years), so provided they have quality time and attention with you when they are awake and active, they usually don’t mind being alone while you are out of the house during the day, especially if they have access to the outdoors.
But if you are going to be away for longer, you need to ensure that your cat is properly cared for.
Care In Your Absence
Cats are home-loving and territorial creatures, and can get stressed in new environments away from familiar scents, sights and sounds. That’s why, where possible, it is best to find a way of caring for your cat within her own home when you go away. A trusted cat-friendly neighbour, friend or family member can be asked to feed her, clean her litter tray, provide food and fresh water and give her some affection and playtime.
If you don’t have a neighbour or friend who can care for your cat in your own home, you have a number of professional alternatives:
- A professional pet-sitter, who will come at least twice a day to feed your cat and check on her. For peace of mind, some owners choose to keep their cats indoors while they’re away, in case the cat is out when the pet-sitter calls, or there is an accident.
- A professional house-sitter, who will come and live in your home while you are away and care for your cat and any other pets in the comfort of your own home. A house-sitter can also be asked to water your houseplants and their presence could deter burglars.
When you engage a professional sitter, be clear about your expectations. Write down very clear instructions about your cat’s feeding arrangements, preferences, routine, and so on, and ask the following questions:
- What experience does the person have with cats?
- What insurance does the professional have in place? Ask to see policy documents.
- Do they have references? Make sure you follow them up.
- Are they self-employed or do they work for a pet-care agency? If they work for an agency, what extra services does the agency provide (e.g. a replacement if your sitter falls ill)?
Be thorough in your enquiries; a professional carer will see it as a sign of a good owner and will be pleased to verify their professional services. Remember that you are not only entrusting your precious cat to them, but also your house keys. Word-of-mouth recommendations from friends, your vet etc are good starting points, but make sure you do your homework – and if in doubt, find someone else.
Whichever service or person you choose, make sure your cat has the opportunity to meet the sitter before you leave her in their care.
Being prepared for emergencies
Make sure your carer is qualified in feline first aid, is aware of any current medical issues your cat may have and knows how and when to administer any medication. Most importantly, make sure they have all your contact details, plus those of a back-up if you are not contactable. Leave your vet’s contact details too, your pet’s microchip information (if relevant), plus any relevant veterinary history.
Although it’s not nice to think about, consider in advance what you would like to happen if your cat were to fall ill or die suddenly. It is best to be prepared for every worst-case scenario and to make your feelings known in advance to avoid any unnecessary heartache later.
This is a popular choice for those going on holiday without their cat. If you’re planning to use catteries, try to get your cat used to them from a young age. If the cattery is well-built and managed with cats’ needs in mind, stress should be kept to a minimum. Licensed boarding catteries must adhere to various regulations regarding hygiene and safety, and a copy of the licence should be displayed prominently.
It’s important to do your research and to find a reputable, licensed cattery with knowledgeable, caring staff and good, clean, comfortable facilities. The Feline Advisory Bureau (FAB) lists on its website www.fabcats.org all catteries that it has inspected in the past and found to offer the highest standard of accommodation and management*.
To be on the safe side, don’t leave your booking to the last minute, as the best catteries need a long period of notice, particularly in the busy summer months and over the Christmas and Easter holidays. You will also need to provide proof of up-to-date vaccinations before your cat can be boarded at any cattery.
* NB After 2014, the FAB approved cattery listing will no longer available on the FAB website, although it does show comprehensive guidelines to help owners searching for a suitable cattery