Sometimes travel is a passion and a hobby; sometimes travel is a necessity. When we have to travel and leave our cats, it can be difficult for them and for us.
If you are like me, you’ve spent years observing and getting to know your cats. Put this knowledge to use to make sure your cats have a safe and happy experience in your absence. Here’s how.
It makes sense to plan ahead so that your time away from home can be as stress-free as possible for your cats and for you. Organize information ahead of time and let anyone involved in your cat’s care (veterinarians, cat sitter, roommate, or spouse) know your itinerary. Make it easy for your cat sitter to contact your vet should the need arise. Some vets will set up an account with customers in case a sitter might have to bring a cat into the vet’s office when the owner is out of town. Try to anticipate every possibility and plan for it.
You don’t want to run out of your cat’s regular food or litter while you’re gone. Stock up on these supplies, with enough on hand that you will still have a good supply when you return. If you are like me, travel is tiring, and you may not feel like having to run and replenish cat food when you return from your trip.
Keep Things Consistent
Your absence is not a good time to introduce changes into your cat’s routine. Cats generally like things to stay the same, and if you are gone, that’s already one change. It makes no sense, for example, to decide to change your cat’s diet at the same time you are gone. This could unnecessarily stress your cat and cause complications for your cat sitter.
When I have to be gone, I try to keep cat care functioning as similarly as possible to the status quo. Some things will have to change. If my husband and I are both gone, and my cats normally are fed twice a day but the sitter can only stop once per day, that’s a change the cats will have to deal with. But I keep as much about the routine as unchanged as possible.
What comforts your cat and eases stress? It might be making sure that a well-placed cat bed is clean and ready for your cat to use. It might mean putting out a soft piece of clothing that bears your scent, so your cat can snuggle on it or that your cat has access to your bed (cats seem to love and take comfort from being on our beds). It might mean leaving out favorite toys so cats have access to them. (Don’t leave out anything that could become tangled around a cat’s paw, tail, or neck.) Some people play a radio for their cats. We’ve never done this, but our cats are not used to the constant sound of television or music. What are your cats used to and what helps your cats be most at ease in general? Try to replicate these conditions when you are gone.
Pick Your Cat Watcher Well
You want a person who understands cats and who can pick up on their personalities and possibly sense if something might be awry. A caring roommate, partner, or spouse is an excellent choice if this person knows and understands your cat and her idiosyncrasies and shares your love for her.
If you need to bring in a cat sitter, friend, or neighbor, choose someone who understands cats and knows how to observe them. Tell this person about your cat’s unique habits. If your cat will only eat canned cat food at room temperature, the cat sitter should know such details. In this situation, stocking up with single-serving cans of cat food might ensure that your cat continues to eat well when you are gone. Put everything in writing so the pet sitter has something to refer to if necessary.
Knowing that you have chosen a dependable person who will show up and who can be counted on to carry out your instructions will go a long way toward ensuring that you and your cats will stay stress-free while you are gone. When you return from your trip, the reunion will be that much sweeter.
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.
Catherine Holm is the award-winning author of cat fantasy fiction and cat-themed memoir. She lives in Vermont with her husband and five well-loved cats. Learn about her work at www.catherineholm.com.