Going on holiday is a time for relaxing and forgetting your worries, but when you have a cat that isn’t going with you, arranging its care in your absence can be a stressful time. If you’ve never left your cat before, knowing what the best option is is tricky, with no way of predicting how it will cope.
When planning your cat’s care, the less upheaval the better. This isn’t always achievable but forward planning will ensure your cat manages, even enjoys, your short break from home. Many people prefer to leave their cats at home and have a cat-sitter come in daily to feed them. A friend, family member or professional can do this, providing you trust them with your furry friend.
A cattery is another option for those who can’t rely on someone coming in every day to care for their cat, or whose cat has more complex needs. Catteries suit many owners and many cats, although some can find them a bit upsetting at first. The same thing can be said of home-stays as an empty house can cause anxiety until the cat adjusts. Whatever you choose to do, as long as you plan well in advance, you needn’t worry about your cat receiving the right care.
Cats are territorial creatures that would probably opt for staying at home while you’re away, if given the choice. Cat-sitting involves someone stopping by to feed and comfort your cat, either on a permanent stay-in basis or at regular intervals. For your cat, this means keeping its environment, all its creature comforts and enjoying the same routines as when you’re there.
Cats that don’t like change and are unaccustomed to travelling and meeting new people will probably fare much better with this arrangement. Cats that like coming and going as they please, are not demanding of attention and adjust to new faces quite quickly, are the ideal candidates for a pet-sitter, whether it’s a professional one or a trusted friend or neighbour. It is important that you do your research before choosing a professional sitter and make sure you fully trust them as they will be coming into your home and caring for your beloved pet.
Even cats that are usually relaxed can suffer with anxiety, so it might still be worth using a Feliway diffuser in your home to keep your cat calm while you’re away. Like dogs, cats are very intuitive and can tell when something’s different, so it is important to make as few changes as possible.
If your household is usually busy and loud then going to emptiness and quiet can make a cat feel anxious and confused. Arrange with your pet-sitter to visit at certain times (according to your cat’s established routine) to keep feeding and play times the same. Schedule visits every 24 hours (the more visits, the better) so that any medical issues with your cat can be noticed early.
Ask the sitter not to move your cat’s toys, scratching posts and beds around too much, or introduce any strong odours that your cat won't recognise. In short, encourage a stress-free environment by keeping the house as untouched as possible.
It is also worth checking your house insurance won't be invalidated by giving your house keys to someone outside the household.
Another option is placing a cat in boarding when you're out of town. Not everyone has friends and relatives that would be willing to take a cat in, even for just a short period of time. All offical catteries are regulated and now need to be licensed with the local council so a high standard of care is guaranteed. Catteries are also regularly inspected.
Good catteries will allow you to pay them a visit before your cat is boarded there - some even encourage a trial weekend to acclimatise your cat to its surroundings (this may not be possible now due to COVID). You will be able to check out the facilities, amount of space, condition and staff to decide whether it's the right place for your pet.
You will also get the chance to ask questions and discuss anything that might be bothering you. If your cat is on medication or would prefer to be boarded with other cats from your household - it is worth finding out what your options are.
When it comes to finding the right cattery, choose somewhere you get a good feeling about. Is it clean and light, with sufficient ventilation? Is the temperature right? Do the staff seem knowledgeable? Is there enough space for your cat to move comfortably? Do the other cats in the facility look happy and well cared for?
You also need to find out what the requirements for vaccinations and worm/flea treatments are before you drop your cat off. It is now mandatory for up-to-date vaccination certificates to be shown before placing your cat in cattery. Most catteries will also refuse to take in cats that are critically ill or appear to be.
It is important to make the environment as comfortable and homely as possible for your cat, to keep the upheaval to a minimum. Scratching posts, toys and bedding, along with other items and playthings that are associated with home, should be brought along and placed in your cat's alloted space (again, this might be different currently due to COVID). These will help create the feeling of a home from home and make the transition much easier.
Likewise, find out what the cattery is going to feed your cat and, if possible, bring along your regular food so that your cat doesn't have to adjust to a new diet too. The stress of a feed change added to new environments, faces and routines can trigger stomach upsets, so providing your cat's usual diet is definately worthwhile.
Many people tend to think of cats as low-maintenance substitutes for dogs, but this isn't true. Cats require just as much care and attention especially when it comes to taking a break and changing routines, so suitable provisions should be made for them. Let us know what you do when you go away - does your cat stay home or go on a little holiday of its own? [email protected]
Written by: Hannah