With the halcyon days of summer upon us, maybe you’re thinking it’s time to get away and take a vacation. If you have a cat, you might be asking yourself if you can leave your cat home alone while you’re away? There are many good reasons not to leave your cat home alone, here are some reasons why and how to find a good pet sitter or boarding facility.
Reasons Not to Leave Your Cat Home Alone
If you’re leaving home for more than a day, you really want to get a pet sitter or consider boarding your cat. There are many reasons why you shouldn’t leave your cat home alone for more than a day. It’s really a myth that cats can fend for themselves, they need care and attention. When cats are left alone for longer than a day, our absence causes them stress and anxiety. Cats may be independent, but they don’t do well left alone for multiple days, they get lonely and anxious without their human companions—especially with the increasing time we’re away from them. Cat’s worry like we do and can feel abandoned and increasingly nervous the longer we’re away. Also cats get bored quickly without enough stimulation, and can develop behavior issues if left alone too long. Having a pet sitter visit at least once or twice a day, or spend the night–or boarding your cat at a boarding kennel, will give your cat the attention, stimulation and care they need and is best for them.
Cats don’t do well with change but they do like and need routine, so you want to keep your cat’s routine as consistent and normal as possible. Cats do best when they’re fed at the same time everyday, morning and night, with both wet and dry food. So leaving a lot of dry food out for your cat to feed on freely while you’re away is not a good idea. Cats can gorge on dry food and eat too much not leaving enough food for later. Cats also need wet food for hydration and protein, and wet food left out for more than a couple of hours will get stale. Cats need fresh water daily and are more inclined to drink fresh water than stale water. Also cats like clean litter boxes and may stop using the litter box altogether if it’s too dirty or is not cleaned regularly.
Cats that don’t eat enough or stop eating completely because you’re away or because they’re depressed or without food, rely on their fat reserves for energy whenever they have inadequate protein or when protein supplies are exhausted in their body. This causes the liver to become overwhelmed by fat, and results in a dangerous condition called Hepatic Lipidosis or Fatty Liver Disease—leading to liver failure. Feeding your cat on a regular feeding schedule will prevent this.
What if your cat had an emergency, and no one was there? What if your cat got caught in something or was hurt jumping or fell and was injured? Or what if your cat got sick and no one was there to help him? You wouldn’t want your cat to suffer until you got home, or worse—die. With a pet sitter or boarding facility, your cat will get the personal and medical care it needs, and you will have peace of mind knowing your cat is being well cared for.
It’s your responsibility to keep your cat safe, healthy and happy, so why would you take a chance on something happening to your cat, compromising its health or well being? Why not play it safe and do what’s best for your cat? If it’s a question of cost, don’t put your cat’s health and life in jeopardy by trying to save money—at minimum have a reliable and responsible neighbor or friend come to your home daily to feed your cat, provide fresh water, clean his litter box, and play with him to give him some company and attention.
Options While You’re Away
- Pet sitter – For either overnight stays or daily visits
- Ask your neighbor, relative or friend – Make sure they are responsible, reliable and willing to give the time and effort
- Veterinarians – some offer boarding services
- Cat groomers – some offer boarding services
- Boarding facilities – local pet boarding kennels, pet hotels, pet lodges or catteries
Get Personal Recommendations
Finding the right pet sitter or pet boarding service that you trust is critical. One of the best ways to identify a reputable one, is to ask for recommendations from your veterinarian, local cat groomer, cat rescue group members, pet sitting associations or kennel associations, and then follow up with Yelp for online reviews and visit the Better Business Bureau and the California Department of Consumer Affairs online for any complaints that have been filed. For information on pet sitters you can check the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) and the Association of Pet Sitting Excellence (APSE) and Pet Sitters International (PSI).
If you’re thinking about hiring a pet sitter, you want to look for one that is recommended, reputable, responsible, licensed and has experience with pet sitting. In-home pet sitters typically visit once or twice a day, or stay overnight. They will feed your cat, refresh water bowls, spend time playing with your cat, give your cat required medications, clean the litter box, and many will bring in newspapers and mail, water plants, turn lights on and off for security, and take your cat to the vet if he’s sick. The peace of mind is worth every penny!
Interviewing Pet Sitters & Pet Boarding Facilities – Do Your Research
Some states and counties don’t require a license for pet boarding or pet sitter services, so there may not be any minimum standard level of care, quality, safety, competency, or reliability required. Also, some states or counties don’t mandate a legal requirement for worker’s comp insurance or liability insurance that may be important to you. So be sure to ask about these.
Some pet sitters and boarding facilities are better than others. The type and level of services offered can vary widely, so if you’re leaning toward a boarding service, beware that facilities and services can vary dramatically. You always want to visit the facility first and take a tour. Here’s a list of minimum standards of care by Cat Fancier’s Association for commercial catteries.
Have a list of interview questions ready to ask your list of pet sitters or boarding services. Ask about their experience; and ask to see their credentials and licenses. What level of care will they provide your cat? What are their standards for the services provided? Here’s a list of possible questions when interviewing services.
Interview Questions for Pet Sitters and Pet Boarding Facilities
- How long have they been in business in your area?
- Is the pet sitter or pet kennel insured? Can you see proof of insurance? Do they have a business license, see the license.
- What safety precautions does the pet sitter or boarding facility take?
- What are their credentials, licenses, standards of care, and care policies they have?
- What is their reputation? Are they recommended by reputable professionals?
- If a boarding facility, is it for cats only? Are the cats separated from the dogs? Is it noisy or loud? Can you physically see and visit the kennels? Is it clean and sanitary, do they clean it daily? Does it smell? Do the cats and dogs look happy? How large is the staff? Is someone on the premises 24/7? If not, what are the hours someone is on-site?
- If a boarding facility, what is the temperature control like? Is it hot, cold or comfortable?
- What is the list of basic services that are provided, when are they provided?
- Are there additional services they will provide, if so, what?
- Do they provide special attention and play time for your cat? If so, how much time per visit? Is it multiple times per day?
- How many times do they feed? It should be 2 times per day—this is standard. Water bowls should be cleaned, filled and refreshed 1 time per day or as needed.
- For in-home pet sitters, will they provide any additional services—like watering plants, taking in newspapers and mail, turning lights on and off for home security?
- For in-home pet sitters, what times will they feed your cat morning and night – it should be around the same time your cat is normally fed.
Preparing Notes About Your Cat For Your Vacation
Whether you chose an in-home pet sitter or to board your cat, you want to provide specific notes about your cat’s food, special diet, medications, allergies, temperament, and any special needs that your cat has. Leave your all your contact information—cell phone numbers, email addresses, places where you’re staying, hotel phone numbers, your veterinarian’s address and phone number, and the nearest pet emergency hospital address and phone number—in case anything should happen.
It’s an investment of time upfront, but you’ll have the peace of mind while you’re away knowing that your cat is in good hands and you’ll be well prepared for your next trip! Happy travels!