Going on Vacation? Never Leave Your Cat Home Alone

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!

Going on Vacation? Never Leave Your Cat Home Alone


11 thoughts on “Going on Vacation? Never Leave Your Cat Home Alone”

  1. I liked some of the points that you made about why I shouldn’t leave my cat home alone while I’m away on vacation. I’ll only be gone for the weekend, but it’s probably best to take my cat to a pet boarding facility while I’m gone. I don’t really know anyone in town since I moved here only a couple of months ago, so having her in a boarding facility will let me know that she’s being fed and kept safe until I come home. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Thanks for your comment Judy. There are upsides and downsides to taking cats to pet boarding facilities. Since cats don’t like change or new environments, and these can cause them stress, I think it’s always ideal and best to find a petsitter, where they can stay home. But if a qualified, reliable petsitter cannot be found, then boarding your cat in a high-quality boarding kennel would be second best – a veterinary office that provides boarding for cats is also an excellent choice.

  2. My cat was a stray who would randomly come into our backyard and we adopted him. He likes to stay outdoors and I bring him inside at night when it’s cold.. We have bought those big water and food dispensers that can last a week so when we are gone for a weekend he sleeps under our pergola on our outdoor furniture.. Since he’s spent most of his life outdoors and we have only just adopted him I thought that was ok to do

    1. Hi Adriana, thanks for writing in and telling your story. And kudos to adopting a stray cat and taking care of him. You mentioned you’re only gone a weekend, which since he’s comfortable outside, and you leave food and water–is probably ok. There are always many risks leaving cats outside — poisons, dogs, feral cats and cat fights, disease, cars, getting injured and foul play. I would leave multiple water bowls in the shade. Wet food spoils. But maybe a neighbor could feed him wet food? If you leave longer, consider getting a pet sitter.

      1. Hello there,

        Me and my husband are going away for 20 days and I am not quite sure whether I should leave my cat behind or take him along. He has travelled with us before on a long haul flight and the experience is anything but pleasant for both us and him. I have the option of leaving him at home and having my kind neighbor who he loves very much check up on him 2-3 times a day. We have done this before when we were away for a few short days. However since we are going away for a longer period of time this time I am worried he will go through stress and anxiety wondering where we are. He is an indoor cat and very much attached to me. I really don’t know what to do. I just want whats best for him.

        1. Hi Sunny, thanks for writing in. Sounds like you have an excellent option given your neighbor is willing to cat-sit. As long as your neighbor is responsible, mature, dependable and you trust them, you should have no problem. Cats don’t like change, so leaving him home where it’s familiar, safe and quiet, is probably the better option. If your neighbor can spend time with him, provide him with some playtime, and give him lots of pets, this will reassure him. Likely he will worry, but less so with your neighbor visiting. I call home and talk with them on the phone/message machine – so they hear our voice! I do it daily, just a thought. Enjoy your vacation!

  3. Almost a year ago, I adopted an 8 yr old female from a shelter. She is very attached to me, but still very skittish. I have a neighbor that comes that she knows and is the only person she will come out for when I am away. I recently was out of town for 8 days. While I was gone, she pooped on my bed and the rug in my bedroom.. she also peed on my bed resulting in having to treat my mattress. Leaving for 12 days in nov & I don’t know what to do. She still won’t even let me pick her up. I figured taking her to a kennel would be bad because she didn’t eat while she was in the shelter waiting to be adopted. At least at home it is familiar for her. But I can’t have her ruining my mattress again. Suggestions?

    1. Hi, thanks for writing. Your kitty is trying to tell you something. Pooping on beds is loud communication for cats. First, I would suggest you take your kitty to a vet for a routine physical checkup, with a full blood panel and urine test. She’s middle age, and if you haven’t already, it’s time for a checkup. Rule out any physical problem. When they poop like that it can mean they are uncomfortable, in pain, suffering — or unhappy. I would recommend a physical every year like we give ourselves. Getting a blood panel with this one, will serve as a baseline for future panels. See what the results are. If she’s physically healthy, then it may be behavioral, which might have happened because you were away and she was alone. She sounds like an only kitty, she could be lonesome, afraid, bored, have anxiety about your being gone. Cats are emotional creatures. When you go away, I would have a petsitter come maybe 2x a day, and have playtime each time in addition to feeding/watering. To avoid ruining your mattress, get a human pee-pad that goes over the mattress, under the sheets. If you don’t already, get a tall cat tree for climbing and perching. Make sure there are things “of interest” for her to do, play with, engage in — windows to look out of, perches, cat trees, balls to roll on the ground, look at our Great Cat Products page for ideas. Good luck, hope she’s ok.

      1. Thanks for writing back. We did the full panel
        When we got her. Conjunctivitis is her only issue. I will taken her again in November when she is due , but me just picking her up stresses her out, so I don’t go more than I have to with her. She is an only pet because the shelter told me she got mad if she even saw another cat,so we knew she could be the only one. I do have a mattress pad. Unfortunately it soaked through.
        She has a condo that she doesn’t use, toys she rarely blinks at. She eat & seems happy as long as I am playing with the laser light with her. Other than that she just wants to be wherever I am. And no potty incidents since I’ve been back. I’m positive it’s stress. I can get a sitter twice a day. It just didn’t seem like enough. She very loving but only on her terms (more than normal for a cat) lol

        1. Sounds like you have done all the right things. Often cats don’t do well when their people are away. I have had pet sitters that spend the night while we’re away, especially for longer than one week. Or have a friend/relative come stay at your house while your away, at least she’ll have company and some normalcy. Thanks for rescuing her and giving her a good home.

Comments are closed.