• Dr Grant Hampson

What to do with your cat when you go on holiday

Unlike dogs, it's not as easy to take your cat on holiday with you. So the big question is, who is going to look after our cats when we are away? To give you some help, we put together this article to show you the options that are available.


Using a Cat Sitter


Allowing your cat to stay at home is the best way of keeping them much more relaxed and happy during the time when you are away. Cat’s can become very anxious when they are removed from their normal territory suddenly. After all, we know cats are certainly happiest when they are in their own home.


The obvious first choice is going to be someone both you and your cat know well, a good friend, relative or neighbour who can come and visit regularly. Visiting twice a day ensures your cat can be fed regularly, their litter tray can be cleaned and they get plenty of play time. If they can visit more than twice a day, this is certainly a bonus, and if they can housesit the entire time, your cat may certainly appreciate the company.


If your friend, neighbour or relative has kindly agreed to care for your cat, don’t forget to bring them back a lovely gift from your holiday!



Alternatively, if you cannot find someone you know who can come and look after your cat then you may wish to find a professional cat sitter. Choosing someone you don’t know to come and care for your cat and your home can be a daunting task. You can find cat sitters that either pop in 2-3 times a day or those that stay in your home whilst you are away and care for your cat all day.


Here is a handy checklist to help you find a pet sitter:


  • Use a professional agency that has lots of excellent customer reviews. The National Association of Registered Pet Sitters can provide you with a list of their members. There are also plenty of other services available that you can find through a quick search.

  • Meet the cat sitter before agreeing to their services and ask them to meet your cat as well. Watch closely how they interact with your cat as this may give you a bit of insight into their experience and confidence with cats. This will also give your cat some time to get acquainted if you do decide to use them.

  • Ensure the company has done the appropriate background checks.

  • Ask for references from cat people who have used their services before.


Whether you choose to use someone you know, or you find a professional cat sitter, there are a few things you need to make sure they know before you leave:


  1. Leave a contact number for emergencies.

  2. Provided them with your vet's address and contact information.

  3. Give the pet sitter's details to your vet and ask the sitter to act on your behalf, this is just in case there are any emergencies.

  4. Is your cat on any medication? If so, make sure the sitter is confident administering this medication. Leave very detailed instructions on what to give when and how to give it.

  5. Leave plenty of cat food and cat litter. you wouldn’t want your sitter to have to go shopping and get the wrong thing! It is also important to let them know how much food to give and when.


Booking them into a pet hotel


You may not be able to find anyone to look after your cat when you are going away, or it may not be suitable for your cat to stay in your home. Another option for cat care is to consider booking your cat into their very own hotel, commonly known as a cattery. There are lots of amazing catteries but you still need to do your due diligence to be sure it is the right fit for you and your cat.


The best cattery will be one that comes highly recommended from someone you know. A good cattery is one which has professional, caring and responsible staff who have exceptional care protocols and emergency planning.


When looking for a cattery, you need to consider what your cat needs and likes. Will they need lots of hiding or climbing spaces? Do they like background noise like a TV or a radio? Are they on medications? These thoughts will provide you with some ideas of what to look out for when visiting a cattery.


That brings us nicely onto visiting the cattery. I would advise visiting the cattery a few times before making a final decision, ask lots of questions and if you think it's just not quite right, look for somewhere else until you are 100% happy. Take a good look at the enclosures to check they are clean, spacious and have plenty of hiding spaces. Check the space between the adjacent enclosure to ensure your cat cannot see the cats next door, to avoid any extra stress and anxiety.


As with house sitters make sure they are confident with catering to your cat's health needs, including giving medications as required.


Don't forget to ask for references of people who have previously kept their cat on site.


Pheromones


Pheromone based products can be extremely useful for cats during more anxious periods, such as going on holiday. Feliway mimics the “happy” chemical that cats release when rubbing their face against corners, furniture, and people. This pheromone works on cats' brains to calm them down and help relieve stress and anxiety. Pet Remedy is a valerian based product and mimics the natural calming mechanisms present in cats.


As soon as you know that you are going to be away for an extended period of time, get one or more of these products and plug them in. This will help them relax when you are away, and if someone new is potentially visiting.


The day you leave


It certainly might not be easy, but try and avoid making the day you leave stressful. Your cat will pick up on this stress and may cause a bit more anxiety for them. Try and make your cat think it is the same as any other day.


If they are going to a cattery, consider taking them the day before so it is not a fast paced, stressful situation.


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