Travel Guilt-Free This Holiday Season With These Cat Sitting and Boarding Tips

We’ve all seen the memes about dogs fawning all over their owners while cats are a bit more MEH. And while there surely is some truth to the stereotype of cats being more independent, there are plenty of them who are quite attached to their owners. And yes, some cats even get separation anxiety. No matter what your cat’s personality, they will need you to plan for the times you won’t be around them. The holidays are approaching, which means you may be traveling. And with traveling comes decision time on what to do with your beloved kitty if you are not able to take them with you. Besides, cats are very territorial and often much prefer to be in their own space anyway. But can you leave them alone and, if so, for how long? Do you board cats? Hire cat sitters? As veterinarians, we want to ensure the health and happiness of your pet, so we explore all of this below to help you prepare and allow for an anxiety-free trip away from your furry feline.

How Long Can I Leave My Cat Alone?

It seems as though there used to be a notion that because cats have litterboxes and ways of eating more independently than dogs that you could just throw some food and water out for them and they’d be fine. However, as the San Francisco SPCA notes, you should “not leave your cat alone for more than 12 hours without someone to check on them. This is to ensure attention to medical emergencies, make sure your cat is eating, and provide your cat with much-needed affection and mental stimulation.”

How Do I Find a Good Cat Sitter?

Finding a good cat sitter to come to your home is probably the best option if you can make it work for the reason we mentioned earlier—cats prefer their own space. As you well know by now, they likely have their favorite sun-soaked spot to nap. Their favorite cat scratching post. Their favorite toys that they can play with when they want. Their favorite meal times. Finding someone who can come into your home and ensure your cat is doing well and is fed and happy is ideal, but how do you find a good and trustworthy cat sitter?

Here are some tips on how to find a cat sitter for your precious pet:

  • Go on a neighborhood website such as NextDoor to find experienced pet sitters, but make sure to check references
  • Ask friends for recommendations - a firsthand account is always great for peace of mind
  • Ask your veterinarian for resources in your area
  • Contact the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (800-296-PETS)

How Can I Prepare for the Ultimate Success of My Cat Sitter?

You’ll be able to put yourself more at ease if you’re well prepared for your cat sitter, and you’ll be setting the sitter up for success too.

Here are some tips to help you prepare for your cat sitter:

  • Ensure that your cat sitter can come twice a day to be able to observe if there are any obvious changes to your kitty’s behavior or habits
  • Consider leaving multiple items with your scent on them in a sealed bag for your cat sitter to use, placing one item out every day that you’re gone
  • Make sure you’re stocked on all of your cat’s favorite toys that are safe for them to use when they are on their own
  • Ask that your cat sitter keep in touch via text (with photos!), as that will let you know all is well
  • Don’t spare any details - leave instructions outlining exactly what the cat sitter should do and at what time - there is no such thing as too much information when it comes to your precious pet
  • Ask that your cat sitter stick to your cat’s routine as much as possible, as deviating from that can cause your kitty to feel stressed
  • Prepare for an emergency - make sure your cat sitter can either reach you or another trusted local person in case of an emergency, and that includes leaving information for your chosen veterinarian

Is It Ever Okay to Board My Cat?

Of course, it’s okay to board your cat! As we mentioned, due to most cats' territorial natures and the fact that they are creatures of habit, finding a cat sitter for your home is probably the best option. However, as we all know, we don’t always get our first choice, and there might also be occasions when you have to leave on a trip at the last minute.

Also, cat boarding may be your only option if you have a kitty with a chronic illness that needs to be tended to while you are out of town. As this article by Purina UK notes, “If your cat has a chronic condition which requires medication (such as frequent seizures) then leaving your pet without close supervision might be completely out of the question. The best option in this case may be boarding your cat in a veterinary hospital or arranging for them to stay at a cattery…”

Here are some things to look for when choosing your cat’s boarding facility:

Spaciousness - cat condos should be large enough for your kitty to climb, explore, and hide, with separate feeding and litterbox areas

Separation between cats and dogs - the inevitable barking that comes from boarding facilities can be stressful to cats so, if the boarding facilities houses both, make sure they are separate

Look at the place from your cat’s perspective - check the place out using all of your senses, as the place shouldn’t be smelly or loud

Assess the staff - make sure they seem trustworthy and that there will always be enough people on hand to handle their guests, even at night

Ensure that they allow you to bring things - as we mentioned, cats are creatures of habit and senses, so it will be helpful for them to be able to have things with them that smell like home

If you’re boarding bonded buddies, make sure the facility plans on housing them together

Find out what cat vaccinations are required (reputable facilities will be strict about this) and make sure your cat is up to date

Check online reviews - every facility is going to have the occasional disgruntled customer but, overall, the reviews should reflect a clean and upstanding staff and environment

We’ve all had vacations or work trips that were miserable because we were worried about our fur babies. Thankfully, preparation and lead time will ensure that you’ve made the best decision for your cat, which will in turn allow you to relax. If you need further advice on what to do with your cat when you’re out of town over the holidays, we can help you find a local vet!



Contributing DVM