What do you do when you need to travel and leave your cat behind? Knowing that a trusted caregiver is watching your precious cat gives you peace of mind when you have to be away. But how do you find a someone you can trust? Luckily, many options are available to you, from pet boarding facilities to pet sitters, both professional and more causal like friends or family. Depending on your desires and your cat’s needs, you might be better off boarding your cat outside of your home or hiring someone to look after them in the comfortable surroundings of your house.
Family, Friends and Neighbors
One of the simplest and more cost-effective options is to ask a good friend, family member or even a neighbor to look after your cat in your home. Depending on your cat’s needs and personality, you could have someone come by two or three times a day to feed your cat, give medications, clean the litter box, and play with your cat. You could also ask the caregiver to stay in your home and spend the night so your cat has someone around for company. As an added bonus, your family member, friend or neighbor can bring in your mail, water your plants, and take care of other light household chores.
Having a familiar person look after your cat in your home is a great option for shy cats who might become stressed if you were to take them to a boarding facility. It’s also a low-cost option—some good friends or family might watch your cat for free, or you might offer to pay a nominal amount for their help. Taking care of a cat is also a great opportunity for an older, responsible neighbor child looking to earn a little money. If your cat is OK with changes to routine, you could also bring your cat and all of their things to your family member or friend’s home.
Cat Boarding Facilities
You can board your cat overnight at a pet boarding facility or at your veterinary clinic if they offer this option. Pet boarding facilities typically have staff caring for the pets for about 10 to 12 hours a day. The pets are usually left alone at night, safe and snug in their enclosures, although some facilities might offer overnight care as well. Most pet boarding facilities offer services for both dogs and cats, but the cats are generally housed in separate quarters from the dogs so they aren’t stressed by the sight, smell and sound of the dogs. Some specialty cat-only boarding facilities are a peaceful oasis for cats.
Pet boarding facilities are a good option for friendly, outgoing cats who won’t become upset by being out of their normal environment. They are also a good choice for cats with special medical needs who need to be observed carefully. If your cat requires medical care or special medication, boarding at a facility with a veterinarian or veterinary technician on staff is helpful.
Fees for cat boarding can range depending on the type of facility. Boarding your cat at a boarding facility tends to be less expensive than some professional pet sitting services, but more expensive than having family, friend or neighbor look in on your cat. When you board your cat, you generally provide your cat’s regular food and possibly a bed or blanket. The facility typically provides a litter box and cat litter, although you can bring your own if your cat is picky.
Professional Cat Sitter
If you can’t find a family member, friend or neighbor to watch your cat, a professional cat sitter is a great option. Professional cat sitters can come to your home several times a day to feed and play with the cat and clean up the litter box. Some professional pet sitters will also move in full-time while you’re away so the cat always has someone around. Like non-professionals, pet sitters will do other household tasks like pick up your mail, water your plants and take out the trash.
There are lots of ways to find a great professional cat sitter. You can ask your veterinarian or groomer for a referral, or ask friends, family or neighbors for recommendations. If you can’t get a personal referral, check neighborhood social media outlets for local pet sitters. You can also look for a certified professional pet sitter through the pet sitting websites.
Fees for professional cat sitters vary depending on your area and whether the sitter comes over a few times a day or stays in your home the entire time you’re away. Cat sitter fees can be comparable to boarding facilities, sometimes a bit higher for overnight sitting.
Preparing to Go Away
Regardless of who watches your cat, have them come over before you leave on your trip so they can become familiar with your home and your cat’s routine and required care. Write down how much to feed your cat and what time they eat, as well as instructions for any medications they take and other care they need. Also, write down the name, number, and address of your veterinarian just in case. Show the cat sitter where you keep the cat food and where the litter box, litter, and cleaning supplies are located. If you board your cat, they will have you fill out a form with feeding and other important instructions. Many cat sitters will text or email you a written report and even photos letting you know how your cat is doing each day so you don’t worry while you’re away. Some boarding facilities have “pet cams” so you can check in with your cat to see what they're doing via video. Knowing your cat is happy and in good hands while you’re away will allow you to enjoy your vacation or work trip without worrying about your beloved pet.