8 Cat-Sitter Tips for Your Next Trip

While you're away, your cats will play — with your cat sitter. Make their visits beneficial for both!

It’s nearly Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and the official start of the holiday season. And with all that comes travel, for many people anyway. For others – me, for example – the holidays mean my calendar will feature more dates with cats (dogs, fish and mice, too) than with humans.  

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I like this job, so I don’t mind, but I’m sure some cats would rather have their own people at home to hang out with (and to try and steal table scraps from) than just have 30- to 60-minute daily visits with me. Here are a few suggestions to help cats and make the cat-sitter’s job go smoothly.

1. Write Down Details
Although I have files on all my cats, pet care is subject to change. I always appreciate it when I have an updated owner-written cheat sheet to consult. Include meal serving size, medication needs and vet office location and phone number.

2. Keep the Carrier Out
Bring out the cat carrier. Put it in an easily accessible spot, just in case the cat-sitter needs it.

3. Organize Supplies
If you think I might need to clean up a litterbox accident or hairball-related carpet stain, put all the supplies together in an easy-to-find spot under the sink or on the counter. I feel guilty rummaging through cabinets and closets. Plus, doing that always makes me wonder if I’m being watched — I know some of you are using nanny cams.

4. Don’t Forget the Fun
Bring out the fun stuff, too. One of my friends, Gizmo, could sit next to me and purr for days if I just kept brushing him. For other cats, a new catnip or laser toy is just the thing to get the holiday party started.

5. Offer Audio
Silence from morning to night probably isn’t what your pets are used to at home, so they might enjoy having radio background noise. For my cat I turn on a public radio station with a good mix of news, music and other programming. I hate when I miss This American Life, so maybe Fergie does too.

6. Leave Your Bed Unmade (Optional)
Consider not making every bed before you leave. My cat sleeps in bed with me. She spends a lot of time there without me, too, as the window above it makes great sunspots. When I travel I leave the bed unmade. On warmer days she can relax on the cooler sheets; on cooler ones she can snuggle up into the fleece blanket.

7. Test the Key
You might have made a new key to hand your cat-sitter. Please make sure the key does what it’s supposed to. A dog friend of mine was very upset one day when I showed up at her house and fiddled with a brand-new key for several minutes before giving up and calling the client. Luckily she had a friend who lived nearby who had a different key to a different lock, so the crisis was over fairly quickly.

Also, if one of your friends/family members/housekeeper/etc. has a key to your home and may use it while you’re away, please let me know. I was once woken up very early in the morning by an unexpected and unknown guest. Another time I stopped by for a normal walk to find a man I didn’t know inside the apartment. I don’t like feeling my heart stop and then having to call a client to confirm that the person I’ve just met really is who they say they are.

8. Keep the Cat-Sitter in Mind
With cats to visit and dogs to walk, there’s a good chance I won’t have time to sit down to a holiday meal with anyone. I love it when clients say I’m welcome to steal a bottled drink or snack from the fridge or leave me a slice of pumpkin pie to enjoy while I play with their cats. That’s a great pick-me-up.

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