Where to Leave Your Cat

Professional pet sitters and upscale boarding facilities pamper your cat while you're away.

Cat and SitterYou’d love to take your cat with you on vacation, but the people you’re staying with are allergic or have pets of their own; or you’re going to a foreign country with strict quarantine laws; or maybe your cat is too old, too sick or simply too much of a homebody to make the trip. These circumstances and others can prevent you from traveling with your favorite four-legged friend. Fortunately, you have a choice in who takes care of your cat while you’re away.

If you think your cat would be happiest at home surrounded by familiar sights, smells and toys while you travel, consider a pet sitter. A pet sitter can be a reliable resource for ensuring your cat’s well-being while you’re away. “If someone does this professionally, this is their life, this is their job,” says Mila Albertson, publications and promotions director of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) in Washington, D.C. “If they do it poorly, their reputation will suffer.”

Book your sitter early to make sure he or she will be available during busy vacation or holiday periods. “Pet sitters can go from 6 a.m. until midnight on some holidays,” Albertson says. “Believe it or not, we actually got calls last Christmas Eve day saying ‘We need a sitter,’ and these were people who had planned their vacations months ago!”

Start interviewing potential candidates as soon as you know you’re going away, particularly when hiring a sitter for the first time. “A pro will ask you questions,” Albertson says. “They’ll interview you while you interview them.” Among the things you’ll want to know:

  • Does the sitter have bonding and liability insurance?
  • Does he or she have the proper business licenses? (Contact your city clerks office or local library to find out what licenses your city requires.)
  • Will he or she give checkable references?
  • Does he or she know pet first aid?
  • Does he or she have a veterinarian on-call for emergencies?
  • Does he or she know how to administer any medication your cat needs?
  • Does he or she seem comfortable around your cat?

The interview is also a good time to mention any of your cat’s special quirks or playtime needs. According to Albertson, pet sitters handle many unusual requests, including microwaving food for exactly 11 seconds, reading postcards from the owner and playing tapes of the owner’s voice.

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