Q: I am visiting a friend for a month and I know my cat, Tuxie, misses me when I am gone. Will she be happier if she came with me (13 hour car ride) or if she stayed at home? If she stays home, a house sitter will care for her. The house I’m going to has other cats.
A: Although Tuxie will miss you, your cat will be less anxious staying at home with a caring house sitter then going on a trip. Cats do not adjust well to change. In addition to the long road trip, visiting a home where other cats live would stress Tuxie as well as the resident cats. Cats are territorial — most do not appreciate a cat-stranger bunking in their home for a month.
You can take steps to reduce your cat’s anxieties while you are away.
Before leaving on your trip, seal towels or articles of clothing that have your scent on them in separate plastic bags. Ask your house sitter to place a fresh article of scent-laden clothing on beds and other areas Tuxie sleeps every day.
The sound of your voice can help reassure Tuxie. As weird as this sounds, call your cat every day and talk to her. This will work only if you have a landline with a voice messaging system that has volume control. You can also make digital recordings that the house sitter or self-activated timers can play at specific times. A radio tuned to a talk program or a soft classical music station can also help relax your cat.
Mental and physical stimulation will aid in keeping Tuxie from becoming bored and help reduce anxieties in your absence. Provide your cat with interactive toys, such as ball and tract toys, puzzle boxes and treat balls. Your cat also needs vertical territory — tall cat trees, shelves and window perches to climb and nap on. Placing a comfortable cat tree next to a secure window will entertain her with the goings-on in the neighborhood
In addition to maintaining food, water and the litterbox duties, ask the house sitter to spend time every day playing, grooming and cuddling Tuxie.
Understandably, you will miss Tuxie while you travel. Technology can help you feel better about being away from your cat. You can set up web cams to record specific areas, stationing one camera where Tuxie eats and one where she sleeps. You can then log in from any computer to watch Tuxie in real time. Another, less expensive and simpler, option is to have your house sitter take pictures of Tuxie and e-mail them to you.