Summertime is travel time for many people, and if you own a pet, trip planning requires some extra thought. Decisions need to be made about who is going to care for your cat and what changes may occur in his routine.
Owners rarely take their cats along on trips since most cats don’t enjoy travel. If you do take your cat, be sure he has at least one form of identification – collar with tag or microchip – a reliable carrier (that meets airline regulations if flying), and access to his regular diet. If you fly with your cat, be sure he is adequately vaccinated for rabies, has a health certificate and that you have a leash and harness to use when TSA requires you to remove your cat from the carrier during security screening. It is always best to check with the airlines to confirm their requirements for pet travel several days prior to departure.
Those whose cats stay local have to choose the best option for keeping their friends comfortable while they are away. Our cats are our furry kids, and their health and personalities dictate which options work best.
I bet if we could ask our cats what they would like, most would request to stay home and have someone come in and feed them and clean their litter boxes. You might be lucky and have a healthy cat, that doesn’t need any medications and that will come out and say “hi” to the neighbor or local family member who helps you out. This situation is ideal. In this scenario, your cat is observed and monitored by someone you know and trust. If you are just going to be gone for one to two nights, you might choose to leave a big bowl of food and an extra litter box and leave your cat alone.
Most people are not lucky enough to have neighbors or friends that they can count on and need to hire a pet sitter if they want to leave their cat at home. You can pick a professional pet sitter who is licensed and bonded and comes with references. Or find a veterinary technician or assistant who does pet sitting as a side job. Some will also be “house sitters” and stay at your home when you are gone. You can ask your veterinarian for referrals if you want someone they know to come to your home. You can also go online to the National Association of Pet Sitters (petsitters.org) and Pet Sitters International (petsit.com). An experienced pet sitter should be able to administer medication, clean and feed your cat and be observant about how well your cat is eating and eliminating. He or she should be given written authorization to take your cat to your vet if needed when you are gone. If you use a pet sitter, it is also a good idea to let your vet know you have authorized care in your absence.
Rates for pet sitting vary depending on the number of cats, any required medicating or treatments, and how often you want them to come into your home. I recommend that you get referrals and meet the pet sitter in person so that you clearly communicate your needs and they can see the environment in which they will be working.
There are many options for boarding facilities, so you need to think about your cat’s mental and physical comfort. There are kennels that board both dogs and cats, and a few “cat only” boarding places. There are different-sized cages and amenities at each location. There are variable levels of employee experience and comfort with cats. The amount of observation and abilities to provide medical treatments are also variable. Some boarding facilities look and sound great, but you need to look at important things such as how well they are able to clean and sanitize the cage and objects in the cage, if your cat can hide and have private space or if the cage has windows or glass walls on several sides (allowing a great view and stimulation, but no privacy). Will your cat be stressed by barking dogs? What are the arrangements if your cat becomes sick or doesn’t eat while boarding?
Some kennels require more vaccinations than your veterinarian routinely administers or recommends, so you need to check this out ahead of time. Cats can become stressed during boarding, and this can lower their immunity and make them more susceptible to infections. Unfortunately this can occur in even the best situations.
Often your veterinarian offers boarding services. Vets may not have the fanciest or largest cages, but they should have staff that is well-trained, observant and able to care for your cat whether he is healthy or sick. Their staffs often are very familiar with your cat’s personality and specific needs. They should be experienced with any medical care such as administering insulin or subcutaneous fluids and prepared should your cat’s health change during boarding. Some cats are very challenging to medicate, so boarding at your vet may be the best option if there is required treatment.
Vacations are meant to be fun, so pick the right caregiving situation for your cat so you don’t have to worry about him. You shouldn’t feel guilty about leaving your cat, because there are others who are qualified to care for him and who will give him attention.
Written by Dr. Wexler-Mitchell of The Cat Care Clinic in Orange, CA
Copyright © 2012 The Cat Care Clinic