Caring for your cat whilst you're on holiday
Many cats can become anxious when their environment, or their routine, changes. So, what might be the best plan for your cat’s care while you’re away?
If you’re going on holiday, the chances are that you’re not planning to take your cat along with you. Your cat is part of your family but, as a territorial species, they are also likely to be strongly attached to the environment in which they live. Many cats can become anxious when that environment, or their routine, changes. So, what might be the best plan for your cat’s care while you’re away?
You could take your cat to a boarding cattery or home-boarder or, alternatively, there are options for your cat to be cared for in your home. There are benefits to each, so let’s look at those and discover how to find which could best suit your cat.
Cat care at home
Cats are very much creatures of habit and many of them prefer their own company. If you would prefer your cat to experience minimal disruption while you’re away, having someone care for them in their own surroundings is a great idea.
If you’re lucky, you may have a friend, neighbour or relative who would be happy to come and stay at your home and keep everything the way your cat is used to. They may not even need to stay overnight if they live nearby, but it’s best if they can commit some time to give your cat attention, especially if your cat likes company.
An alternative, if you don’t have anyone who could help, is to employ a professional pet-sitter. You can find pet-sitters via word of mouth, social media, local noticeboards or by internet searches.
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Pet-sitters can either live at your home while you’re away or pop in to spend an agreed amount of quality time with your cat every day. If you do choose to employ a pet-sitter, they should be happy to provide references on request. Also, always check that they have appropriate insurance. If possible, arrange to meet your pet-sitter before you leave for your holiday, so you’ll have peace of mind your cat is in good hands.
Whomever will be coming to take care of your cat, a few preparations should help things to run smoothly while you’re away. Write down clearly what and when you feed your cat, how much they normally drink and whether they have any regular routine. Also, note down likes and dislikes. For instance: When is your cat normally seen? Do they tend to go out at night? Knowing what’s normal for your cat will help your carer to recognise whether they’re happy or whether there’s a problem. If your cat loves to climb into someone’s lap for a cuddle, they might be glad if their carer knows this and gives them some attention. If, on the other hand, your cat doesn’t like being touched, it’s better if everyone is aware!
Agree with your pet-sitter what they will do if they have any concerns about your cat while you’re away. Let your vet practice know if you’ve authorised your pet-sitter to act on your behalf, should your cat need veterinary attention while in their care.
Boarding catteries and home boarding for cats
If you don’t have anyone to look after your cat at home, they could be cared for in a boarding cattery or in a purpose-built enclosure in a home-boarding facility. Some cats may find it stressful to be away from their normal environment, particularly as they are likely to be other cats in close proximity. Also, cats who normally maintain a territory at home will be unable to do so while they’re away.
However, for cats who are likely to disappear for days at a time when something at home is changed, for instance, a new person looking after them, or for cats who need to be given regular medication, it can be better to know that they are somewhere safe and secure, being cared for by a professional.
When looking for a reputable cattery or home-boarding options, then it's a good idea to ask friends and family for recommendations. You can also look online, where it’s often possible to read customer reviews. Always try to visit a boarding facility before you book your cat in to stay, so you can see the accommodation and meet the people who will be caring for them.
Questions to ask a cat-boarding facility
To ensure the wellbeing of cats being boarded, catteries and home-boarders must adhere to strict rules regarding the size and type of accommodation provided. For instance, there must be an elevated perching area, and cats must have constant access to a sleeping area where they can’t see or be seen by people or other cats. Measures must also be in place to prevent infectious disease transmission between cats. You can read more about the requirements here.
Some cat boarding units run diffusers of synthetic feline ‘friendly’ hormones, which can help cats to feel more relaxed. You can also buy this in a spray form and send it in with your cat so that it can be sprayed onto their bedding once or twice a day.
Find out how often cats are fed and how frequently their litter trays and sneeze guards (the barriers between cats) are cleaned. Do the people working with the cats have time allocated to go in and groom or interact with them?
Cat-boarding facilities must have measures in place to prevent outbreaks of infectious disease. Some diseases are spread through direct contact between pets or carers, or through sharing food bowls and equipment, while others are spread through airborne droplets. Sneeze guards (solid barriers between cats’ pens) help to minimize airborne spread, but they can’t prevent it completely, so your cat’s vaccinations must be up to date before they go to stay at a boarding cattery.
If you can’t find your cat’s vaccination card, you can request a replacement card from your vet practice, but be sure to do this in plenty of time.
Many good catteries are happy for you to provide your cat’s usual diet for their stay. Some also stock a range of popular cat foods and include this in their service. In general, it’s best not to change your cat’s diet suddenly, especially if they might be feeling anxious in a new situation.
If your cat is on medication, check that the staff are happy to administer it while your cat is with them.
Many catteries are happy for your cat to take their own bedding or familiar items with them to help minimise stress.
Sometimes, pets are unpredictable or panic when they’re out of their usual environment. Cat-boarding facilities should have measures in place to prevent escape or loss of visiting cats, including a cat-proof, ‘air lock’ double-barrier system. It’s also important that visiting cats are protected from unwanted intruders or free-ranging animals.
Providers of pet boarding in the UK must have obtained a licence to do so. Normally, this is issued by the local council. The licence should be on display at the cattery, but you can also check with the council that a licence has been granted.
Check your cat’s microchip
Before you go on holiday, ensure that your cat has been microchipped and that you’ve kept the details up to date. Sometimes, cats get anxious when their normal life is disrupted, and they could be more likely to panic or run away.
Your cat’s microchip information is held on a national database – this is in addition to the records your vet holds for them. You can access and update your cat’s details on the database using the documentation you would have received when your cat was microchipped. If you can’t find this, your vet team can tell you your cat’s microchip number or scan your cat’s microchip, so that you can contact the database operator, which you can find here.
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Read more of our expert cat advice to keep your cat happy and healthy.