Sunday, December 22, 2013

Should I Use a Petsitter or a Board My Cat?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital
Tucson, AZ

We all worry about our pets when we are not going to be home to personally take care of them for a period of time.  Cats can be difficult creatures when it comes to accepting changes to their routine.  With a pet sitter, the cat can at least stay in their normal, home environment.  At a boarding facility, everything is much different than at home and can be very stressful.  Stress can lead to your cat's appetite decreasing, fear aggression, or illness. 
If you have a trip planned that will last for 3 days or less and own a healthy cat, you may be able to just have a friend come over, that the cat knows, to take care of feeding the cat and scooping the litter box.  If you have a longer trip planned or own an ill cat, it may be best to hire an experienced, professional pet sitter or to board your cat at a kennel.  Make sure to make reservations in advance, especially around holidays and summertime so that you are not disappointed with a lack of availability.

Things to ask a professional pet sitter:
  • Bonded and insured?
  • Recommended by your veterinarian or available references?
  • Personal experience in owning cats?
  • Any veterinary medicine experience?
  • How many years of pet sitting experience?
  • Availability to stay overnight vs make daytime visits?
  • Ability to give medications if needed?
  • Willingness to transport your cat to your veterinarian if ill?
  • Fee schedule?
If you decide to use a pet sitter, it is important to have a "meet & greet" so that they can learn the layout of your house as well as meet your pets.  Discuss your needs for short visits vs staying over night.   Be very clear regarding what days they are expected to take care of the cats. Have a duty list prepared for the pet sitter to use for reference, that also includes watering plants, bringing in mail, etc. Make sure they have your emergency contact information and your veterinarian's contact information. Show them where the cat carrier is located.   

Before you leave, make sure that you "cat proof" your house even more than usual. Consider closing off doors to rooms or closets where the cat may hide and prevent the pet sitter from being able to check on them. Put away any items that your cat may have increased interest in investigating due to boredom in your absence.

Things to ask and look for at boarding facility:
  • Recommended by your veterinarian?
  • Vaccine, flea prevention, fecal testing requirements?
  • Quiet, with no dog barking heard in cat area?
  • No strong chemical or litter box smells in cat area?
  • Spacious, clean cat cages/condos with comfortable temperature?
  • What hours are staff available on site?
  • Ability to give medications if needed?
  • Willingness to transport cat to your veterinarian if ill?
  • Fee schedule?
  • Online reviews?
If you decide to use a boarding facility, make sure that you personally tour the place that your cat will be staying.  Pack enough of your cat's regular food to last for a few more days than you are expecting to board your cat.  Food changes can cause your cat to not eat or have stomach issues.  Pack blankets, beds, or toys with the familiar scent of home.  You may want to confine your cat to a small area so that you will be able to get them into the carrier when you are ready to leave.

Finally, you should consider contacting your veterinarian before your trip and leave the contact information for your pet sitter or boarding facilities with them.  Also, to help prevent a delay of treatment in case your cat becomes ill and you cannot be contacted, consider a letter authorizing treatment by your veterinarian, with financial parameters if needed.

Bertie and Mia are available for adoption though PAWSitively CATS

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