4 Things to Do Before Leaving a Cat for a Holiday Vacation
As the idea of traveling becomes more comfortable for most people, going away for the holidays is most likely coming back into the end-of-year plans. This means for pet owners (especially those of us who happened to adopt a quarantine kitty), you’re going to have to set up a plan to make sure your furry friend is safe and happy while you’re away. What goes into your going away plan, though? We’ve put together a list of four things to do before you leave to ensure both you and the kitty can enjoy a stress-free vacation.
Cats tend to be known as more independent than dogs. As a cat owner, there’s a good chance you’ve heard some say “a cat only loves you because you feed them.” However, cats are just as bonded to us as dogs or even babies are according to a 2019 study. So even if your cat is a bit shyer when company is over, they still might get lonely when all human contact stops for the days you are gone. This is one reason it would be a good idea to find a pet sitter or someone to check in on your furry friend every couple of days while you’re away.
Another reason would be to make sure your cat’s essentials are clean and safe. Despite their ability to self-groom, cats still need a human’s help to keep their litter box, water bowl, and food dish clean. Having any of these get too dirty can seriously stress out your cat and even make them sick. Water bowls and food dishes can build up something called biofilm from your furry friend’s mouth bacteria that can cause dental problems or even chronic kidney infections. Unclean litter can lead to health problems for both you and your kitty. It’s best for all family members if you have someone come in and make sure all of your cat’s belongings are squeaky clean.
What if you can’t find a family member to come over and make sure everything is going smoothly? That’s where apps like Rover come in handy. Though started with dog-walking in mind, Rover now offers for you to find trusted cat sitters in your area. Unsure about trusting a complete stranger? You can check out other people’s thoughts about using Rover as an app here.
Keep the Routine
Does your cat ever wake you up on the weekends promptly at 6 am, expecting you to be alert and start the morning? Do you come home after working late to a crying little ball of fluff who won’t let up until you feed them? That’s because cats are truly creatures of habit. Changes in routine can upset your cat enough to make them sick, so it’s important to know your cat’s routine and make sure the person looking after them knows their routine as well.
Knowing your cat’s daily activities is key to a successful transition into your vacation. Take note of when you usually refill your cat’s food and water dishes. If you generally do these around the same time every day, make sure you let the person who will be looking after them know those times and have them stick by them. Also, be wary of just leaving a mountain of food out for your cat for the duration of your trip. Not only can the lack of feeding times throw off a cat’s routine, but this could easily allow for binge eating. This can result in accidental starving and also can make your cat more likely to throw up.
The temptation to give our fur babies a bunch of extra snuggles and kisses can be hard to deny. However, it’s important to try and resist those urges to keep your kitty on schedule. Any sort of change to their normal routine, especially before a prolonged absence, can raise expectations and ultimately end in disappointment when this extra time is suddenly gone. Also, forcing attention onto cats is not vet recommended. While kitties love human attention, they usually like it in smaller doses and on their own terms. So, even though you may feel guilty about leaving, remember to respect your cat’s boundaries before subjecting them to an unwanted cuddle session.
Now that you know who is going to be checking on your cat while you’re gone and what their schedule will look like, it’s time to think about what you will need to ensure that both are set up for a successful time together. Take note of the supplies you use every day and what you may need to stock up on.
We may be tempted to buy our cats a brand new toy to help alleviate a bit of our guilt or just to spoil them before we leave, but it’s important to not surprise them with the toy right before you walk out the door. Instead, it’s a better idea to give them the toy a few days before you leave to make sure your cat is playing with it safely and that the toy is safe in its overall design.
All types of pet toys, no matter name-brand or homemade, can be dangerous to your friend if they have parts that can become choking hazards. Loose threads, plastic beads, and other elements can become hazardous as the toy is played with, especially if it is not put together well. Plus, with your cat spending more time alone than usual, if you only have someone dropping by, there’s more chance for a swallowed piece to go unnoticed. So make sure you take the time to look over the toys you’re planning on leaving out and make sure everything is safe and secure.
As far as food and litter, double-check that you have enough to get your pet sitter/person looking after the kitty through your absence. Don’t think you have to become a cat parent doomsday prepper, though! A couple of weeks before your trip, take note of how much food is used over the days and calculate how much you’ll need for every day you’re gone. Cat food can go stale and your cat might turn their nose up at this different taste, causing more stress in the end. If you do forget until the last minute (don’t worry, it happens to even the most seasoned cat parents!), think about downloading an app like Gopuff. Gopuff will deliver pet supplies and other pet items to you quickly, letting you focus on preparing for your holiday vacation instead of an impromptu trip to the grocery store. See what users have to say with these Gopuff reviews. Maybe add some treats for your friend to sweeten the deal a bit!
Set the Scene
So, now that you have everything that needs to be prepared ready, it’s time to think about what to do as the day of departure gets closer. You may think your house is already cat proof, but the truth may be that your house is only cat proof when you’re there. Without their usual stimulation of others interacting with them, cats can become bored and boredom tends to lead to destructive behavior. Also, admit it. How many times have you had to yell “What’s in your mouth?!” while you’ve been at home? To avoid boredom, make sure to have a few safe toys to leave within their reach while you’re gone. A cat treat puzzle can be a great choice to promote healthy brain function and can deter any binge eating. Don’t forget about their scratching post either! If cats don’t have a way to let out their scratching needs healthily, they will make your couch their preferred way of filing their nails.
Some cats might still act out a bit from this change, so it’s important to double-check that everything is safe for even the most ingenious kitty. Make sure all of your wires and electrical cords are out of reach of grabbing paws and gnawing teeth. Look over a list of common pet toxins and if you have any in the house, keep them in rooms your cat will not have access to or in places they cannot reach. Cats usually like to be high up, so cupboards and drawers are probably your best bet. Leave a list of these items for your pet sitter and have them check if you want to be doubly sure that things haven’t been tampered with.
If your cat is highly anxious, you may need to take extra steps to assure they have a relaxing time. Leaving a TV or a radio on at low volume can be comforting to some cats since humans are relatively noisy creatures and the sounds can make it feel like you’ve never left. Remember to keep it on low, however, since cats can pick up noise easier than humans, and too much loud noise can cause more stress. If your cat really doesn’t do well with change, though, you may want to think about investing in a calming pheromone spray for that extra boost of calm energy. If you do opt to do so, remember to do a test run before you leave to make sure your family or your cat doesn’t have any adverse reactions.
At the end of the day, getting away for the holidays can feel overwhelming when you think of all the preparations you’ll have to make for your furry friend. However, it’s important to remember that this is supposed to be a relaxing time. So long as you’re prepared, you and your cat can have an amazing time during this little break. They do say distance makes the heart grow fonder, so expect someone to possibly be extra cuddly when you return. You may have done everything right and you both had an amazing vacation, but nothing will replace being with each other!
Give with Confidence
At HSNEGA, we want to remember the amazing rescues that come to stay with us. All of the animals pictured on this site have been with us at some point. Some have already found their forever homes, but some may still be here at HSNEGA! The Humane Society of Northeast Georgia is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization (Federal Tax ID #58-0678817) and has received top recognition from the following charity rating organizations: