As a serial cat vacationer, I know firsthand how stressful it can be to leave your furball when you jet off on vacation.
My tabby Samantha acts so betrayed, giving me the cold shoulder for days after I return from a trip! But with some preparation, you can ensure your feline friend stays happy and healthy in your absence.
After years of trial and error (sorry Sam!), I’ve learned a few tricks to set up both you and your cat for the purr-fect cat-cation.
Before departing on your adventure, you’ll need to prep your humble abode for your cat’s solo stint. When you’re not around to refill food bowls and scoop litter, it’s crucial to set your cat up for success in advance. A few key steps will transform your home into a stellar cat vacation station.
Stock Up on Chow Time Essentials
First things first, take a trip to the pet store to stock up on ample grub and goodies to last the full duration of your time away. I once made the rookie mistake of barely leaving enough kibble for a few days when I went on a week-long vacation. Big mistake! According to my cat cam, by day two Samantha was absolutely hangry and yowling up a storm.
So learn from my epic fail and overbuy high-quality food to avoid sending your cat into starvation mode. Get an extra bag or two of your cat’s regular dry food so you have a backup stash.
This way, should your automatic feeder malfunction or the pet sitter run out, your cat won’t miss a meal. Nothing spoils a vacation quite like returning home to a feline friend with serious food trust issues!
While you’re out shopping, you may also want to grab some special wet foods or treats to spice up your cat’s solo dining experience. New tempting morsels will break up the monotony of plain old kibble every day. Just introduce new foods gradually beforehand so your cat’s tummy stays trouble-free.
Hydration Station Essentials
Now that you’ve got the chow situation covered, it’s time to tackle hydration. Dehydration is no vacation for cats, so having ample water sources is a must.
Invest in a cat water fountain to encourage drinking – the flowing water will entice your cat to sip more often. I love the PetSafe Drinkwell fountains because they hold a lot of water, come in sleek styles, and the charcoal filter keeps the water cleaner longer between refills. No more replacing stale, dusty water bowls!
In addition to the fountain, place multiple water bowls strategically around your home – by your cat’s food, in the living room, by the litter box, etc.
This ensures your on-the-go drinker always has easy access to fresh water, even if one bowl runs dry. Provide both plastic and ceramic bowls, as some finicky felines prefer one material over the other.
And don’t just dump the current water and rely on the pet sitter to refresh it – actually scrub and totally replace the water right before you leave. Old water gets dusty and gross, which may discourage drinking. Start everything off fresh and clean!
Pro Tip: For long vacations, consider getting a pet sitter who will come by daily to refresh water and wipe down fountains. Dirty water can breed bacteria and make your cat sick.
While prepping the water, here’s a teaching moment from my past. One time, I returned from a 2-week vacation to find Sam lethargic with a raging urinary tract infection.
One $500 vet visit later, I learned dehydration was the culprit. Ever since, I have gone overboard on water prep, and no more UTIs for my girl! Moral of the story: don’t skimp on water sources unless you want to come home to an expensive medical mess.
Litter Box Protocol
Now that food and water are covered, let’s tackle the potty situation. Nothing stinks up a vacation like litter box woes!
First, thoroughly scrub and disinfect your cat’s litter box before leaving. Use soap and hot water or a pet-safe cleaner to really de-stinkify. Scrub the plastic sides, empty out all litter, clean the storage compartment if there is one, and don’t forget to also wash the litter scoop!
Next, refill the sparkling box with fresh litter, ideally the same brand your cat is used to. Switching litters abruptly can put some cats off their business. Pour in enough litter to last your whole vacation with a little extra.
Mark the litter’s expiration date if your trip is extended, as old clumping litter can get funky.
While prepping the main box, also consider setting up an extra litter box in another part of your home. This gives your cat a handy alternative bathroom location if the main box gets too dirty or they simply crave variety. More litter box options mean fewer “accidents” on your carpet!
And of course, stock up on extra litter boxes and liners so your sitter never runs out mid-vacation. Nothing sinks a trip faster than coming home to soiled floors or carpets. Spare your nose and paws the hassle.
Pro Tip: For long vacations, hire a sitter who can fully replace litter weekly. Ammonia buildup from urine clumps hurts cats’ sensitive noses. Freshening litter improves odor control and hygiene.
Ah yes, I’ll never forget the horror of returning from a 2-week trip to find Sam had peed all over the bath mats because the sitter didn’t replace the stenchy litter. Let’s just say that smell never fully disappeared from the bathroom.
So learn from my mistake – fresh litter is key for your cat’s potty peace of mind!
Mental Stimulation Stations
Alright, your cat’s basic needs are now covered: food, water, bathroom. But don’t forget about their mental and physical needs! A bored cat can lead to tons of unwanted behavior issues and stress. So be sure to set up ample entertainment to keep your curious kitty happily occupied in your absence.
Rotate new toys in and out to spike your cat’s interest – break out novel toys they haven’t seen in a while, or buy a few new interactive toys. Puzzle feeders or foraging toys like food-dispensing balls are great for solo play.
You can also hide treats and kibble around your home for your cat to hunt down – inside cardboard boxes, under blankets, behind furniture, etc. Tap into their inner lion! Use mini muffin tins or food puzzles to serve meals. This engages your cat’s natural food-drive instincts.
Consider bringing out catnip and silver vine – these aromatic herbs will reawaken your cat’s playful kitten spirit. Just be sure to limit access to small amounts so they don’t lose their potency. You want the effects to last the whole vacation!
Set up cat trees/perches near windows so your cat can safely survey the outdoors. Birds and squirrels will provide quality entertainment. Place perches or boxes near the windows, too, so your cat can sunbathe and survey their domain.
You can also leave a radio or TV on low volume to provide soothing background noise if your home is very quiet. Or invest in an automatic laser toy to keep them busy chasing lights! Just be sure to test any electronic devices beforehand – not all cats care for TV or music.
The goal is to mentally exhaust your cat with enriching solo activities to prevent boredom or acting out. A tired cat is a happy cat!
Pro Tip: Hide most toys before leaving so your sitter can bring out “new” toys one at a time to keep your cat interested vs. getting bored of everything all at once. Rotate playthings to spice up their days.
When I first started traveling, I would just dump all of Sam’s toys out at once before leaving. Major mistake! She quickly got bored of all her things. Now I strategically stash and rotate toys so the sitter can surprise her with novel playtime experiences while I’m gone.
Before fully prepping your home, be sure to test any technology you plan to use during the vacation – automatic feeders and water fountains, televisions or music devices, laser toys, pet cameras, etc. Set them up in advance and monitor your cat’s reaction.
Not all cats care for gadgets, and you don’t want them freaking out while you’re away.
For example, I bought an automatic laser toy for Sam, thinking she’d love chasing the light beams. But the random patterns spooked her! Now I know simple is best, and to always verify what entertains my unique cat. Get to know your feline before deploying any tech.
The same applies to automatic feeders. Slowly transition your cat to an auto-feeder before the trip. Ensure they can access the food without issue. Test any smartphone apps and make sure notifications work reliably.
The Purrfect Pet Sitter
Alright, you’ve fully prepped your palace with everything kitty could need while you’re gone. But even the most self-sufficient feline still requires human attention for playtime, scooping duties, and moral support. So it’s time to pick the perfect pet sitter to fulfill those responsibilities. You essentially have two options:
In-Home Pet Sitters
Hiring an in-home pet sitter to care for your cat while you’re away is a popular choice. The main perk is that your cat stays in the comfort of their familiar environment versus an unfamiliar boarding facility. Some cats are far too stressed being boarded away from home.
Start your sitter search by asking trusted neighbors, family, and friends for referrals. Personal recommendations based on good experiences are ideal. Or check sites like Rover or Care.com to browse local sitters’ profiles, services, prices, reviews and credentials.
Once you find prospects, interview multiple candidates in person at your home with your cat present. This allows you to assess how your cat responds to each potential sitter. Look for positive interactions and chemistry. And be sure to check references from past clients to screen for any red flags. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions!
Share detailed instructions on your cat’s care routine, feeding schedules, medication administration, and any health issues. Review your pre-vacation home preparations so your sitter knows your directives. The more info your sitter has, the better they can follow your regimen and tend to your cat’s unique needs while you’re away.
I also recommend having your top candidate do a few trial runs before booking – come over to play with your cat, feed them, give medication, etc. This further acclimates your cat to their caretaker and confirms the sitter is competent.
The main downside to in-home sitters is having a stranger in your house while you’re gone. So make sure you change alarm codes and lock up valuables just to be ultra safe. But many cats thrive with personalized, in-home care. Do what’s best for your pet!
Pro Tip: Consider installing security cameras at home so you can remotely check in on your cat and sitter. Nothing breeds peace of mind like being able to visit virtually!
When Sam was a kitten, I used to worry myself sick, wondering if the sitter was adequately caring for her. Now, I just peek at the camera anytime I get anxious. Seeing her lounging around happy as can be instantly reassures me – and doesn’t disturb her routine at all. Modern technology is a cat lover’s best friend.
Alternatively, you may opt to board your cat at a feline boarding facility for round the clock care. Some pet owners prefer this controlled environment to in-home sitters.
Reputable boarding centers require all cats to be current on vaccines and vet screenings before accepting boarders. This ensures your cat remains healthy and guarded against contagions. Clean, supervised catteries also prevent injuries or accidents that could happen alone at home.
When touring facilities, look for sanitary conditions, gentle handling protocols, and separate “condos” to prevent contact between boarded cats. Requiring your cat to be up-to-date on vaccines helps protect them from picking up illnesses, which cats can be prone to when stressed.
Ask what amenities are offered – premium food, screened outdoor play areas, webcams, bedding, etc. Many modern facilities cater their services and suites to be like feline vacation resorts!
However, being boarded can be stressful for some cats. All the unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells of a kennel combined with the absence of their family is a lot to handle. Make sure to ask about their specific protocols to help cats adjust.
Some tips – send along familiar items like your cat’s bed, toys, and worn blankets with your scent. Ask for separate cleanings/feedings if your cat is too scared to eat or use the litter box around other cats. Inquire about confinement and handling policies too.
While boarding offers 24/7 care, the foreign environment may be too overwhelming for certain sensitive cats. So opt for whatever meets your pet’s unique needs.
Departure Day Duties
The bittersweet day has finally arrived – it’s time to leave your furry friend behind and depart on your adventure! While sad, take heart knowing your diligent preparation will provide your cat with the best possible staycation.
On the big day, don’t just sneak out the door without acknowledgment. Make sure to give your cat plenty of affection, treats, and playtime to start their time home alone off on the right paw.
You can also tuck them in with a favorite blanket or toy soaked in your scent for comfort. I like to hide little mystery treat surprises around the house, too, so they have hunting hijinks while I’m gone! Anything to tire them out and distract from your absence.
If you have an automatic feeder, verify it’s loaded with food and functioning properly. Activate any pet cameras and monitoring apps so you can check in while traveling. Setting up the litter robot and cat fountain prepares the essentials for self-sufficiency.
Try your best to stick to their routine – feed at normal times, administer any medications on schedule, and scoop litter before departing. Maintaining their schedule provides stability when the rest of their world is in flux.
Lastly, remind yourself this is only temporary! Give your cat one more nuzzle, reassure them you’ll be back soon, and exchange those bitter goodbye meows. Then hit the road knowing your furball is set up for success in your absence. Focus on how happy they’ll be to see you when you return.
At long last, your bags are packed and car fueled for the drive back home. While no doubt your cat will be miffed at your extended abandonment, take comfort that your diligent preparation ensured they remained happy, healthy, and cared for while you were away making magical memories.
When you finally walk through the door, get ready for the cold shoulder, reproachful glares, or blatant ignoring of your presence. Cats never let us forget leaving them behind! But try not to take their indignation personally.
Shower them with cuddles and treats to expedite forgiveness. Regale them with tales of your adventure as they remind you who rules the house. Soon balance will be restored once they’ve sufficiently scolded you for your absence and reestablished dominion.
Moving forward, you can jet away on future vacations with peace of mind knowing precisely how to set up your cat for success. Your checklists will grow ever more detailed and precise with each trip. Perfected preparation prevents poor pet performance.
So soak up that hard-won cat caretaker knowledge. With meticulous planning, your cat can stay happy at home while you freely adventure with no worries or guilt about leaving your furball.