As much as we’d like to, we can’t spend every single moment with our beloved feline friends. Most of us have to leave our cats behind at least occasionally for work, travel, or holidays. And while cats tend to be recognized for their independence, they still have needs like food and play when we are gone (and that litter box won’t clean itself!).
This is where cat care or pet sitting services come into play. If you can’t always be home to take care of them – or have a family member who can care for your kitties when you’re gone – someone has to make sure all your cat’s needs are met. Here are some reasons why you might need to hire a cat sitter and tips for choosing the right kind of cat care service for your needs.
Why You Might Need Cat Care Services
In light of the self-sufficient nature of most cats, many loving cat parents haven’t ever considered in-home cat care. Here are some reasons why it might be time to hire a cat sitter:
- Injury or illness can onset quickly while you are away from your pet
- Some cats are stressed or anxious when they are separated from their owners
- Free feeding can risk your cat’s health and automatic feeders can be unreliable
- Most cats have a high need for mental engagement every day
- Play and exercise are important for the physical health and mobility of your cat
Illness or Injury Can Occur While You’re Away
No one wants to entertain the idea of their pet being injured or sick, but it’s a very real possibility. Various illnesses can onset quickly with cats and immediate medical care is crucial to more positive outcomes. If you are away for a day or two and your cat starts to show symptoms, a cat sitter would make it possible to address their illness sooner and increase the likelihood that they can be treated and make a full recovery.
The same goes for an injury – if your cat miscalculates a leap off the cat tower and sprains an ankle or hurts their back, you want to address their pain as quickly as possible. If you aren’t home to see their limp or hear their crying, a pet sitter can stand in for you and get them the help and relief they need.
It’s unlikely anything bad will happen to your cat while you’re gone, but it’s not impossible. A cat care service ensures that in the event something does go wrong, your cat will get proper and immediate help.
Some Cats Experience Separation Anxiety
While it might seem as though your cat doesn’t notice when you’re away, they might be experiencing serious sadness and stress. If you don’t have a pet camera in your house, it can be hard to know if your cat is suffering from separation anxiety.
Some cats with separation issues will communicate distress with their parents – by yowling when they pick up their keys or put their shoes on, or urinating outside the litter box while they’re away. If you’ve noticed some of these signs, your cat is likely experiencing some separation stress that would be mitigated by a cat care service.
Free Feeding and Automatic Feeders Are Risky
Your cat’s nutritional needs are just one element of your consistent care for them, and feeding times and portion control are crucial to their overall health. Free feeding, or leaving out large amounts of food for your cat to graze on over the course of a day or several days, is generally not advised by most veterinarians. Your cat might binge in the early hours of your departure and then find themselves hungry before you get home. Free feeding also contributes to cat obesity, and it’s also possible your cat will refuse to eat because they are lonely.
Automatic feeders can allow for better timing and portion control while you are away for an extended period, but if the feeder breaks or stops working, your cat is left without food while you’re gone. This isn’t a risk most cat owners are willing to take. Maintaining healthy nutrition and a consistent feeding schedule is one way that a cat care service can benefit your pet while you’re away.
Physical Exercise and Play Are Important to Your Cat’s Physical Health
Your cat needs to move, play, and engage in some physical activity every day. Not only does activity keep them within a healthy weight range, but it also ensures they stay mobile and mentally acute. If you are gone all day, it’s possible your cat will sleep for most of that time. While your feline friend does have significant sleep needs, it’s also important that they get up and move throughout the day – a need that can be met with in-home cat care if you aren’t around to encourage it.
Your Cat Needs Companionship and Affection
Perhaps one of the most significant arguments for using a cat care service is that it will meet your cat’s daily needs for companionship and mental engagement. There are plenty of pieces of technology that are meant to make cats self-sufficient, like automatic feeders and interactive, battery-powered toys. But no technology can meet your cat’s social and emotional needs for companionship and affection – only a living, breathing human can do that. Your cat deserves to be pet and talked to, even when you’re away for a time. A cat sitter visit should include not just the necessities of food and litter box cleaning, but time for human interaction until their favorite person comes home!
Tips for Choosing a Good Cat Care Service
Once you’ve decided you need a pet sitter, it’s time to start shopping for the right provider. Here’s what to consider when looking for a cat sitter that will meet your needs:
- Have a clear and specific idea of what you want from your sitter
- Ask smart questions that shed light on the sitter’s qualifications
- Never forget to ask for references
- Consider a fair price for the job
Decide What You’re Looking for in a Cat Sitter
There are many different types of cat care services because there are many different needs when it comes to cat care. The first step in choosing the right kind of cat sitter is knowing exactly what you need.
You might be seeking someone to come each day during the week to play with your cat for a while and change out their food and water and clean the litter box. Or, your needs might be more significant: perhaps you want someone to stay in your house so that your cat has consistent companionship and care while you’re on a vacation. Do you just want the pet sitter to care for your cat, or do you want them to take on other tasks, too, like picking up the mail or watering plants? Do you have requirements for your pet sitter’s experience and background (like someone who can give care for a specific health concern), or certain times of day they need to be available (perhaps to give medication)?
To choose the right cat care service for your feline, you need to spend some time thinking about your specific needs. If you understand these better at the outset, you won’t have to waste time interviewing with people who aren’t a good fit.
Ask the Right Questions When You Interview a Pet Sitter
When you meet a potential cat care service provider, you need to have a list of questions that will help you decide who is a good fit. Here are a few that will give you insight into their cat sitting abilities:
- What kind of cat breeds and personalities have you worked with in the past?
- What do you love most about cats?
- What are your other obligations throughout the week and weekend?
- Do you have any specific training or work experience with cats?
- Have you ever had a health scare with a cat you were taking care of? How did you handle it?
Always Get References, Credentials, and Licenses
If you’re working with a very professional cat care service, the person coming to care for your cat likely has credentials of some kind. They might be a veterinary technician or have training in cat-specific care or be a member of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. They may even have liability insurance that is specific to pet sitters. It’s important that you know exactly what their qualifications are before hiring them.
Regardless of professional credentials and licensing, you should always speak with your pet sitter’s references and talk to a fellow pet parent about their experience with a pet sitter before you use them. In theory, this person will be in your home alone with your pet. You need to make a very concerted effort to ensure that they are trustworthy and good at their job. They will be the primary caregiving resource while you are away and they may need to react in an emergency. References provide proof that a cat sitter can do their job effectively.
Cost and Pricing Matters Should Be Discussed Up Front
We know you want the best for your cat, but sometimes the best can be expensive. Most pet sitters and cat care services will set rates depending on a number of factors: number of pets, length of the visit, travel required, level of care, and other considerations. It’s important to decide on a budget for your in-home cat care needs before you start shopping and be upfront and transparent about how much you can pay a potential sitter. This way, you avoid wasting time talking to (and possibly getting excited about) someone who can’t work within your budget.
Set Clear Expectations for Your Cat Care Service
Pet sitters can be a wonderful way to ensure your cat’s needs are being met every day, but your sitter should know exactly what those needs are. Be sure to set out clear, written expectations for your sitter. Some pet owners even draw up an informal contract to ensure the provider understands their duties and responsibilities.
Knowing your furry friend is comfortable and healthy can give you peace of mind so that you can do the other important things in your life, whether that’s work or play. If you could be with your cat all the time, you would, but since that’s not possible, do the next best thing and hire a cat care service.