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The holidays are fast approaching, which may involve a trip to visit relatives or if you’re lucky a vacation. The chances are your feline family member isn’t invited along (rightly or wrongly), which means you need to make sure they’re safe and taken good care of while you’re away.
You have a choice between a pet sitter coming into your home or taking your cat to board at a cattery. But it can be hard to know which option is best, and how to decide between the two.
A good place to start is by thinking about your cat as the individual they are. For example, are they a young, active cat inclined towards mischief, or a senior cat content to sleep on the sofa all day? Indeed, if there’s a chance your cat is going to hurt themselves or get into trouble whilst you’re away, a cattery may offer you the best peace of mind.
To clarify your thinking, take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle, write cattery on one-half and pet sitter on the other. Now read through the points below and jot down the pros and cons in the relevant sections as they occur to you. Then review what you’ve written to see which option comes out a whisker ahead.
Is Your Cat Adaptable or Stressy?
You know your cat better than anyone else. Some felines hate disruption to their routine and if put in a cattery will curl up and refuse to eat for days, whilst others are purrfectly at ease with the change. The trouble is it can be difficult to predict what will happen until you try.
Clues to adaptability are the cat that confidently greets visitors to your home, and loves a fuss on the front drive when kids walk by. The stressy cat is more likely to run and hide when guests arrive, and turn tail when the neighbour’s kids come home from school.
Adaptable cats are just that, and may look upon a cattery visit as an interesting change of scenery. Whilst the stressy cat is going to be happier at home in a familiar environment, as long as they’re safe and checked on regularly.
In the Pawesome Cats family we have both adaptable and stressy cats. Amber is definitely a scaredy-cat who will run and hide when guests arrive or there’s too much noise. Max, is much more laid-back and wants to befriend every visitor to the house, so for him, a visit to the cattery is an exciting adventure and an opportunity to make new friends.
Is Your Cat Mischievous or Laid Back?
Of course some of the most confident cats are also the most mischievous. If your cat is likely to get bored and start swinging from the curtains, then the stimulation provided by a cattery is going to be a good option.
Likewise, an older cat whose ambition is to clock up yet more hours of catnaps, could do equally well at home or in a cattery. But bear in mind that cats love the familiarity of their territory, so many cats will be more disturbed by the loss of a favourite view than they are by the loss of human company.
Is Your Cat in Good Health?
If you have a cat that is older or prone to poor health then the cattery versus pet sitter question requires some serious thinking. If your cat adapts to a cattery then the constant supervision is worth its weight in gold because any problems can be detected early and a vet consulted.
In the home, a sick cat may hide, which makes it difficult for a pet sitter to assess your cat’s demeanour and work out if he really is sick or just upset at your absence. Also, your cat might have symptoms, which are intermittent and therefore missed by a pet sitter on twice-daily visits. However, this is weighed against the cat staying in a familiar place where they feel relaxed, and therefore less subject to stress.
For Charlie, our IBD kitty, the cattery versus pet sitter decision is a difficult one. He has periods where he requires medication, but his health condition is also impacted by stress, so the less stressful option is always best. We always base our decision on how he is doing at the time.
Is Your Cat on Medication?
If your cat takes tablets or has insulin injections, then you need to carefully assess the ability of the pet sitter or the cattery staff to meet these needs. Remember, giving insulin isn’t just about a twice-daily needle; it’s also about spotting signs when things go wrong and the cat becomes unwell.
Pet sitters and cattery staff usually have extensive experience with cats, and they often have veterinary qualifications too – but don’t make assumptions, ask the right questions, so you are comfortable with the level of care your cat will receive. If you don’t have access to someone with the necessary expertise, ask your veterinary clinic if they can board your cat in your absence, many vet clinics offer this service.
Is Your Cat a Good Traveller?
Last but not least, how good at travelling is your cat? If they confidently walk into their carrier with their tail high as a flagpole then great, but if they get motion sickness or howl continuously during a car journey (especially if you have to travel some distance to a cattery) you might want to think about letting them stay at home.
To a certain extent your choice might be influenced by the standard of care available in your area. For example, your preference might be a cattery, but if the local facility is dirty and the staff poorly trained, or also boards noisy, barking dogs then a reliable and responsible pet sitter is likely to offer better care.
Good luck with your decision, and don’t forget to let us know what you decided and why.
Avery Grey says
My husband and I are going to be going on a trip in a few weeks and I have been worried about what to do with our two cats. They both are fairly laid back and adaptable. I don’t think that they would have too many problems with pet boarding but you never know. We have been thinking about having a test run over a weekend to see how they did so that we could decide if we needed a sitter or not. We will have sure to keep these insights in mind, thank you for sharing!
Those are great tips. We need to take into consideration our pet needs and health before deciding.
Carol Bryant says
Great post for cat parents to explore which is the best option: We all want what is best for our pets
Cathy Armato says
Excellent post! These are all such important considerations. I like that you included the personality of your pet as something to consider. I’ve used both pet sitters and PetSmart boarding facilities for my cat, and I’ve exclusively used PetSmart for my dogs. I boarded once at the Vet and it was awful. Even with a PetSmart boarding facility, some locations and staff are better than others. Meet the staff and talk with them before you use them for boarding. And reserve your space NOW, everyone books up fast for the holidays! My sister was notorious for not booking her holiday boarding on time and then scrambling around trying to get anyone she could to take care of her dog – a very bad idea!
Mary Haight says
Great post. I had cats long before pet sitters were a thing, but if I had cats now, I’d choose a sitter and keep the cats in their own home.
Even though I’ve had a cat for the last 13 years, I didn’t know that there was such a think as a cattery. We are fortunate enough to have family who can watch our pets if we are away. I don’t think my cat would enjoy a cattery, but I bet a lot of cats would.
For my cats, the best choice would be to have a pet sitter. Cinco would be very upset about being moved from his home environment and would likely go a little crazy having unfamiliar people and cats around. Manna is okay with people other than my husband and I, but she is not fond of other cats. This is great advice! Every cat is a different situation.
Really good information. Thank you! I was not even aware of catteries! One of our vet techs pet sits and I have her number up top to watch our pets in our home (five Siberian Huskies and one feral-rehabilitated-adopted kitty!)
This is really well thought out! I prefer someone come to my home to watch my cats, but it is because I worry about them more if they are not home, not because I think they would stress. There is just something about knowing they’re home that makes me feel more comfortable.
Elizabeth Keene says
I’ve only ever boarded a cat who was on daily meds (he’d have preferred being at home) and one who was used to being partly outdoor (and we were moving to a new neighborhood, so she had to be boarded during the move. Incidentally, she has been 100% indoor ever since and 100% OK with it). The mischievity criteria is one I hadn’t really thought about before but makes perfect sense. I’d rather a cat be a little put out at the boarding facility than hung up in wires, or stuck in a closet, for example.
Talent Hounds says
I prefer a sitter I know as too disruptive for any of my animals.
Daisy The French Bulldog says
Really interesting post! We don’t have any cats, but I know with the three dogs in our house, it’s always a dilemma about whether to ask the neighbor to pet sit or board the dogs at our vet. We always look at the health of the dogs and the length of the trip before making our decision. Thanks for the informative article!
Bernard Lima-Chavez says
I personally prefer a pet sitter when both my husband & I have to be gone at the same time. Yes, for economical reasons (we have 4 large dogs and 7 cats) but also for their emotional and psychological wellness. I’d rather have them adapt to both of us being gone in the comfort of their own home rather than at a boarding facility or cattery.
When I had cats we always had a sitter. My cats would have hated anything else!
Kitty Cat Chronicles says
We aren’t going anywhere this holiday season, but we do have a cat sitter that we call on when the time comes. She is very reliable and goes above and beyond to make sure the kitties are given the best care. I have two who would probably not do well being boarded anyway, so a pet sitter is definitely the best decision for us. Thanks for these great points!
Lauren Miller (ZoePhee) says
Great post! I’m really lucky in that this year I don’t have to make this kind of decision with our cats. In the past we’ve either had a friend watch them or we take them with us. They are not a huge fan of long road trips but they don’t do horribly and they used to live at my inlaw’s with us so they’ve been at the house and it’s not a huge deal. This year we are not going, though! I think with kitties “in home” sitting is the best option for us.
I vote for sitter – that way, you have someone looking after your home, too.
Jana Rade says
We don’t have cats. I work at home so such things generally not needed. JD however did love going to dogy day care; we did that for socialization purposes mostly.
Great advice to help make decisions about how to take care of your kitty while on vacation/away. We always ensure our sitters are bonded, insured, have first aid cert, and are all around great people!!
Lindsay, Matilda - Little Dog Tips says
Great post! Whenever possible, I like to have someone come to my home to watch my pets, though my animals are very easy to care for.
Rosa @ Cat Lady Confidential says
These are some great advice. Where I live we don’t have any pet sitter services. There are a few pet shops that offer cattery services, but I never used them. My cat is a very sensitive and nervous boy, so when I need to travel he will usually stay with my relatives.
Thanks for your really wonderful post. These are all such important things to consider; not really a black and white issue … it really does depend on the kitties themselves.
Fur Everywhere says
These are all great things to consider. I’ve met several pet sitters lately that are actually certified veterinary technicians, so they actually have vet tech training. I think that would be the best option for us if I ever had to go out of town for anything.
When the Cat is Away says
A very timely post. I’ll be leaving my two cats for the very first time next week. I’ll travel for 1 week abroad. I got somebody to live at my place during the entire time. She’s not a professional pet sitter (I*m actually doubting whether such exist in Finland), but she loves cats. She can’t have her own cats because she’s still a student and living in a shared appartment.
I think that’s more than enough. As long as she feeds them, and plays with them, they’ll be fine. And I hope that they’ll snuggle with her as a thank you.
Binga and Boodie and Sparkle needed to be boarded once, when their house was being tented for termites. Sparkle liked it all right, but Binga hated every single second – and took it out on Boodie! We have a pet sitter now, although she has only seen me once because usually when she is needed, it means my human and her boyfriend are both out of town – and I’m usually with my human.
Layla Morgan Wilde says
Good points to ponder. I’ve never boarded my cats and opt for a live-in sitter. In the U.S. we have bonded sitters who belong to an association with training in first aid, giving meds etc. My advice at time of the year is make plans for your cat, yesterday. All the best sitters are already booked.