What To Look For In A Cat Sitter
There’s a reason why they say there are dog people and cat people: cats and dogs are VERY different and caring for each requires different sets of skills. This is why hiring professional pet sitters with lots of experience is so important when traveling. From feeding schedules to exercise and play, cats exist with their humans in a completely different way than dogs, and your cat sitter should be able to explain the following differences and know how to care for your cat accordingly.
Dogs are people pleasers, cats...not so much
Cats are notoriously solitary animals, though that is not to say they aren’t affectionate or that they don’t get lonely. While daily care is seemingly simple and can often times be taken care of with one visit, cats still benefit from quality cuddles, playtime and a watchful eye!
Dogs require more round the clock care, cats are generally low maintenance… most of the time.
Cats have a litter box for their bathroom needs and will munch on food throughout the day (unless they are on a special diet or take medication with their food). They exercise on their own accord and often sleep an average of 17 hours a day! Lots of cats may be be fully satisfied if someone stops by for 30-40 minutes once a day and spends quality time snuggling and/or playing, but sometimes cats need a little more human contact than what we typically assume. If you are traveling for a long period of time, your cat may start to get anxious or lonely without you in which case just one visit a day may not cut it. Your cat sitter should be able to read these signs and communicate to you what is needed to ease your cat’s nerves.
Dogs typically like to play with people, where sometimes a cat would rather observe and then play on their own
While dogs love running after balls, toys and sticks to fetch and bring back for one on one interaction, cats often play their own games. They are skilled hunters and that’s done alone, so often kitties will pretend to hunt and catch their toys without you. That isn’t to say a cat doesn’t enjoy having a human playmate! Who else is going to drag that long stick toy with the wire and catnip attached or operate the infamous laser beam flashlight??!! The key is to find a cat sitter who can read your pet’s way of playing and participate accordingly.
KEY CHARACTERISTICS TO LOOK FOR IN A CAT SITTER
PATIENCE: Cats often take a while to warm up to someone new who is watching them. It is important that your sitter is willing to hang around without affection for the first couple visits to gain your cat’s trust. Any good sitter knows there’s no greater reward than when a cat finally crawls into your lap!
OBSERVANT: Cats hide their pain well, so it’s important to watch for stuff they can’t control. Your sitter should know to keep an eye on their litter box habits - stool consistency, urine amount, and whether or not it’s in the litter box! They should also watch out for vomiting, because while upchucking is definitely a “cat thing”, sometimes it’s more than just a hairball issue.
EXPERIENCED: A cat owner and/or experienced sitter can help with cats that are finicky, knowing tricks to help them eat and become more comfortable with the new caregiver faster.
FLEXIBILITY: All cats have very unique personalities so they require different types of care. For example, some cats are quite attached to their humans so when their owners go out of town for an extended amount of time, being left alone all day can make them quite anxious. This is an example of where more than one visit a day would be beneficial. At The Perfect Pooch NYC we offer 15 minute “Pop In” visits for your cats, which is an affordable way to make sure that your furry friend has more consistent human interaction while you are away. This is also a great option for kittens or for cats who might need medication administered more than once a day. We often get requests to combine our pop-ins with a regular cat visit (30-40 min), so perhaps we stop by for 15 minutes in the morning to medicate, feed and tend to the litter, but then come for a longer, more social visit in the afternoon. The point is that you should find someone who willing to work with you to create a care schedule that is customized for your cat’s specific needs.
COMMUNICATIVE: All of the above qualities are useless if your cat sitter isn’t willing or able to communicate with you on a daily basis. You should expect to receive post-visit reports, pictures and video while you are away and to be able to reach your sitter at reasonable hours for consult if needed. This may seem like overkill to some, but it’s much easier to ask a communicative pet care pro to “ease up” on the number of messages and pics than to get a uncommunicative sitter to respond to your texts!
Pet-Sitting vs Pet Boarding
Boarding can be a great option for your dog because typically most dogs love to socialize. But cats generally prefer the safety of their own homes. They are creatures of habit and small changes can disrupt their behavior immensely, so keeping them home in familiar surroundings will help eliminate stress and loneliness. Boarding is typically only recommended if your cat needs around the clock care and constant supervision, in which case veterinary boarding is your best bet.
If you feel like your cat needs more than just daily visits, overnight pet sitting is a great option. This is when a pet care pro stays overnight at your home, allowing for even more supervision and care, and is usually the most recommended type of care if you have both cats and dogs. Just be sure your pet sitter carries their own insurance and that you know what their overnight rate includes. Some pet sitters’ rates are only for the overnight care (for example, from 9pm-6am) and visits during the day are a separate charge.
All in all, it’s important to remember all animals are different and you should make sure your pet sitter is experienced with the type of care you and your fur-baby require.