Preparing for a business trip or family vacation? What if an emergency arises and you must leave town for an extended period of time? Who will take care of kitty while you are away?
Cats are creatures of habit, and some adjust better than others to changes of routine and scenery. Yes, pet sitters and trusted friends as caretakers can be an option so you can leave them home with no disruption, but we also highly recommend boarding cats at an animal hospital or professional cat-specific boarding facility that works closely with a veterinarian. Why?
Who knows your animal better besides you than your veterinarian and vet technicians? And a cat-specific boarding facility who works closely with a veterinarian is also typically well trained on noticing the nuances of a cat’s behavior and changes in eating habits, and they will quickly contact the pet’s veterinarian with questions and concerns before a real medical emergency arises.
We see many times well-intentioned owners who leave their cat home with a caretaker, but fail to leave them proper instructions on what to do in case of an emergency. By the time the pet parent returns home, their feline friend is in desperate need of medical care.
Many cats get depressed and dehydrated when owners leave them home alone for longer than normal lengths of time which can push them deeper into kidney and liver disease. The cat may also hide from the caretaker while in this stressed and anxious emotional state when their pet parent is gone, without the caretaker even realizing this is a problem.
Cats left alone will also become bored and frustrated. Their appetite will decrease, they will drink less water and may even chew on fabrics or objects out of the ordinary. Some will urinate and defecate where they shouldn’t, and pet parents might think this is spiteful behavior. Spite is a human emotion. Cats display this behavior as a reaction to stress and/or a medical issue.
If your cat has any health issues requiring medications or careful monitoring for problems, boarding at an animal hospital can certainly be the best choice while you are away.
When choosing a boarding facility, we suggest you take a tour of the facility ahead of time and ask lots of questions. The facility should be clean, water bowls should be full, and comfortable bedding should be provided along with adequate and clean litter boxes. Any reputable boarding facility will require that your cat’s vaccinations are up to date for their protection and will ask who to call in case of emergency.
We also advise that the pet owner leave something in writing at drop off in case of an unexpected emergency when the owner can’t be reached. This pet owner document should pre-authorize in writing what amount you are willing to spend on emergency diagnostics and care. Also be specific about things like whether you authorize CPR.
If your cat is on a special diet or a finicky eater, ask that he/she be fed the same diet, and leave that food along with special toys that make your pet feel closer to home.
If you do choose to leave your cat home under the care of a trusted sitter or friend, please be sure to leave full instructions as noted above on what to do in case of emergency. Write down the name and number of your pet’s veterinarian and nearest emergency clinic, and make yourself available for questions about the cat’s behavior while you are gone.
Some careful planning in advance will ensure kitty has a positive experience while you are away, and your trip can be worry-free where your pet is concerned.
Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital