Away With A Stranger

as appeared in a feature in EFA/Etsy For Animals' blog
by josie t liem







One of the perks of having a cat is that they require less daily "maintenance" than dogs. They don't have to be walked two or three times a day. If you have cats and you are running late at work, you don't have to worry about being late for their walk. You know the cats will be fine. This is NOT to say that cats should be ignored or "left" for long amounts of time.

During my recent visits to the vet, which always seem to turn into an impromptu vet tech job, I saw the vet treat a terribly ill cat who, as it turns out, was left home alone for two weeks.

Basically she was left with a huge bowl of food and water. However, the water somehow spilled and ruined all the food. Vets believe this happened on day 1 or 2 so the cat had no food to eat for 2 weeks and no water. We worked on that cat from 10 am in the morning to 2 am the next morning and successfully treated the cat, but it now suffers permanent damage & the vet bills cost a pretty penny to the owner. Luckily, the owner's mother loves the cat enough that she kept the cat for herself after that, otherwise the vet and I were sure that the cat would either be sold off or worse, thrown to the street.

The vets said that the longest someone should leave their cats is about 24 hours. Maybe 36 hours. In extreme circumstances 48 hours, but honestly, my preference is no longer than 24 hours. Cats can get sick and no one is there to give attention, and it can be a long, agonizing death. There are more than one occasion where I heard crying patients in the lobby with stories of how they come home from a vacation to a dead cat.

I'm sure lots of cats are successfully left for periods of time without incident; but because cats (and other animals) are “some one” not “some thing” expendable, I would prefer that their human check on them every day to make sure the cats have proper food and water, clean environment, and to check if the cats are safe and healthy.

Ideally, I prefer my “pet sitter” (can be anyone actually) to also spend a little time playing with them or sitting around – even if that means watching a movie, reading comic books, or just being "around". If I come home to a dead cat - I'd have serious issues with that !


Boarding vs Pet Sitter

There's also the option of boarding your cats. The pros are that you don't have to let a stranger into your house, and if the boarding house knows what they are doing, they'd be taking care of your cats well enough.

The cons are that, you'd never know... One thing for sure, is that cats easily stress out because they dont adapt easily to new environments. And it's not easy to find trust-able boarding. I also get a lot of clients complaining about their cats getting fleas from boarding... worms, scabies, even fatal sickness like upper respiratory infections or other viruses. Boarding house is not the owner of your pet, so they don't always care about 'maintenance' issues. Your pets can be given different food or miss out on their vitamins or medications.

If you hire a pet sitter, however, you have someone checking your house, getting your mail and making your home looked "lived in" whilst you are away. If you are lucky, you can sometimes find someone who is willing to stay at your home. A pet sitter that stays at your home can give your pets plenty of attention. However, you have to find the right person. Office and staffs at veterinary clinics can make good candidates for this job. They are animal-people and are trained to detect medical problems should they arise. Your cat is in his own environment which is generally less stressful and most importantly, your cat will eat his own food and have his own routine. I am sure we all know that a change of food or an addition of treats can sometimes induce gastrointestinal upset, or hard-to-handle allergies. Unfortunately if you hire a wrong person, they can invite unwanted people or event into your house when you are not around. Plenty to worry about !

Whether you choose a kennel or pet sitter - make sure to provide clear instruction on what food your cat should be fed and any required medications. A good kennel or pet sitter will often play or sit with the cats several times a day. Give clear instructions on what you expect of his activity, playtime and interaction to be. Also, ensure that you provide good contact information in both instances in the case of an emergency.

If you are not planning to go away this holiday? That's great, just make sure your pets stay safely inside the house.

Happy Holidays!



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