Will kitty be lonely when I'm on vacation?
October 19, 2009 2:24 PM   Subscribe

What do I do with my cat for a week while on vacation?

I'm going out of the country for 7 days, and I have a cat. I own those little feeder tubs that should hold enough food and water for the trip, but I don't know about the litter box and if she will get lonely or not.

What's the best thing to do with a cat for a week?
posted by phrakture to Pets & Animals (30 answers total)
have a friend catsit.
posted by hollisimo at 2:24 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I don't have any friends who live close enough that I would trust to do that. And I don't think anyone will drive for 1 hour just to take care of a cat.
posted by phrakture at 2:28 PM on October 19, 2009

you can't leave the cat alone for a week. cats aren't goldfish-- they need interaction, attention, company, and love. if you leave her alone for that long without anyone to at least check in on her once a day, you run the risk of having her damage your living space, hurt herself, or both.

if you don't have any friends or neighbors who can help you out, you'll probably want to board her.
posted by hollisimo at 2:32 PM on October 19, 2009 [6 favorites]

I've paid for someone to look after my cat when no friends were available. Google shows that Chicago has cat sitting services.
posted by Mavri at 2:32 PM on October 19, 2009

Do a Craigslist search for pet-sitters and check references. Or look in the Yellow Pages, or ask your vet for a recommendation.
posted by aabbbiee at 2:33 PM on October 19, 2009

PetSmart has PetsHotel, which I haven't personally used, but is reasonably priced at around $15/day or so...

Alternatively, you could talk to your vet and see if they will recommend any pet sitting services. There are many out there, and they vary wildly in price, but it's worth asking.

If your cat is really good in terms of being on his/her own, you could be OK by adding 1-2 litterboxes so that there's always a clean-ish one available, and then putting out multi-day ("automated" is a bit silly of a word) feeder / water bowl. 7 days is a stretch, and maybe a bit longer than I'd leave my cats on their own, but it's not totally crazy as long as they have the basics: Food, litter, water, toys...
posted by twiggy at 2:35 PM on October 19, 2009

if you're like my neighbors, you meet me a week before you leave and let me catsit. of course, it wasn't a big deal to go over there an play for a half hour a couplefew times a day, but that's the deal. there may also be people you can pay, check craigslist's pet community board.
posted by rhizome at 2:35 PM on October 19, 2009

I hadn't noticed you're in Chicago until reading the thread after my post came through...

There are LOTS of cat sitting services here. Send me a MeFi Mail and let me know where you live, maybe I can help.
posted by twiggy at 2:35 PM on October 19, 2009

When friends weren't available to come visit our cats while we were gone, we had a pet sitter come in to feed them and make sure they were ok. I recommend that over boarding as being in new environments is often extremely stressful on cats--if that's the only option though it's still better than leaving her alone for a week. Your cat would probably survive if she didn't run out of water, but it's not a great thing to do to a cat.

As far as litter box, it depends on how clean you keep it now and what kind of litterbox it is. If you scoop every day and you're gone for a week, you may find cat pee and poop in inconvenient places.
posted by Kimberly at 2:37 PM on October 19, 2009

I second hollisimo. While there are some really tony boarding facilities (video, music, plush surroundings/beds, swimming for dogs and etc) in most larger metro areas that your cat could "enjoy" a weeklong stay in, I opine that he would be happier at home. Cats don't really like novelty and new experiences. But cats are easy, most don't need or desire alot of human interaction. The person could stay at your place but perhaps more easily could drop by once a day for fresh water and petting.
posted by bebrave! at 2:39 PM on October 19, 2009

Oh, if you're in Chicago, I can unreservedly recommend Chicago Pet Sitters: http://www.chicagopetsitters.com/index.htm. Their service is outstanding and they really, truly care about pets.
posted by jennyb at 2:41 PM on October 19, 2009

I think my cat would prefer being at home with a cat sitter coming by once a day to being boarded. Lots of cat sitters will promise to stay at least an hour and play with the cat (and provide food, water, clean the box).
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 2:46 PM on October 19, 2009

Lots of extra food and water (I don't think I'd trust an automatic feeder; two or three bowls of food and another two or three bowls of water is pretty foolproof), maybe put down an extra litter box for her, and leave the toilet seat up in case she somehow spills all her water. Leave lots of toys out in unexpected places and hide treats all over the house. I also put the tv on a timer. No idea if that helps, but my cat enjoys the wild animal shows on the tv when I'm home, so I assume she'll watch them when I'm not there. Maybe I'm a horrible person but that's what I do when I have to leave town for a week and can't get someone to check in on her. She may leave a present for me to clean up somewhere in the house, and she's usually mad at me for an hour or two after I get home, pointedly ignoring me from close enough that I can see that I'm being ignored, but after that she's fine.

Of course the best thing to do is get someone to look in on her as mentioned above.
posted by Balonious Assault at 2:49 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Even my friends' most aloof cat was not happy with their sudden trip. Cats like me, a lot, but this one had held back from me a bit ... up until I was the only person he saw during a day. Despite having another cat for company, he was on me, wanting about half an hour of solid physical contact. This was a non-lap cat who, deprived of his usual company, climbed on top of me and wanted Wesley Willis-style headbumps.

A cat can survive a week alone, but it will be lonely and scared and fairly ticked off with you when you come back.
posted by adipocere at 2:58 PM on October 19, 2009

I was going to offer myself! My landlord doesn't allow pets, so my cat lives 8 hours away from me. I'd do it for free just to get some cat-snuggles. However, you're even further away, so much for that.

That said, a cat is not a dog. You don't need to visit twice a day and play with it and feed it or else it will be traumatized forever. My family has gone on vacation for weeks at a time. We just give someone a key and ask them to stop by and fill up the food dish and play with the little furballs every few days. And it's always been fine.

I know my cats would vastly prefer being left alone to being brought somewhere else. But then, my cats are so afraid of change I'm surprised they don't vote republican.
posted by shaun uh at 3:26 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've done the same as Balonious Assault suggested. I wouldn't do it longer than a week, though.

My cats eat only dry food and they always have a bowl full, so leaving huge bowls of it around wasn't a big deal - they are used to grazing whenever they felt like it. However, if your cat is used to being fed at certain times during the day with a specific amount, I'd not go this route. Kitty might see a big bowl of food and eat it all at once.

We always overdo it with leaving bowls of water and food out. We also leave the toilet seats up. BUT, make sure that you don't have any of those chlorine cleaner insert things in your potty or else you might come home to a dead kitty.

Litter boxes: Put an extra one out (or two, if your kitty is picky about having a neat and tidy box). Still, be prepared for a "present" or two. I think pooping is a cat's only form of communicating displeasure effectively.

As you leave the house, leave a little pile of catnip somewhere.
posted by Sassyfras at 3:31 PM on October 19, 2009

Best answer: As a general rule, I feel comfortable leaving a cat alone for 3 nights, though I try to have someone check up on them if it will be more than 1 night. A week is too long for a cat to be alone if you have any options at all. (If you don't, leave out lots and lots of water, leave all toilet bowls open, buy extra litter boxes, and be prepared for significant cleaning up of messes afterwards. This is a very bad idea, but it is unlikely to cause permanent harm to your cat, though of course it's possible.)

A petsitter can come in and feed the cat, pat it (if your cat allows it), put out fresh water and clean the litter. You may even be able to find one who will come in every other day to do this. Most are bonded, and you should look for this. Neighbours or coworkers will often look in every few days for you.

If you are uncomfortable with it, boarding is a second choice.
posted by jeather at 3:37 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

A week is too long for a cat to be by themselves, and everyone has chimed in already with the standard "get a cat sitter" which is the easiest and typically best choice.

When we have enough prep time we have had good luck to have friends from out of town crash at our place instead of getting a hotel. They get to visit a nice city, take care of our cat and save themselves a lot of money.

We also think the cat has a less lonely time than with a cat sitter.

"week alone horror story": friends of ours went away for a week and left the cat "plenty of food and water", but he somehow managed to get locked in a room on the wrong side of the water. they returned to a dead cat.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 4:19 PM on October 19, 2009

Seven days is too long for a cat. I'll sometimes leave mine for a few days, and there are two of them so they have company. But I wouldn't leave them for a week by themselves, certainly. (First, because I'd feel bad; second, because they'd get bored and start destroying and/or crapping on things.)

If you don't have friends or neighbors who you'd feel comfortable asking to come over and feed and play with kitty while you're away, I think a catsitter is your next bet, followed by boarding as a last resort. Note that most boarding facilities require your cat to have up-to-date shots, including in some cases Feline Leukemia, which many indoor cats don't have.

One other thought: if you can't bring any of your friends to the cat, maybe you could bring the cat to a friend? If you offered to drive and pick up it might be easier to find people willing to do it, particularly if you compensate them.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:19 PM on October 19, 2009

Sittercity.com has cat sitters, too.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:22 PM on October 19, 2009

I mean, in the second paragraph, that they have to have the Feline Leukemia Vaccine... wow, that did not come out the right way at all.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:23 PM on October 19, 2009

I'll second PetSmart... I've used them for overnight boarding (dog) and day care... they do a great job, price is reasonable, and someone is there 24 hours a day.....
posted by HuronBob at 5:22 PM on October 19, 2009

I'm not sure how useful my advice will be as that I have two cats and that might make a difference.

Having said that, I don't see a problem with it. I have an auto-feeder and auto-watering dish (not a robot, just a big hopper that holds a lot of food). I routinely left my cats alone Monday - Thursday when I traveled and they had no issues. I've done a week before with no problems as well.

In the end, it's probably just a judgment call based on the temperament of your cat.
posted by damionbroadaway at 5:28 PM on October 19, 2009

I left my cat alone recently for a week left out tons of food and water left the bathtub dripping
Came back and the cat was fine
Its a cat spends most of the day laying around like a slug or staring at the wall
posted by SatansCabanaboy at 6:31 PM on October 19, 2009

I strongly doubt that a cat with access to food and water will be in any respect worse for wear after a week. It’s an animal, not an infant.
posted by joeclark at 6:56 PM on October 19, 2009

joeclark: " It’s an animal, not an infant."

Yes but it's a fairly domesticated animal that has come to expect human contact. Cats, however, are much less domesticated with dogs so they don't get as lonely.

Just wanted to chime in that finding someone who will come check on them once a day or so is probably your best bet. Even a neighbor teen would probably be fine, and you could probably pay them like $5 or $10 a visit.
posted by radioamy at 7:19 PM on October 19, 2009

Ideally find a petsitter, but depending on the cat a week alone should be fine. If your cat is young or particularly needy I would not recommend it.

I have two cats, I've left them alone for a week at a time several times. I put out extra food and water, I've had no problems with accidents or furniture destruction. A week is about as long as I'd be comfortable with though, and the cats have each other to socialize with.

I set up netbooks with Skype as webcams so I can call in and see how they are doing. Their routine seems unaffected by my presence or absence. Sometimes I talk to them with Skype, they pad over to the laptop, sniff, and wander off.
posted by pseudonick at 8:51 PM on October 19, 2009

"week alone horror story": friends of ours went away for a week and left the cat "plenty of food and water", but he somehow managed to get locked in a room on the wrong side of the water. they returned to a dead cat.

Okay, that story made me cry.

We've left cats alone with automatic feeders for a couple of days at a time, and they snobbed us for a while when we returned but otherwise were fine. I don't think it would even cross my mind to leave a cat alone for a week, though.

When I was a kid I was pretty much the designated neighbourhood catsitter, as a cat-loving and responsible kid who didn't even charge (I usually got token payments, but I never asked for or required them). Does your neighbourhood have a trustworthy kid who'd want to earn some extra money?
posted by lwb at 4:00 AM on October 20, 2009

Response by poster: Has anyone ever asked their neighbors without knowing them? I think it might be easier to put up a note in my building (4 units) and say "Yo, I'll give you $50 if you come in, pet my cat, and clean it's shitter for a week. Cool?"
posted by phrakture at 9:22 AM on October 20, 2009

Best answer: Has anyone ever asked their neighbors without knowing them?

My neighbor asked me before she really knew me well; it occurred to me that she didn't know if I was the sort of person to go look through all her stuff or whatever, because a lot of people are nosy that way. I'm not (kind of the opposite, really), though I scanned her bookshelf... not for info about her, but just because I can't not look at books.

I'll chime in that cats really do want human interaction. One of her cats normally likes to pretend that I'm a scary threat, arching his back, looking at me suspiciously, running away if I approach or speak to him - but when my neighbor is away, he crawls all over me and begs to be held and petted (which is not so great for me, since I'm a little allergic, but can't resist, so I spend the rest of the day with hives at contact points, and weeping, itchy eyes).

I wouldn't take money for it, but she always brings me back something really nice, which sort of embarrasses me - but she's got good taste, so I end up with some nice loot. :)

I'd say neighbors with pets are more likely to be up for this, because a) they are likely to be animal-friendly and b) who knows when they might need emergency petsitting? Every pet owner has a list of possible helpers in their head.
posted by taz at 1:20 AM on October 21, 2009

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