February 14, 2005 1:20 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I moved in, and she told a friend of mine that we could take care of his cat for one week while he's on vacation with his girlfriend.
Then I read about sofa scratches, cat pee, ruined furnitures and marking territory. The cat is male, and roughly 6/8 months old. Uncut (both nails and *there*). Rather on the hyperactive side.
1) How can I get out of the promise without sounding too harsh, or making my g/f look bad ?
2) If I can't, what should we be prepared for ?
We don't know anything about cat handling (we both come for dog families), we love our furniture, have breakable things on higher but reachable places, long thin curtains, wood floor, computers cables, old family sideboard...
posted by XiBe to Pets & Animals (16 answers total)
Best answer: 1. Unless you've heard otherwise about this particular cat, there's no reason to expect that any of the behavior problems you mention will happen. Even excitable cats tend not to tear around the house shredding and spraying everything in sight.

2. If I were your friend, I would consider your trying to "get out of the promise" a pretty crappy thing to do. The message that sends is "I value the finish on my bookshelf more than the integrity of my word to you."

3. Don't bring the cat into your house -- take care of it at your friend's house. This is the more typical arrangement for vacation cat care, and will be less traumatic for the cat (and therefore everyone else).
posted by jjg at 1:48 AM on February 14, 2005

If you can, claim that you're sensitive/allergic to cats...done deal.

However, what may be better for both you and the cat is to have your friend leave the cat at home and you offer to come by every day to feed/change water/clean litterbox.
In my experience with cats, this could be the best option for everyone involved, especially the cat. As a rule, cats do not like change and could react badly to a different house and people for a week (even if the cat is perfectly behaved to begin with), same goes for kenneling the animal. One selling point you could tell your friend is that if the cat reacts poorly to the new surroundings, the bad behavior may not end once he's back at home.
posted by dicaxpuella at 1:54 AM on February 14, 2005

I remember when I was a kid I was staying at a farm and a kitten managed to strangle itself with some twine it was playing with. You have to pick up anything a cat might get wrapped around it's neck, and tie up curtain cords.

Also pick up any cockroach baits or anything like that you might have lying around.

You could get his nails trimmed at the vets, kind of an expensive hassle I know, but you only have it for a week and if the cat scratches, might save your furniture. A cat scratch post is great if it has one.

Put away your most obvious breakables, although I've never had a cat break anything.

Keep your bedroom door shut. Put a cat tray somewhere like a laundry with some newspaper under it.

Play with him for a while each day.

He might cry a bit the first night.

That's about it. It is still is quite young, you probably won't have any problems whatsoever.
posted by lucien at 2:08 AM on February 14, 2005

Your girlfriend shouldn't have promised something that involved you without asking you first. It's unclear from your question whether this happened or not.

Although if you leave the cat at the friend's house, it shouldn't affect you very much.
posted by grouse at 2:13 AM on February 14, 2005

When I go away I leave my cats in the house and a friend comes round to feed them once a day. Thus, the cats don't get disturbed by new surroundings, the friends don't have to put up with the wee and as a bonus they turn on lights in the house and open and close curtains, giving my house the vague appearance of being occupied.

I wouldn't like to inflict my cats on someone else's house - even my neutered tom cats are fairly territorial and they're really freaked out by change.
posted by handee at 2:14 AM on February 14, 2005

I agree with the traditional arrangement being that you visit the friend's house to take care of the cat -- which would solve your problem. I have both had my cat watched and watch a friend's cat, and in both cases, the cat has stayed where they normally lived, with the sitter checking in every day. It is sometimes feasible, depending on how quickly the cat eats, to even check in every other day, although that may vary from situation to situation.
posted by WCityMike at 4:34 AM on February 14, 2005

If you have to take the cat into your house, don't sweat it. A 6-8 month old tom probably won't spray-- there are cat equivalents to the guy who had a mustache in the 8th grade, but the odds are well in your favor.

Plus it will take him well over a week to establish a scratching point. And cats generally don't bother cables or floors.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:46 AM on February 14, 2005

they turn on lights in the house and open and close curtains

blimey, how did you train them to do that?!
posted by derbs at 5:17 AM on February 14, 2005

My cats have been extremely traumatized each time we have moved, taking about a week to recover. I suspect these cat owners haven't experienced that yet, or they wouldn't consider the idea of transplanting the kitten for a week. Visit him once or twice a day at home.

Crash course for dog people... at that age, this kitten will want a lot of stimulation that an improvised kitty fishing pole (stick + string + toy mouse) can easily provide. Make him work for it. He's a predator and cares more for the chase than the kill.
posted by Aknaton at 5:26 AM on February 14, 2005

Response by poster: > I would consider your trying to "get out of the promise" a pretty crappy thing to do

I know, I'd feel the same, and I know we're trapped, but hey, I can ask ;)

> take care of it at your friend's house

Oooh, good one. That could be a problem if the house was far away, but it's actually around the block! This is good, haven't thought of it, even though a friend of my brother came at home last summer to take care of the dog while we were all away. Good!

> Your girlfriend shouldn't have promised something that involved you without asking you first.

I was there when she offered to do it, and it seemed like a no problem to me too. Still, she made the move, and is embarassed about the possible consequences.

Thanks, everyone. This looks promising. Hopefully they won't mind lending us the house keys...
posted by XiBe at 6:04 AM on February 14, 2005

Yeah, cats don't like changes very much in my experience. If you move him from one place to another he's probably going to be traumatized and may behave badly because of it. My girlfriend and I have two cats and they scream bloody murder whenever we get them into the cat carrier, and then they KEEP SCREAMING all the way to wherever it is we're taking them, no matter how far away.

I would strongly suggest talking to your friend and making sure that the arrangement so many others in this thread have suggested (going to the house and tending to the cat once a day or so... cats are not high maintenance at all compared to dogs, after all).
posted by Kosh at 6:05 AM on February 14, 2005

Be the good guy, offer to cat-sit at their house because it will be less traumatizing on the cat and you can water the plants while you're at it. Promise to hang out with the cat a little each day, playing chase the string and spend quality cuddle time with it, this is what the kitten needs to not go mad and tear up your friends house.
posted by dabitch at 6:08 AM on February 14, 2005

Another vote for sitting at his house. The cat will be fine alone for most of the day. When you do go over, just play with him a bit (as others have said), and if you have time, you might even want to chill out and watch tv or something. I do this when catsitting for my friend (a 5 minute walk away), and it always works out fine.

If your friend says that he'd like you to take the cat to your house, just let him know that you don't think your house/apt is kitty proof, and it would be better for the cat anyway to stay at home.
posted by AlisonM at 7:23 AM on February 14, 2005

Best answer: Also if cat sitting is new to you and your friend [as it sounds like it might be] you might want to have a quickie talk with him about not only where the nearest vet [or their vet] is, but also what the cat's particular quirks are so you know if the cat needs a trip to the doc. This is very very unlikely to happen, but it's always a good thing to know in advance. I used to be a frequent pet-sitter and one of the dogs in my care cut her foot open on a nail on the deck and I knew in advance both that it was okay to take the dog to the vet and that her owners were happy to pay for vet bills. If you bring their cat over to your place, it's likely that the cat will hide under the couch/bed/bookshelf for a large portion of the visit, that is somewhat normal cat behavior when placed in a totally new situation.
posted by jessamyn at 8:31 AM on February 14, 2005

Best answer: If possible, go over to the person's house once or twice before they take off, to meet the cat. Let him sniff you, walk all over you, play with him for a fair bit with his favourite toy.

That way, the cat will be a lot less likely to be hostile to you if they know you ahead of time, when you come over to catsit. It also reduces stress to the cat, as cats don't handle change/stress well.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:02 PM on February 14, 2005

I'd like to put in that not all cats freak out when they're moved. My cat has stayed at my boyfriend's house several times when I've been out of town, and I've never heard reports of him acting out because of it. I consider it better for him to have company than familiar surroundings, and he takes it well. I'm sure this all depends on the personality of the cat, but let's not blanket all cats with the notion that they can't be displaced for a week without wrecking havoc.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:57 PM on February 18, 2005

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