When the mama is away, the cat wants to play - but how?
July 28, 2012 3:09 PM   Subscribe

When the mama is away, the cat wants to play - but how?

Hi! I've got a couple of questions about going on a week-long vacation and what to do with my 10 month old indoor kitten, Digby (YouTube). I've had him about 8 months; he was found on the streets and was very sick. Fortunately, he had an awesome foster mother and got the care and medications he needed. He's been doing great since I've had him, but he does have some odd behaviors that are either because he wasn't with his momma and/or siblings very long or because he was living on his own on the streets (kneading and sucking his blanket, taking his food out of the bowl and eating it elsewhere, lots of biting and nipping).

(I did read several threads here like this, but they're over two years old.)

TLDR: Should I board Digby at the vet or let him stay at home? And if he stays at home, how do I keep him busy?

The Details:
Option 1 is boarding Digby at my vet - two of the techs actually live in an apartment upstairs and they loved him when he stayed overnight for his neutering and the price is reasonable. I might have a little more peace of mind if he stays there, knowing there is someone around 24-7.

Option 2 is to leave him here at home and have someone come in and feed him. I have a landlady who is more than happy to do that once a day, but the problem is that she really doesn't have the time to sit and play with him. So he'll have human contact for only a few minutes a day.

BUT Mr. Digglesworth has a lot of energy and needs to play. He loves his Cat Dancer and his laser light, but the laser light needs me to work it for him. He will literally come over to me and tap my arm when he wants to play, and if I don't - well - lets just say we don't have curtains on the one window anymore. (It's cool, he's a kitten and I learned my lesson.) He has another stuffed toy that I use to get him to bite it instead of me, but again, I have to be there to toss it in the air for him to catch it. He has lots of mice and catnip toys and one of those hoops with the ball in it. He also has lot of those Bizzy Balls with the bells in them, but I have to dig them out from under the couch every few days. Yeah, he's spoiled, but he really does play with his toys, but like I said, most of them need me there.

My friends with cats say that it is better to leave him in his own home and have someone come in and feed him with the logic being that even though I won't be there, he'll still have all HIS stuff and his places and won't think I deserted him. I'm just worried he won't get the stimulation he needs staying at home. I saw a laser light toy that operates by itself, but it goes off after 15 minutes and I won't be there to turn it on.

Oh - one more factor: I'm a teacher and have been home pretty much most of the summer so far, so he's going to go from me being here all day to not here at all for 8 days.

So what do you think Hivemind? I'd really like to hear any experiences you have with this kind of thing. Would I just be better off boarding him? Do you know of any toys - other than the Cat Dancer - that will stimulate him without me having to be there? Have you had experiences boarding your cat that would help me make a decision?

Thanks so much in advance!
posted by NoraCharles to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Leave him at home. Put out an extra litter box and extra food and water - I like to put a few dishes of food and water in different rooms to make it harder to gorge. Buy some extra toys with extra stimulation - a jangly bell toy, one with bits sticking out, etc. Leave your dirty sheets on the bed and some laundry so he has your smell.
He'll be fine, much happier at home.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 3:12 PM on July 28, 2012

So you know any trustworthy teens who might like to kitty sit? When I was in high school I liked having a place to myself and earning a couple of bucks when I pet sat. I'd worry about leaving my kitties alone.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:15 PM on July 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

The vet techs live upstairs from you? Could you ask them AND the landlady to check in on him? That way he'll have two (or three) different visitors to look forward to.

Also, hide treats around the house for him to find.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 3:21 PM on July 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

We have a kitty sitter, too. It works out great for our kitties.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:21 PM on July 28, 2012

Unless you know for sure he will be okay at the vet's, I'd say leave him home. I had to board one of my cats for that long once and it was really awful. She hated it so much and was so miserable. She hated being caged and hurt her paws and face trying to get out (which the vet's office neglected to tell me any of the times I called to check on her, but I've since seen her caged and it was no different, even when I was right there with her). I think that as long as someone is coming to check and feed/water him, he'll be fine. Seconding that maybe you can find a kitty sitter, but I really think a week alone in his own home is better than a week someplace strange, with lots of other animals smells and stuff, is just calmer.

I agree about hiding treats and toys for him. Toys hidden in shoes! Also, my cats ADORE newspaper on the floor. It's great for hiding under, sliding on from a run, hiding toys under to "find" later on, and napping on. I bet if you put some sheets down around the house, he would get lots of play time. Also, empty boxes (with maybe toys/catnip/paper towels inside), different sizes, one or two in each room.

Also, Digby is adorable. This monster is the queen of newspaper sliding and master of all empty boxes.
posted by upatree at 4:25 PM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, the better option is to let the little fella stay where he's most comfortable. Boarding sucks and it's stressful and it always made my super-quirky cat even more eccentric when I'd go away for long periods and board her up somewhere. The smell factor noted above is also important - will he have access to your normal bed and pillows and such?

Having someone check in is a good idea. A little human contact goes a long way, even if it's only for a few minutes. It'll ease your mind to get updates too.

Also, cats can self-play with a dazzling array of things. My beast loves her catnip mice and will throw them up in the air herself if I'm not paying attention to her play cues. If he's desperate, he'll figure something out using whatever's laying around.

He'll be fine!
posted by mykescipark at 4:28 PM on July 28, 2012

Yup, there's professional cat sitters. We found ours actually working at the vet's. She comes by, scoops the litter, gets him food, and spends time playing with him. Our cat is an active guy, and he really likes the visits. It's on the order of $10-$20 per day.
posted by ignignokt at 4:28 PM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another vote for leave him at home... also, consider getting a bird feeder near a window he can watch! this makes great "cat tv"!
posted by The otter lady at 4:35 PM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would definitely get a pet sitter to make sure someone is playing with him every day - don't rely on the landlady, actually pay someone and insist they come every day. You'll feel both feel a lot better during your trip. Maybe one or both of the vet techs would check in on him too. I bet they can recommend a sitter in any case.
posted by bleep at 5:15 PM on July 28, 2012

Best answer: Kitties named Digby, unite!

When I left my own very energetic and playful Digby alone when he was around 10 months old for a week, and I had a (trusted) cat sitter come play with him once a day for maybe half an hour. My decision was based on the unspeakable noises he likes to make when I place him in his cat carrier, and envisioning a solid week of him making that noise in a boarding situation.

Of course, I expected to come home to a totally wrecked apartment and a miserable cat. Instead, he seemed to calibrate himself to the stimulation he got while I was goneā€”the cat sitter tried her best to tire him out during her visits, and I provided a number of new toys for her to deploy while I was gone (new cardboard box! new catnip toy! new scratching post!). I think he mostly chilled out in the apartment and amused himself all week. He ignored me for a solid 24 hours after my return, and then snapped back into his schedule of yowling for love and attention every six minutes.
posted by ausdemfenster at 5:32 PM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, I wouldn't assume that Digby won't self-play just because he prefers human play when you're home. That's Digby wanting to play with YOU. Our cats are the same and our arms would drop off our bodies if we tried to give them all the mama playtime they want.... when we're not around there is plentiful evidence that they play on their own.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 6:39 PM on July 28, 2012

Our kitties are not that interested in playtime with humans (particularly not strange humans) but they have a kitty sitter every time we go out of town longer than overnight. Apart from knowing that someone is changing food/water/litter, we also get a text about their condition, which is peace of mind for us.
posted by immlass at 7:10 PM on July 28, 2012

Probably you have heard this before and have valid reasons why it won't work, but:

Another kitten will be an excellent companion for Digby. As someone told me, "The only thing that can keep up with a kitten is another kitten."

Some organizations won't adopt out a kitten by itself; it's required that another young cat or kitten be at home with it. Curtains are one reason :)
posted by amtho at 7:43 PM on July 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all for such great responses. It seems like a unanimous vote to keep him at home. I feel so stupid I didn't even think of a catsitter service to come here. I have friends, but the ones available to help aren't "cat people" and don't "get it".

It was good to hear that he will self play when I'm not around, love the idea of hiding treats and making sure things with my "smell" are around. Like the idea of some new toys to play with too.

SuperSquirrel: Sorry, I should have been more clear, the vet techs live upstairs from the vet, not me.

ausdemfenster: Another Digby cat! So handsome!

upatree: Emily is so cute!

Again, thank you all! I'm feeling a lot better now about this decision.
posted by NoraCharles at 10:30 AM on July 31, 2012

Response by poster: Update for anyone finding this question in the future:
I wound up keeping Digby at home and in addition to my landlady feeding him everyday, had a friend come over every other day for an hour for playtime. Everything worked out great! He was thrilled to see me when I got home and things are completely back to normal like before I left.

Again, thanks to all for helping me make what turned out to be a good decision!
posted by NoraCharles at 1:14 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

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