What To Do With Your Cat When You Go On Holiday

Never again. That’s what I’m thinking right now.

And that’s what my cat Athena is thinking too.

Let me explain. I got back from a week’s holiday in Sweden a few days ago and there was only one thing on my mind: to see my fur baby and take her home. I already had a taxi booked to take me straight round to the pet hotel where I had left my beloved fur baby. Just like any mother I simply could not wait a moment longer to see my baby. The seven days that we had been apart felt like a lifetime for me. And  judging from Athena’s behaviour when I eventually arrived to picked her up, it was the same for her.

Even before I entered her pen the first thing I saw through the glass door was Athena cowering in the corner, her sweet little face looking so sad.  I couldn’t enter fast enough. When the cattery assistant opened the door I shot right in and bent down to pick up my little one. I held her in my arms. But horror of all horrors, it looked as if she didn’t recognize me, or she may have indeed been angry with me for having left her in such a terrifying place. From her perspective it was of course that. Terrifying. And just as I had feared, she no doubt felt that I had ‘dumped’ her and that I would never be going back for her. Poor baby.

I held her and told her I had missed her and she soon relaxed into my arms. But I wanted to cry, overwhelmed to feel her in my empty arms again. At last I felt whole again because I was now reunited with my soulmate.

Boarding your cat at a cattery isn’t the only option available of course. But for me this was by far the only choice I had. I could not let her stay at home and have someone, like a neighbour, friend or family member, visit every day. I think my Athena would have been equally distressed, even in her own territory and familiar environment. She would be wondering what happened to her mummy.

Having a pet sitter for me wasn’t an option either. I’m not sure that I can trust a stranger letting themselves into my house or staying there through the duration of my holiday. Now, I’m not saying that pet sitters are not to be trusted, and I’m sure there are some that are wonderful, reputable and very efficient in their job. In fact, if I ever need to go away again I am seriously considering using the services of a pet sitter instead of the cattery.

Taking my cat with me wasn’t an option either because I was going abroad. However, if I stay home in the UK for a holiday then I would consider a pet friendly hotel. But even then there would be the added stress that Athena, who is an indoor cat, might run away.

So now that I’ve shared my experience with you let’s look at these options carefully to help you decide what is right for your cat. Or cats.

CATTERY
The first thing I would suggest is to do your research well in advance before going away if you can. A good, reputable cattery will be happy to allow a visit before booking to see for yourself where your cat would be staying. When you get there make sure you really look around the premises. Does it look clean? Do the cats seem well looked after? Go with your gut instinct. If not sure, go elsewhere.

You should also take note if any of the cats that are boarded there have contact with one another or are kept securely in their own pen because you don’t want your cat becoming infected with any disease or fleas.

Before accepting any cat the cattery should ask if your cat’s vaccinations are up to date and for your vet’s contact details. Another thing to look out for is if  the pens have adequate space for the cat to move about. And are scratching posts provided or will you need to bring your own? A good cat pen should ideally have some steps, etc, so that the cat has something to climb on and not remain on one level throughout his/her stay. Just imagine the frustration of not being able to move about.

It’s a good idea to bring your cat’s own food, bed and litter that they are used to. A jumper or sweater with your scent would be great too so that your fur baby can still feel the comfort of your familiar scent. If your cat takes any medication, make sure you bring it with you and give instructions.

Make sure the staff/owners of the cattery are happy for you to call to see how your cat is doing. The staff at the pet hotel where I boarded my Athena were very happy for me to call or email. And as they are also on Twitter they tweeted me a photo of her too. The distress on her face in the picture did knock me down a bit though. I knew she would be nervous at first, but I’d thought she would soon settle down after a couple of days. But judging from this photo she obviously hadn’t. Seeing her like that just made me long to get back to her and I couldn’t enjoy my break. All I could do was continue to send my baby lots of distant healing and loving hugs, hoping she would pick up on it. I will give you tips on how to do this later.

If you are going away during peak seasons then make sure you start looking for a cattery early on in the year so that you can book your cat well in advance.

PROS

  • Your cat will always be monitored.
  • You do not have to allow a stranger into your home.
  • Your cat should be kept securely indoors so no chance for him/her to run away.

CONS

  • Cat might get really depressed and stressed.
  • It can be expensive.

To find a suitable boarding cattery visit  International Cat Care (formerly Feline Advisory Bureau).  The catteries listed have been inspected by them.

Or check out the advice about going away from the RSPCA 

In the US you could try Cats United.com for advice about travelling with or without pets. They also have listings of boarding establishments.

PET SITTER
I know that not everyone feels happy having a stranger stay in their home looking after their beloved cat, so it’s important to do your research here too. Again, search online. Or ask your local vet or any other pet owning friends and neighbours. Interview any potential sitter in your home. Watch how he or she interacts with your cat and see how the cat reacts towards them. Your cat is using their own instincts, so trust yours too. Do you feel that you trust this person with your cat? With your home?

Find out as much as you can about them and their business. If you decide to go with a pet sitter make sure you give all your instructions and any other details which are relevant, such as vet’s details and phone number, any contact details of a friend or relative, as well as your contact number too.

PROS

  • The cat will be in similar surroundings and there will be little change to routine – apart from not having you there.
  • The cat will have some human company for a while.
  • Some sitters will stay in your home too so you will have a house sitter too, which will be an added bonus because there will be someone there taking in your mail and keeping the house occupied so you don’t have to worry about burglars.

CONS

  • The cat may feel stressed and uncomfortable with having a stranger in the home.
  • The cat may fear that you have abandoned him or her.
  • Pet Sitter or person you leave responsible for your pet may not visit as often as you asked them to. Or they may be taken ill. So it is always wise to have someone on standby just in case this happens. A friend or neighbour perhaps.

Check out Pet Sitters International and National Association of Professional Pet Sitters   for more information.

CAT GOES WITH YOU. 
If you really need a break away from it all but have decided you can’t have one because you don’t want to leave your darling cat, then all is not lost. Why not stay in your home country and book a holiday in a pet friendly hotel instead? Just think, you can relax knowing your furry soulmate is with you all the time and you could enjoy this time away together.

There are of course many pet friendly hotels  Search at  Hotels UK.com  
Or in the US search Pets Welcome

PROS

  • At least you know your kitty is with you.
  • You can watch your pet all the time.
  • Less stress for you and probably your cat too.

CONS

  • Cat might find change of routine stressful.
  • Cat might not like travelling and get upset.
  • Cat might not like been taken away from home.


Some tips that may help for when you are away from your cat.

Tune into your cat every day. Or a few minutes here and there throughout the day and night. Cats are very psychic and telepathic and if you send them calming thoughts of love and hugs I am sure they will pick up on it. I did this with my Athena. In fact, I always do this if I need to go out for a while just to reassure her.

Before going away, get into the habit of visualizing clearly in your mind’s eye the place you will be taking your cat. See it all. Your cat will pick up on these images, See yourself going away carrying your suitcase, etc. Then see yourself coming back and hugging your precious cat. You’ll find that your cat may not stress as much with you being away.

In my experience however, it depends on the personality of your cat. Just like humans, some cats are naturally more nervous than others. As my Athena was a rescue cat she does get very nervous if she is left alone. No surprise really because the poor baby had been dumped in someone’s garden with another kitten, possibly her sister. I don’t know her full history but I’m pretty certain she was weaned much too early from her mother, and as a result of her experience she ended up with separation anxiety.

As a kitten of ten weeks old when I adopted her she immediately took to me as her mother. In her eyes I am her mother and I am honoured to be her mum. She is like my own child and I feel separation anxiety too while I’m away. Having visited the pet hotel and researched it thoroughly, I was certain she would be in good hands, but I was still anxious of course. And even though I was only away for seven days. I really couldn’t stand it.

Though Athena was quite stressed when I got her home, lots of love, attention, treats and extra cuddles soon helped her settle and now she’s back to her old self. I’m just so glad she’s happy to be back home and still trusts me.

I would also like to add that the cattery where I boarded Athena is a wonderful place and I will recommend it to my friends. I wouldn’t have taken my fur baby there if I’d thought, or heard, otherwise.


I would love it if you tell me what you do with your pets when you go away. Or share your experiences with boarding establishments, pet sitters and pet friendly hotels. Go ahead and leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

About Marie

Proud cat mum Marie Symeou is a writer, cat blogger/photographer & animal rights advocate. Her rescue cat Athena is her muse and soulmate.

8 Thoughts on “What To Do With Your Cat When You Go On Holiday

  1. Thank you for your comment. So glad you found the post useful 🙂

  2. Athena is a little beauty. I have a tiger striped tabby as well, and she is the nervous type. She has gotten better with age, and gotten used to being around our 2 other cats and the dog. Thanks for an insightful post. I like the idea of visualizing leaving and coming home to your precious kitty!

  3. Marie, This is really a great blog! I found you through a friend Ann Staub’s blog. It is always hard leaving your babies and since I also have a cat rescue this makes it near impossible! Thanks for you insite!!

  4. Just found your site and I love it! I have done all of these suggestions at one time or another. I now feel the best thing for us is to have a friend come over twice a day to feed and pet my Sophie. She may be missing me, but at least her home has stayed the same. She can get to all her favorite napping spots and she doesn’t have to worry about where the litter box is kept. The “forgiveness time” needed when I return home is much shorter. 🙂

  5. Thanks for your comment, Ann. Not sure if there are any vets in my area that have boarding places for pets. Good idea though, especially for pets needing meds.

  6. Wonderful advice! Poor little Athena… the vet clinics I worked at offered boarding for pets. Many of them were scared, just like Athena was. Others were fine with the whole thing. The vet clinic seems to be a favorite boarding place for pets that need meds especially, since the people there are familiar with administering them.

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