What to do with your cat when you go on holiday

by PDSA | 30 April #Lifestyle

Ensure your cat’s wellbeing with our extensive guide on what to do when you go on away.

Everyone needs a good break every now and then. And going on holiday helps you to get away from the stresses of everyday life, allowing you to relax.

After you’ve booked your holiday, there’s always the question of what do we do with our cat? Thankfully, there are so many options to consider, but the difficulty is finding the best one for your cat. We recommend keeping your cats at home with a house sitter to minimise stress, but finding a trusted house sitter can be challenging.

But fear not, as our guide features the recommended options for what to do with your cat when you go on holiday.

Finding the best option for your cat

As we’ve mentioned, we recommend cats are kept at home with a house sitter. You should never leave your cat without anyone to check on them at least a couple of times a day when you go on holiday – even if you have an automatic feeder or cameras throughout your house. Cat holiday care is a must for your furry friend.

There are five options you can consider:

  1. Arrange a house sitter to stay in your home and look after your cat.
  2. Ask a friend, neighbour, family member or pet sitter to attend your cat at least twice a day.
  3. Book your cat into a cattery – make sure that they are a local council licensed cattery.
  4. Home-from-home boarding, where your cat will stay in someone else’s home rather than a kennel. Again, make sure that they are licensed by the council.
  5. Take your cat with you – but we recommend this as a last resort.

All cats are different with unique personalities, but many cats will prefer to stay in their own home and find it less stressful than travelling to a new place. If your cat is comfortable with strangers and being away from home, catteries or home-from-home boarding may be an option that you prefer. There is the possibility of taking your cat with you – but make sure that you are fully prepared for this. Keep reading our guide to find out more.

Whichever option you decide, ensure your cat is up to date with flea and worming treatments, and that they are fully vaccinated to stay protected.

Tips for finding the right house sitter

It’s important that you find a house sitter that is right for both you and your cat. You should never hire someone blindly and always do your research. After all, this person will be looking after your cat and coming into your home.

Here are our top tips:

  • Read their profile and check for DBS clearance, reviews and references.
  • Make sure that they have pet sitter insurance, which should include public liability and cover your pet whilst they are in your care – although this won’t include veterinary care.
  • Check if they have been trained in pet first aid for emergencies.
  • If your cat needs medication or special care, make sure that they have experience with this.
  • When you’ve found a house sitter, arrange a meet-up and introduce them to your cat. Do not hire someone without thorough research, make sure that they are the right person for you.
  • Ensure that you’ve booked them with plenty of notice and have someone in mind as a backup, in case of a last-minute cancellation.
  • Make sure that they know your cat’s needs. For example, if your cat loves a lot of social interaction or prefers to be left in peace, check that they will provide bespoke care to your cat.

Be sure to inform your vet that you will be going away for a while and that your cat will be under the care of someone else during that time. The house sitter will need your vet’s contact details in the case of an emergency.  They will also need to know your emergency contact details in case they need owner authorisation for any care that your cat may need.

Tips for finding the right pet sitter

Sometimes, you just want someone to come and check on your cat and not stay over. If this is the case, we recommend asking a friend, neighbour, family member or pet sitter to attend your cat at least twice a day. Making sure that your furry friend has been fed, had their litter changed and given some attention whilst you are on holiday.

Deciding on a pet sitter is similar to picking a house sitter, that’s why we recommend following the tips mentioned above. For example, make sure that know your cat’s needs and what to do in an emergency.

We recommend that you download and print off our cat sitter checklist so that you don’t forget to tell your cat sitter everything they need to know about your cat, such as feeding times, veterinary care and dietary requirements.

Tips for finding the right cattery

If you decide to send your furry friend to a cattery, you need to make sure that it’ll be a safe and comfortable environment for your cat. We recommend getting your cat used to a cattery from a young age, ideally when they are a kitten, if you travel a lot.

Here are our top tips:

  • Try to get a personal recommendation from someone you know and trust. If not, look up the reviews online beforehand to get an idea of the level of service.
  • Check that the cattery is licensed by the local authority and what star rating they have been given, with 5 stars being the highest businesses can achieve.
  • Go the cattery and ask to look around without an appointment – so they don’t have time to prepare, and you can see the cattery in action.
  • Check all the living conditions to make sure that they are warm, secure, clean and comfortable for your cat. Make sure that the individual cat pens have a scratching post, at least one large litter tray, toys and somewhere for your cat to sleep and hide. If you have more than one cat and they will be sharing a pen, make sure there are more resources available. The rule to work by when providing resources for multiple cats is one per cat plus one extra. For litter trays, you will need at least this amount.
  • Good catteries will understand that your pet’s own items from home will make them feel more at ease and secure, so they should actively encourage you to bring their bed or toys with them for their time at the cattery.
  • Take note of the questions they ask - a good cattery will ask you about your cat and their routine. If they don’t ask you anything, be sure to ask them about their type of care and how their service works.
  • Make sure that they have insurance cover for the premises and for your cat while he or she are in their care. This will not include veterinary care.
  • Check their procedures for vet visits and what the procedure is in the event of an emergency. Which vets they would use, yours or there’s. You should be expected to complete documentation that includes your vet details and emergency contact details for you in case of an emergency situation as owner authorisation will be necessary, unless pre-authorisation of vet care has been given.
  • Check that all cats that stay at the cattery will be vaccinated against flu and other diseases.
  • Make sure that your cat will be kept separately from others, and that their living space isn’t directly overlooked by other cats as this can be very stressful for them.
  • Survey the location to make sure that the area is safe and secure. For example, there are double doors or a safety corridor, so your cat won’t be able to escape. It’s also good to check that it’s not an area that’s prone to flooding or other environmental hazards.

If your cat has a special diet or health condition, make sure that the staff have experience in dealing with this. It’s also worth finding out how many staff members there are at the cattery and if there’s enough to cover every cat’s needs.

When looking for catteries, we recommend going with personal recommendations or asking your vet for advice. When you do find one that you like, make sure that you meet their requirements, such as making sure your cat is up to date with flea and worming treatment.

Tips for finding the right home-from-home boarding

Home-from-home boarding does tend to be for dogs and small pets – but can occasionally be for cats. This is where your cat will stay with a host family when you go on holiday.

They will have their own room and be treated like another member of the family. You may want to consider looking for this type of accommodation for your cat if you don’t want a someone caring for your cat in your home whilst you’re not there, they need a little extra care or if they don’t settle in a cattery.

Most of the tips for finding suitable home-from-home boarding are similar to finding a cattery. You’ll need to research the place beforehand and check that they:

  • Are covered by appropriate insurance.
  • Have clean, warm and secure surroundings for your cat.
  • Will have a separate room, that is securely locked to keep them safely inside. A space of their own for your cat rest, hide and be comfortable in, with their own food bowls, water bowls, scratching post, litter trays and toys.
  • Make sure that all the pets within the home are vaccinated.
  • Have an emergency plan in place and know what to do if your cat is sick.
  • The care provider asks loads of questions about your cat’s habits and routine.

If you have a cat that has a special diet or a long-term illness, make sure that they have some experience with this. Ensure that they know how to and feel comfortable giving medication if needed.

Tips for travelling with your cat

Whilst we recommend trying to find a suitable cat sitter first, as most cats prefer not to travel, we understand that this isn’t always the right solution for everyone. If you do travel with your cat, whether you take them in a campervan or to a cat friendly holiday destination, make sure that you follow our guidance.

Here are our top tips:

  • From 10 June 2024, it’s a legal requirement in England to microchip your cat, so make sure that your microchip details are up to date and registered with a government approved database. Keep records of your pet’s ID chip number to hand in case you need to report them as missing.
  • It’s also essential that your cat is up to date with worming, flea treatment and their vaccines as well, to reduce the risk of them getting ill. Some destinations may have additional requirements – so check beforehand and contact your vet if you are unsure.
  • Register with a vet local to your holiday destination or at least be aware of nearby vets in case of an emergency.
  • Find ways to make your holiday destination a comfortable location for your cat to avoid giving them unnecessary stress. For example, make sure that you bring their favourite blankets, toys, scratching posts, food bowls, water bowls, beds and litter trays.
  • If your cat is quite nervous, look into pheromone diffusers to help keep them calm. Speak to your vet beforehand to make sure this is right for your cat.
  • Ensure that the location is secure, and your cat won’t be able to escape and get lost.
  • Make sure that your accommodation welcomes cats. It might be worth looking for places that do not have carpets to try and reduce destruction, so that you won’t get charged for damages. If there are carpets or expensive furniture, find out the full charges for damages, you may even want to add extra cover to your pet insurance.
  • Check that the environment is safe for your cat and free from hazards. As cats can get scared in a new environment, it’s recommended that your cat stays inside as they can soon become disorientated and get lost if allowed to wander outside unless there is the option to use an enclosed space, like a catio.
  • Plan your trip before you leave – your cat may need to get out of their carrier to toilet and stretch their legs (inside of the car) so look for places where you can stop safely.
  • Caravans, cars, campervans and tents can get dangerously hot in warmer weather, so never leave your cat unattended as they can quickly overheat. If while on holiday you are planning day trips out and you are staying in accommodation where your cat can’t be left, instead make arrangements to leave them at home with a sitter so you can feel assured that your cat is safe.

If you are travelling with your cat in a car or campervan, you’ll need a seatbelt or carrier to stop them from moving around and distracting you. This could include pet seat belts, harnesses, crates and carriers or luggage guides.

Unfortunately, there is no legal requirement for these to be crash-tested, but we recommend looking for items that have been tested and certified by the Centre for Pet Safety. These products tend to be more expensive, but they will provide you with peace of mind that your cat is safe when travelling.

You must make sure that your pet is restrained in the car for both you and your cat’s safety. This will help to prevent accidents and serious injuries to you and your cat. Whilst making sure that you comply with the Highway Code in the UK.

For more information on travelling with your pets, read our full guide here.

How to prepare your home for when you leave

Preparing to go on holiday can be quite stressful and hectic as there’s a lot you need to do – but it’s important to make sure that your home is ready for your cat when you are leaving your cat at home.

First, make sure that there are no harmful items or hazards left lying around. Especially if your cat sitter is only going to be dropping by for a flying visit and won’t be staying for the full period. From hazardous food and plants to everyday items, keep everything dangerous out of your cat’s way. For more information on household hazards, read our guide here.

Then, check that you have left all your cat’s favourite toys somewhere easy to find and ask your cat sitter to rotate the toys when they play with your cat, so your cat doesn’t get bored with them. Just make sure they are all cat-safe so that your cat can’t chew or swallow them when left unattended. Check out our safe cat toy suggestions here. We also recommend leaving out your cat’s favourite blanket or bed – even if it’s something of yours such as your dressing gown – as your cat will feel more comfortable with these around.

Test all your doors with the pet sitter so that you know they’ll safely have access. It’s also a good idea to give a backup key to a friend or relative in case there are any issues while you are away.

Finally, make sure that you have left clear instructions for your pet sitter. Leave information on feeding times, emergency contact numbers, including your registered vet’s details and any other special requirements.

Never leave your cat alone

Whilst there are amazing items you can buy for your cat, such as camera’s that link to your phone, microchip cat flaps that only allow your cat access to and from the house and automated feeders, which make your life easier – we recommend that your cat has company overnight and at least two visits a day.

If your cat becomes ill or injured whilst you are away, without someone there to help, your furry friend is at serious risk of being left in pain or feeling unwell for hours before your sitter next visits.

Looking to go camping with your pet? Read our top tips here.

Share this article on:  PDSA | 30 April


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