Is Your Cat Home Alone For the Holidays? Here Are 12 Tips

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It’s been years since my human has been out of town without me. If she is away overnight, it’s literally just overnight, and she’s home in time for my breakfast. Although I’m travel-friendly, before I came along, the humans had to leave Sparkle, Binga, and Boodie when they were both out of town. And that’s a more typical situation for cat-occupied households.

So if you are traveling for the holidays and leaving your cat home alone, here are some tips and things to keep in mind. They will help to ensure your cat is safe and (relatively) happy. (I’m sure you’ll be missed a lot in your absence!)

  1. Cats should not be left alone for more than a day or two without someone looking after them.
    It’s a myth that cats are independent and uncaring about human interaction. Even if you have a cat who seems aloof, they are used to having you around, and rely on you for their survival needs. If you disappear, it causes anxiety because they don’t know if you’ve left forever. Plus food and water need to be checked (yes, even if you have automatic feeders and waterers). And litter boxes need to be cleaned (and if you have an automatic litter box, what if it malfunctions?). Things can go wrong while you’re away, and unless someone is looking in on your cat, you won’t know until you get back.
  2. Know whether your cat happier at home, or being boarded.
    Most cats, being creatures of habit, prefer being in their own home while you’re away. But there are times when it’s better to board your cat. If you live with roommates you aren’t completely sure are trustworthy, for example. Or if you will be gone for more than a couple of days and don’t have anyone to look after them regularly. Or if they need regular medication, fluids or other type of intensive care. In the latter case, a boarding facility that offers veterinary services, or a clinic itself, is best. So make sure your cat is taken care of in a way that best suits them.
  3. Make emergency preparations.
    We live in a fire zone, and also an area that has earthquakes. These could happen at any time while the humans are away. So make sure a neighbor, relative, or nearby reliable cat-loving friend (emphasis on cat-loving and reliable) has the keys to your home, and knows the location of your pet carriers in case your cats need to be whisked off to safety.
  4. Who is looking after your cat?
    It is really important to consider who is caring for your cat weeks in advance of a trip. Good pet sitters are often booked far in advance. It’s easier if they are going to just be popping in a couple times a day for meals and litter box cleaning, but harder if you want someone to stay overnight. My human has always preferred overnight pet sitters.

    Although a qualified pet sitter is ideal, if you are tight on money, you could have a friend or neighbor look in on your cat daily. But make sure whoever is doing it is responsible. There are horror stories of people promising to check in on a pet and never doing it, never changing the litter box at all, or accidentally leaving a door or window unlocked, or worse, open. So really think about who would be right for this very important job.

  5. Use a security or pet cam to keep an eye on your cat.
    Even if you are having someone come over to care for your cat while you’re away, it’s a good idea to have a security or pet cam. Set them up in areas where your cat normally likes to hang out, and use the app to look in on them occasionally. These can, at the very least, give you peace of mind, or worst case scenario, show you a situation that needs immediate attention from someone nearby.
  6. Consider automatic water fountains, and possibly feeders.
    If you are going to use a feeder, make sure you have one that works on a timer so your cat doesn’t eat everything in the first day or two. And make sure the waterer or fountain has a large enough reserve for your cat. Most healthy cats will drink about a cup of water a day. Cats with kidney or other issues may drink considerably more. If you are concerned your cat will not have enough water, get a second fountain. And make sure to keep the food station and the water station separate. That way, there’s less of a chance of your cat making a mess of both of them.
  7. Clear your house of any potential dangers.
    Without you around, your cat will get bored, and a bored cat can get into more trouble than you can imagine. So a few days before you leave, scour the house for anything that could harm your cat — or that your cat could harm. Put plants far out of reach, or in a room your cat can’t access. Hide cords your cat may chew on. Put away any and all food and spices you would normally leave out. Same with meds and creams. Tie up the cords for the blinds. Put away anything small that your cat might swallow, like hair ties or jewelry. Think, “If I were a bored cat, what would I get into?”
  8. Shut off any rooms that contain potential hazards.
    You should leave your house as open as possible for your cat to roam and entertain themselves, but there are some reasons to shut off certain rooms. The room with the Christmas tree, for example. If you have a tree, your cat should not have access to it while you’re away. Any room where they can easily get into the fireplace. Make sure the lids are down on all the toilets.
  9. Leave out safe toys.
    Make sure your cat has a variety of safe toys to play with. This includes toys with catnip or silver vine. Small toys they can chase, and kickers they can attack with glee. Don’t leave out anything with small parts that can be swallowed, or fishing pole or wand toys with string or cords that pose a hazard when unattended.
  10. Leave out some welcome surprises.
    Hide treats in places you know your cat goes, like the top of the cat tree, by a window, or under their favorite chair. Even better, fill up a couple of treat puzzles and leave them out for your cat to enjoy.
  11. Leave out clothing that smells like you.
    Cats are really big on scent, and they will love having pajamas or a sweater that smells like you. Don’t believe me? Leave one out and see how much fur it gathers while you’re gone.
  12. Other things you can consider doing.
    Put the TV or a radio on low, or schedule them to turn on and off regularly. Even if you have the curtains closed in the front of your house, leave some to the backyard or a private area open so your cat can enjoy the view. Make sure the temperature in the house is comfortable for your cat — not too hot and not freezing cold. Use the pet cam to talk to and visit with your cat while you’re away. Use your imagination. You know your cat and what they like, and if you can recreate it in your absence, your cat will appreciate it.

Were these tips helpful? Do you have other suggestions? Let me know in the comments — and happy trails!

Traveling with your cat instead? I have tips for that:

Is Your Cat Home Alone For the Holidays? Here Are 12 Tips

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