Why You Need a Cat Sitter in Your Inner Circle
Pssst… Your cat’s cool loner persona is all an act.
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Cats are independent little beasts that can seem blasé about being left alone — so long as their food dishes are full and their litter boxes are not. Despite their low maintenance vibe, they do get lonely and rascally when left to their own devices. If you don’t want to return home from vacation only find your cat has knocked over everything, then anything longer than an overnight trip calls for a cat sitter.
Do I really need a cat sitter?
You may be surprised to learn that some cats suffer from separation anxiety when left solo. But a sad cat could be the least of your concerns. Without supervision, how will you know if your cat capsizes the water bowl, gobbles up all of his kibble on day one, or gets injured during the nightly zoomies? “We still hear of cat owners who relegate their cat’s care to neighbors because they think their cat only needs food, water, and a clean litter box,” says Beth Stultz-Hairston, president of Pet Sitters International. “Professional cat sitters have the knowledge to notice any changes in a cat’s behavior or health that should be reported to the owner.”
So how can I find one I can trust?
Good care comes at a cost. The average price for a pet sitter is $25 a night but fees can climb as high as $90 per visit for cats with special needs such as medication or special requests like twice-daily litter box cleaning. Bougie cat? “Some cat sitters even offer litter box deep cleans,” says Stultz-Hairston. Sure, it would be cheaper to offer the kid down the street a few bucks to watch your cat for the weekend, but you get what you pay for, right?
With legions of cat sitters out there and no licensing requirements, your search results could run the gamut from a doting cat whisperer to an inexperienced person cat sitting as a side hustle. Stultz-Hairston suggests reading reviews, calling references, and asking prospective sitters to provide proof of clear background checks before handing over your house keys. “You should look for someone who has the appropriate business credentials including a business license, insurance and bonding, as well as training such as pet first aid and experience caring for a variety of cats,” she adds.
Got one. Now what can I expect from them?
Be sure to give your cat sitter as much info as possible about your cat’s feeding schedule, personality, likes/dislikes, even hiding places. If your cat has special needs like a strict prescription diet or a health condition such as diabetes that requires daily medication, definitely make sure your sitter has the experience to take on that responsibility.
Don’t be timid; ask them what a typical ‘sit’ will look like. Will they fill your cat’s food dish, scoop the litter box, then leave, or will they spend time petting and playing with your cat? “Many cat owners who work long hours — even those working from home during the pandemic — hire sitters for ‘cat enrichment visits’ to help improve their kitty’s overall wellbeing,” says Stultz-Hairston. Last but not least, ask your cat sitter to text you photos to reassure you that your cat isn’t cloistered away with a case of stranger danger.
Jodi Helmer is a North Carolina-based freelance writer who shares her home with an embarrassing number of rescue dogs and relies on four feral cats to patrol the barn. When she isn’t refilling food and water dishes, Jodi writes about animals for Scientific American, Sierra, WebMD, AKC Family Dog, Living the Country Life, and Out Here.