I travel often for work, almost every week. Given this I use cat sitting services frequently. Even if it is only for a day, it can be very tough leaving your animal. This is true for you, your cats and for the sitter too. They are a part of the family after all.
So what ensures a positive experience while you’re away? I asked professional cat sitting companies to share their #1 tips to ensure everyone has a positive experience the next time you leave town.
Share they did! Below you’ll find tips from cat sitting businesses large and small. Their tips will ensure that you and your feline friends have a wonderful experience the next time you go out of town for a day or for two weeks.
The Top Four Tips From 17 Professional Cat Sitters
Below you’ll find these tips fleshed out in far more detail than in the infographic. I’ve taken the detailed tips and summarized them for ease! If you’d like to read the detailed tips right from the pros then scroll on down!
Tip #1: Conduct an In Person Meet & Greet
- Have the sitter that will be watching your cat come in advance and meet your cat
- It enables you to put a face to a name and you can hand the keys to the person that’ll be using them
- The meet and greet also gives your cat a chance to learn their scent and get familiar with it
- It enables you to show them around the house and call out areas of interest and quirks your cat has
Tip #2: Establish a Clear Communication Plan
- Be sure to tell your cat sitter the best way to get in touch with you (text, calls, emails, etc.)
- Between you establish a clear communication plan including frequency and a backup plan in case one method doesn’t work
- If you’d like pictures of your cats daily be clear about that, most sitters will accommodate (and are good photographers to boot!)
Tip #3: Leave Very Detailed Instructions
- Leave printed instructions that describe in detail what needs to be done for your cats each day
- This should include feeding schedule, water refills, litter scooping, hiding spots, brush locations, etc.
- If your cat has any medication or medical needs be sure to leave extra detailed instructions on this topic
- If there are other activities (mail, flowers, etc.) be sure to ask your sitter in advance, but include them on the list too
- Be sure to review your instructions between vacations as we all know our cats can change
Tip #4: Plan In Case of An Emergency
- Always plan for the worst just in case, even for a very short trip
- You could easily encounter flight cancellations or a need to extend your trip
- Buy and leave extra food, litter, medicine for your sitter to use in case your trip gets extended
- Provide an envelope of cash so if you get delayed your sitter can buy necessaries to take care of your cat(s)
- Be sure your cat carrier is visible or easily accessible and the location is noted in case it is needed
- Leave your veterinarian’s info (Name, Phone, Location) just in case your cat gets sick
The Incredibly Detailed Tips Are Below
Below you’ll find far more detailed tips and extensive expertise from the cat sitters that took their time to contribute. Some of the sitters decided to contribute expansive lists & details and others focused on the one key tip that has made or broken experiences in the past. They are all incredibly insightful.
There are an extensive number of tips below that did not make it to the infographic, but they are well worth reading to ensure you have a wonderful experience with your cat sitter.
You’ll find tips related to ensuring your cat has interactive toys, a comfy bed to sleep in and several on preparing your litter box and your kitchen before you leave. And if you’re an experienced cat owner you won’t be surprised to find Feliway in the mix as well.
You’ll also find that these tips range from one man/woman shops focused in a single neighborhood all the way up to huge teams of cat sitters covering whole cities. Be sure to check out their websites for more detail!
*An 18th cat sitter has now weighed in. If you’re interested in adding your tip please contact me at StuffCatsWant@gmail.com.
“Establish clear and seamless communication”
From the MeowSit Team
MeowSit says their #1 tip for cat owners to ensure the cats and the cat sitter have the best experience possible would be to establish clear and seamless communication.
It’s important to discuss all the pet care details (e.g. pet behaviors, feeding schedules, location of food items/toys, etc.), so that both parties have a clear understanding of the expectations of each visit. We love providing pictures and memos to our clients after each visit.
“Leave out a cat care kit on your counter or table so the sitter can find all the food and supplies…”
Emily at the Lakeview Petcare Team
The Lakeview Petcare team indicates you should leave out a cat care kit on your counter or table so the sitter can find all food and supplies. This means bowls, toys, brushes and anything else important.
Also leave a note of printed instructions. This ensures that every little detail is as close to as if you were home as possible. We all know cats love nothing more than a routine!
“Wear a t-shirt for a few days/nights and leave that shirt in an area your cat enjoys…”
From the Chicago Pet Sitters
Chicago Pet Sitters had three key recommendations for cat owners to ensure a smooth trip:
- Before leaving wear a t-shirt for a few days/nights and leave that shirt in an area your cat enjoys. The scent will bring comfort while you are away.
- Put a calming pheromone to use. It comes in a diffuser, spray and collar. Some people swear it works, some don’t think it does. I know several vets who use these in their offices, so it’s worth a shot.
- Finally, leave a radio or TV on for your cat so they can hear voices. It may be nice to know there are people or the sounds of people nearby. We suggest NPR or a classical music station.
“Keep the cat’s routine as similar to their normal routine as possible…”
From Smart Paws Chicago
Smart Paws Chicago says that it always helps when the owner makes arrangements to keep the cat’s routine as similar to their normal routine as possible. Keeping feeding times the same and putting out toys they usually love helps keep the cats happy!
Cats are not a fan of change so new treats or toys are not a good idea when they’re already dealing with a change in routine.
“The number one element in a successful client/provider relationship is trust.”
From Karen at Cat Care by Karen
Cat Care By Karen provided several tips and indicated that each of these is equally important to a successful interaction:
The number one element in a successful client/provider relationship is trust. You are handing over your house keys to someone you’ve probably just met for the first time. You are asking that person to come into your home while you’re away, to care for your precious living creature. So of course you’re going to have some apprehension. How do you overcome that challenge?
- Research and Ask for Referrals: Read Yelp reviews and ask your veterinarian or favorite pet store clerk for their best referrals. If you have friends with cats, ask them if they would refer their cat-sitter? I’m insured and bonded, which is another layer of assurance. When I was a Realtor in another state, I was also finger-printed and successfully passed a criminal background check.
- Ask How the Service is Run: Will the person who meets with you be the same person who comes to your home each time and performs all of the tasks? What policies or restrictions does the service have? For example, is service available every day of the year? Are there additional charges for holiday or weekend visits?
- Arrange an In-Home, Pre-trip Meeting: This gives you a chance to make sure you’re comfortable with him/her. You can also go over your care routine, hand off a set of working keys, and determine how — and how frequently — you would like to be updated while you are away.
“Written or printed instructions and details about your cat(s)…”
From Robin at Cats In the City
Cats in the City recommends a comprehensive set of recommendations broken into two key pieces:
- Written or printed instructions and details about your cat(s) for the sitter including:
- Your cat’s favorite hiding spots
- Your itinerary so we know when you leave and return for routing purposes
- Emergency contact info emailed to us before you leave, it should include a local person who also has house keys.
- Vet name, address, and phone #
- Best way to update you (email or text message)
- Preparation of supplies for your trip + several days in case of a travel hiccup or emergency:
- Fully stocked kitty supplies and kitty feeding instructions
- $25.00 labeled emergency cash (to cover incidentals such as paid parking or if you run out of paper towels)
- Cat carriers should be visible and easily accessible
- A hand towel as we wash our hands a lot – upon entering your home, after handling food and dishes, after kitty litter scooping
“Turn on something like the National Geographic TV Channel…so they are not feeling lonely”
From Sylvie at The West Village Cat Sitter
The West Village Cat Sitter recommends pet parents turn on something like the National Geographic TV Channel for the cat to ensure they are not feeling totally lonely. Not only will it show a little bit of Light in the house but sound as well.
If you’re gone for an extended period of time they recommend using a timer from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. so your cat can sleep peacefully and also to ensure you don’t bother the neighbors (depending on how loud the volume is).
“Get as much information as possible – either at a meet and greet or through extensive notes”
From Heather at Paws on Pine
The #1 most important thing is to get as much information from the cat owner as possible- either at a meet and greet prior to the first visit or extensive notes about their fur family including feeding, favorite treats and toys, hiding spots etc. With that information, we can ensure the cats, their humans and our cat sitters have the best experience possible.
If a cat isn’t eating or needs a pill and won’t take the pill pocket or if its impossible to pill them by mouth, a can of tuna fish always helps in a pinch. Also knowing if they are a “runner” when the front door opens is usually good to know in advance.
Their favorite hiding spots are super important- we like to see (and of course interact) with our furry family during a visit but some are shy so its good to know where their favorite spots are in advance so we can find them to make sure they are ok.
“Hire a veterinary medical professional who is also a cat whisperer”
From Shanti at The AdvoCat
My tip would be for palliative kitties / or end of life stage / or chronic illness. Hire a veterinary medical professional who is also a cat whisperer to spend a a few hours with your beloved on a daily basis. The investment is worth your piece of mind.
Twice daily visits are always recommended for cats if your sitter can not do sleep overs for non medical sits.
Also, have a neighbor check in, & on call for any emergency situations.
Be sure your sitter sends updates!
“Make sure you set up a consultation with your Pet Caregiver before the big day”
From the team at Pawfect Day
Our #1 tip for making trips away easier on your cat is to make sure you set up a consultation with your Pet Caregiver before the big day. Cats have so many different personalities and you want to sure your Pet Caregiver and cat are fully acquainted with you present.
This is less threatening than a stranger barging into your home without mommy or daddy present.
This is also a great opportunity to go over any hiding locations. Some cats get very creative! We once found a cat cuddled up under the comforter, in between the pillows.
Does your cat make a run for it when the door opens? Where do you want your sitter to discard the waste? Are there any special toys your cat likes? Any special treats?
You will also want to go over food, bowl location. Does your lock require a special jingle? Make sure the keys work before giving them to your sitter. If you have plant life, make sure to point them out, especially if you will be away for a long period of time.
Most importantly, if your kitty requires medication, it very important you review this with your sitter in advance.
This short meet and greet is a wonderful opportunity for your pet sitter to learn all about your furry baby!
“Make sure your contact information is up-to-date, especially emergency contact information.”
From Shelly at Tales of The Kitty
Make sure your contact information is up-to-date, especially emergency contact information. Also, if your cat is on medication please check that we have the most current dosages and any constraints associated with the meds (i.e. insulin – how much and what time do you normally administer?)
The one we run into most often, which is most frustrating and so easily avoided: Ensure you have enough litter and food to last throughout your scheduled visits. This saves the client any supply pick up fee that may be assessed and makes your sitter happy.
“Make sure that you have enough supplies and have them readily available in their normal station.”
From Jordan at Jordan’s Pet Care
Our best tip to make sure everything goes smoothly for both cats and the cat sitter is to make sure that you have enough supplies and have them readily available in their normal “station.”
That way the pet sitter doesn’t have to go rummaging through cabinets stressing the cat out and the cat will likely get excited when they see the sitter going toward their normal food storage spot.
This will also expedite the process of feeding and leave more time for the sitter to play with the kitty, brush them, or just hang out and give them some extra TLC.
“If you had to boil it down to one thing … consistency! Cats are creatures of habit.”
From Linda and Rita at Just For Cats Pet Sitting
Letting your cat stay home for care is the best thing you can do, surrounded by their own toys, sights and smells. That’s why we are here and why Just For Cats Pet Sitting was started.
Our reservationist gets all of the information ahead of time like what the kitty eats, drinks, where things are, personality, maybe a favorite toy or even, “Fluffy might be shy at first but loves getting scratched behind the ear” and all of this goes into a file.
Then we pick the best kitty care specialist who goes on a meet and greet to get to know the client and the kitty and learn the routine to provide consistency. We assign one primary caregiver who will be the main caregiver on every visit.
If for some reason that caregiver was unable to go (vacation, etc.) and we had to assign a sub, that person will be on file as the sub to send in the future to provide consistency. That way they know the client and the kitty and know what to look for, what is normal and what is not normal.
So, I guess if you had to boil it down to one thing … consistency! Cats are creatures of habit, after all!
“Use a professional! Don’t use ‘hobby’ sitters and don’t use companies that hire independent contractors”
From Jill at Au Purrs
My tips would be more centered around finding a good cat sitter, and tips for owners on their own cats based on the amount of cats we see.
For instance— my feelings about litter/litter systems — the more complicated aka “helpful” they are, usually the harder they end up being to scoop/clean etc on a daily basis. Daily scooping is really the best way to deal with litter.
Since we are a legitimate business, we already have secured online profiles for clients to fill out with all their information and instructions, so *our* advice is as long as everything is in that profile, everything will be done as they like it.
My best advice would be — use a professional! Don’t use “hobby” sitters and don’t use companies that hire IC’s— use ones that hire employees (like they are supposed to) so that clients can rest assured their cats are in good hands and that they can count on the service being the same across the board, no matter what sitter— since when they are employees and not IC’s, the employees must adhere to the company’s policies and procedures.
If they are random people hired as contractors, those contractors can essentially do the visits they are assigned to any way they want. Professional companies should be insured, bonded, and registered with their city (county/state) as a business.
They should treat their employees well and have someone at the helm who is watching to make sure everything is carried out as it should be so that the client can enjoy their vacation. Use a professional! Is my best advice!
“A prior meeting should have occurred where the sitter and your cat had a chance to meet”
From Mike at Sparkle Cat Sitting
I’d say the best advice for a positive experience for both your cat and the cat sitter is multi-faceted. A prior meeting (the in-person Consultation) should have already occurred where the Sitter and your cat have had a chance to meet and create familiarity.
To add a little cushioning to the cats overall experience while the owner is gone, investing in Feliway diffuser plugin for the house helps calm cats. They are safe, with a money back guarantee. The best prices are on Amazon.
Lastly, never force interaction. Allow it to happen organically. Let kitty come to you, don’t go fishing her out from under the bed. She will feel more safe and confident with your presence.
“To ensure a smooth travel, be sure to give as much info as possible to the sitter”
From Kristin at Kristin’s Kitty Care
To ensure a smooth travel, be sure to give as much info as possible to the sitter:
- Location of food, toys, hiding spots, carriers (in case of on emergency)
- Veterinary information and an sealed envelope with your credit card number and a letter from you to authorize Care to your sitter.
- Enough food and supplies to last your whole trip and then some so you don’t feel rushed to buy supplies after returning from a trip.
“The most important ingredient for a successful cat sitting service would be communication with the client”
From Jose at Kitty In New York Cat Care Service
Regardless of the caregiver’s experience and love of cats (which we consider important traits in any cat sitter), the most important ingredient for a successful cat sitting service would be communication with the client.
Clients love to receive photo and video updates of their cats while they are away. They need fast replies from the caregiver. Lack of communication, slow replies and no photo/video updates or negative updates (how the cat did not eat or vomited, attacked them…) are the worst recipe for a cat sitting service.
Open communication, lots of photos and videos and fast replies are what clients look for when they contact us to care for their furry friends.
“The single most important tip…is high communication”
From Maureen at Cozy Cats and Daily Dogs
At Cozy Cats and Daily Dogs, the single most important tip to help us, our clients and feline friends have awesome visits is high communication. Since clients are the best ones to know their pets and their nuances or changes to routine, we encourage them to convey these to our office regularly.
This communication includes any updated (food/dietary, medical, alarm, vet or emergency contact change) information for each trip you schedule, both through our system electronically, and a note in the home, if possible.
What’s really helpful is if the note also reinforces where things are in the home (carrier, toys, litter) to help us to step in when you’re out, to be the eyes and ears for you! This way it’s more likely your cat(s) have a comfortable visit and and you’ll get the peace of mind you need.
And not to worry, at CCDD, we pride ourselves on responsiveness, so you’ll be getting the same high communication back from us!
Wrapping It Up
I’d like to personally thank all of the cat sitters that provided their time for this article. I know you all love cats and animals in general and I appreciate your generosity in helping the rest of us cat owners when we go away for a day or a week.
Cat sitters make our lives so much easier by giving us someone we trust to take care of out pets while we’re away. Your wisdom will certainly be applied to future encounters!
The tips these wonderful professionals have provided are a great resource to ensure that you have a positive experience with a cat sitter you hire in the future. And it’ll make sure your cat has an excellent experience too. If you have to break it down into 4 key areas to remember here’s the list:
- Conduct a meet and greet in advance
- Be sure to establish a clear communication plan
- Leave very detailed instructions about your cat(s)
- Plan for an emergency and leave extra supplies
Be sure to thank your sitters profusely for looking after your fluffy feline friends! If you have any additional tips please leave them in the comments below.
If you’re a professional cat sitter and would like to be featured in this article please email me at StuffCatsWant@gmail.com.
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