Travel is a fabulous way to get away from the pressures of work or the rigmarole of everyday life, and take some time out for yourself to unwind. Part of your everyday life may involve a significant other, such as an adored cat. Travel can sometimes restrict your cat from tagging along, so you’ll need to arrange some special care for your special one.
Decide on the type of lodgings
The least stressful option for a cat when you go abroad may be to remain at home in his/her own surroundings. This means, you’d need to organise a house-sitter whether it be a family member, trusted friend or professional house sitter. A house-sitter, with all the necessary background checks and references, gives a two-fold benefit – your cat is taken care of, and your house is occupied too. I’ve never been one to have a stranger stay in my home, though my options for friends and family to stay are pretty much non-existent. So, we opt for our next best option – a reputable and comfortable cattery or boarding.
Choosing a cattery
There are great catteries, and then there are not-so-great catteries. If you think your cat will be comfortable in a cattery, then you need to make sure you’re choosing the right one. Ask friends or your vet for recommendations in your area. If you have a few to choose from, perhaps call each one and ask if you can come by for a site visit. Catteries generally encourage this and it’s a matter of booking in a time suitable to them and you. This is a chance for you to inspect the premises, accommodation conditions and ask the owner or manager any questions you may have. It’s also a valuable opportunity to see how cats staying there at the time are faring and if they’re in any noticeable stress.
Choose a cattery that provides ample and clean shelter, heating and cooling, access to fresh, basic amenities like toileting arrangements, food and water. Cats are usually kept separate in their own pens so make sure there is enough room for your cat to move around or retreat to a higher level. Designated areas for playtime is another plus, not to mention time spent by staff playing with the cats to keep them stimulated. Whatever you do, don’t discount your gut feeling during a visit. If you experience a bad vibe then it’s best to avoid booking into the cattery you’re visiting.
Catteries generally provide a package cost for accommodation with meals included so keep your budget in mind and don’t hesitate to ask for a discount if your cat is going to stay for an extended period of time. Make sure you’re aware of any restrictions when it comes to drop-off and pick-up times, like opening hours and public holidays. Book your cat’s stay well ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
Prepare your cat in advance
Sudden changes cause stress in cats so it’s best to start preparing your little one in advance. Pulling out the travel cage and placing it in a popular area of the house a couple of weeks prior is a good start. Your cat will begin to familiarise his/herself with the cage and gain the positive confidence required to sit in it. On check-in day, let your cat wander into the cage at his/her own pace, and a few hidden treats within can enhance a positive experience during the drive. Try to schedule the drop-off time as early in the day as possible so that your cat has the whole day to adjust and settle in at the cattery. Be sure to feed your cat before you leave, just in case he/she doesn’t feel like eating later on that first day. Catteries generally adhere to a strict routine to keep stresses in pets to a minimum, so your cat may take a couple of days to adjust to the schedule. Once this settle-in period is over, your cat will be well into the swing of his/her stay. If your cat is anything like mine, he/she will be whining for meals in no time!
Factor in a check-up and keep vaccinations up to date
Catteries are a bit like backpacker hostels in the sense that a whole bunch of strangers are staying in the one accommodation spot and interacting with one another for an intense period of time. For this reason, catteries will request that all cats are up to date with vaccinations and flea treatments. Plan a vet check-up well ahead of the stay and ensure your cat is at his/her healthiest. It’s a great time to get vaccinations done and start a flea treatment if needed, especially if your cat is an indoor cat. Sometimes, a cattery will ask for proof of vaccinations so take a copy of the certificate your vet provides you.
Pack a bag for your cat too!
Another confidence boost for your cat is to pack a bag with some familiar items. Pack a few things like a favourite blanket and bedding, and some favourite toys. If your cat is on a special diet or medications, then make sure there’s enough supplies for your cat for the duration of his/her stay. Catteries are generally very obliging when it comes to administering a special diet or medication, but make sure you leave explicit instructions and your vet’s contact details in case of an emergency. A cosy igloo is also a good option, and can be placed on a higher level in his/her lodgings. An igloo provides added privacy for your cat and more of a retreat area if he/she wants to get away from his/her neighbour for a little while.
Don’t hesitate to call or email for updates
Catteries generally welcome owners to contact them for updates, so don’t feel shy to call in or email during your holiday to see if your cat is going ok. I like to do this particularly in the afternoon on the day of drop-off so I know my cat is settling in. Some catteries even organise photos via their Facebook pages so owners can see for themselves that their cats are having loads of fun. Such a lovely touch so you can keep updated and allow your stress levels to subside a little too!
How do you prepare your cat when you go on holidays? Be sure to share some of your tips and experiences on how your cat fares when you go away.
The views expressed in this post are those that I have formed as a result of my own experiences. Before you make any decisions for your cat, always consult your own knowledge about your cat and sought the professional advice of your trusted vet if required.