Should I hire a pet sitter for my cat when I travel?

Guest Post from Lindsay Stordahl of That Mutt
One of the nice thing about cats is they’re usually able to take care of themselves for a few days while their owners travel. Well, that is, if you have a normal cat who won’t eat all his food immediately like my cat Beamer. But even he does OK home alone for a few days because he has a timed, automated feeder.

Loui, one of Lindsay's pet clients.

Loui, one of Lindsay’s pet clients.

Since I work as a pet sitter, I thought I’d go over some of the options cat owners might consider when they must travel without their kitties.

Hiring a friend or neighbor to check on the kitty
This is probably the most common option. Cats are generally just fine home alone as long as someone checks on them every few days. Asking a friend or neighbor to do this is a great option, and most of them will be willing to do it for free. Or, you could think about hiring a neighbor kid to check on your cat for $20 or so.
There are cons, of course:

  • Don’t expect your neighbor to spend more than 10 minutes with your cat, especially if you’re not paying her.
  • Don’t expect your friend to visit your cat every day when you’re gone, but maybe every 2 or 3 days.
  • Don’t expect her to scoop the litter box unless she says she will.

Obviously, there are liability issues to consider if you hire a kid for the job. What if the cat scratches the child or even bites him, for example?
Hiring a professional pet sitter
I work as a professional pet sitter and have taken care of many cats over the years. Hiring a professional is a great option for many reasons:

  • A pet sitter will be happy to spend more time with your cat. You’re paying this person, so she is going to take the time to play with your cat, scoop the litter box, clean up any hairballs, etc.
  • A serious pet sitter will carry insurance for her own protection and yours.
  • Many pet sitters work over the holidays, so they might be available when friends and neighbors are not.
  • Hiring a pet sitter is a great option if your cat needs regular medications at certain times such as insulin injections. Most pet sitters are experienced giving cats medications, assuming the cat is comfortable with the pet sitter.

You can expect the cost for each 30-minute visit to be about $15 to $25, depending on the pet sitter and where you live. You will also need to schedule a “meet and greet” ahead of time to make sure you and the pet sitter are on the same page.
Cat boarding
Another option to consider is to drop your cat off at a boarding facility. While this may be more stressful for your cat, sometimes you have to consider your own needs, as well.
If you are uncomfortable with someone visiting your home while you’re away or if you have a cat that is destructive when alone, boarding may be the best option. For example, my cat Scout tends to have litter box “issues” when we leave him overnight. Not exactly fun to come home to his messes.
If you decide to go the boarding route, I highly recommend scouting out your options well in advance. Some boarding facilities cater to cats more than others.
Some questions to consider:

  • Is the cat area quiet and away from the barking dogs?
  • Does the facility seem to market to dogs and cats or is it mostly a dog boarding facility that just takes cats for the extra money?
  • Will it allow you to tour the cat area? Look for clean cages, soft bedding and a cozy place for the cats to “hide” such as a kitty condo.

Of course, some people are able to leave their cats home alone for a week or so without anyone checking on them and they seem to do just fine. We all have to do what we are the most comfortable with and what we can afford.
Who typically cares for your cats when you travel?

Lindsay Stordahl (2)Lindsay Stordahl –

Lindsay Stordahl maintains the dog blog where she writes about dog training, dog exercise, dog adoption and more. She also owns the dog running and pet sitting business Run That Mutt. She has a Lab mix named Ace and two naughty cats, Beamer and Scout.


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  1. Gweeat posty. Altho’ mommy wuld be tewwified to leave us alone, and weez wuld be tewwified to stay. Mommy sed hers did hire a pet sitter once fur a kitty a long time ago. Hers wuz movin’ to Oklahoma and came early to check out da school and such and had a 6 mumff old kitty at da time. So hers took da kitty wiff hers and hired da sitter while mommy went to check on housing and da shool and evewyfin’. Hers left hims fur 4 hours at da sitters home. She wuz happy wiff da sitter, but hasn’t had to do dat again. Specially now dat weez be service cats and awe aloud to go wherevew mommy duz.

    Luv ya’

    Dezi and Lexi
    Dezi recently posted…Nip-Vine: Oh MyMy Profile

  2. Interesting post. I never leave long enough to need a sitter. I am an at home type of person. But when my mother goes away, I always have her kitties here at my house till she gets back.
    xx husky hugz
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Silver Paw Pet Tag Giveaway!My Profile

  3. The neighbors kids watch our cats. We pay them, and they love it. We need someone to come in twice a day to feed them, so it works well. They also love to play with them, so we know they get some attention.
    Emma recently posted…It’s A Walk Wrap #DogWalkingWeekMy Profile

  4. We don’t travel with our dogs at this time, so we always have family or friend that stays with all the animals. When we used to take our dogs camping, we just left our cats with plenty of food and water, and my sister would check on them if it was going to be more than a couple of days. But I’ve heard now that you shouldn’t leave cats alone for more than a day, because if they don’t eat it can cause serious problems (we never had a problem though). I guess if we start traveling with the dogs again we would hire a pet sitter for the cats for sure if family or friends weren’t available (and we always pay our family/friends to do it too!).
    Jan K recently posted…Monday Mischief – Destructor of ToysMy Profile

    • We don’t have cats, but I’d be nervous leaving them for more than a day I think.
      KitKat recently posted…Up Close & Personal: SophieMy Profile

  5. I didn’t know pet sitting was as reasonably priced as that. That would be a great idea. I hate to ask friends and family members favors each time I have to go away for few days. And I hate the idea of boarding. Their own surroundings is the best place to keep them when you are away.
    Allis recently posted…Driving with Pets: Car Safety & Travel TipsMy Profile

  6. I like the neighborhood kid option, mostly because I was that kid, I guess! It was really great to be able to use the people I sat for as references when I was looking for my first “real” job. I hope I can pass that on to a neighborhood teenager one day. I’m not sure what other people do, but I didn’t have much of a social life as a kid and I spent a lot of time with the neighbor’s cats. Once when my neighbor went away for 4th of July I sat on her couch with her cat in my lap from the time the fireworks started until they stopped, because I couldn’t stand the thought of her hiding under the bed alone.

  7. Great reasons to hire a pet sitter!
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Petplan’s “Eat This, Not That!,” ~ Edible Pet Health Hazards GuideMy Profile

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