Guest post by Melanie Deisz, cat sitter and Creative & Opurrations Manager for Meowtel. Meowtel connects cat parents to a network of responsible pet sitters who come pre-vetted and insured.
As we prep for a long-awaited vacation, we often make lists and check them twice—à la Mr. Claus—to make sure we don’t forget anything we may need on our trip. If you’re like me, the list for your cat is likely longer than the list for yourself. When I travel with my kitty Max, it’s like I’m packing for a toddler.
Often, though, your kitty remains home for a staycation while you’re gone. In this case, you’ve probably hired a pet sitter—but it’s easy to forgot some important considerations. After all, your cat is staying in their own home, right? There’s not much you need to get ready for your kitty while you’re prepping to lay on a sandy beach with a piña colada in your hand, is there?
Not quite true! Keep these tips in mind when preparing for your pet sitter before you go on vacation.
1) Complete vet release forms
We at Meowtel care about cats and their health. We want to know if your cat has any quirks, issues, ailments, etc. to keep an eye out for. The pet profile exists for exactly that reason. Everything about Fluffy and Rat Tail is written down in case it was missed in the meet and greet.
Additionally, many pet sitting organizations provide something called a vet release form—this is super important. It may seem like a total pain to fill out, but it can be a literal lifesaver. My first cat client with Meowtel started having breathing issues while I was watching him. Thankfully, his dad had filled out the vet release form. Once I was able to connect with him, we decided that I was going to take the kitty to the vet. I had all the info I needed to do so: The vet release has the vet’s info, whether or not the credit card is on file, and more pertinent details. I brought the copy with me to show the front office and also had them call the client for confirmation as well as payment confirmation.
Not having the vet release form might have slowed the process down, and we would have lost precious time.
My cat client was diagnosed with congestive heart failure—had it been a day later, I was told I would have likely walked into a different situation. We’re all very lucky things unfolded the way they did. (By the way, he’s doing well now and takes a diuretic pill once a day to keep the fluid away from his heart. He’s actually chilling in Puerto Rico with his parents for the summer. What a lucky cat!)
2) Always have a backup key
Please always make sure there is a backup key left for your sitter. It could be with your neighbor, in custody of the building manager, with a friend or relative, underneath a rock or cactus, wherever—just make sure there is one.
Sometimes when lockouts happen it’s due to sitter negligence, but often there’s an issue with the key itself. I’ve had numerous sitters tell me that they were given the wrong key or that the key copy didn’t work.
I recently had a related incident: The door at the home of one of my regular clients started having issues with the bottom lock. When I used the key, the knob and the key kept turning like a stripped screw. I was this close to getting a credit card out and trying to break in. (I’ve been able to do this only once in my life when locked out at night during a frigid winter.) Then, I kit you not, the cat jumped up, hit the knob, and somehow knocked something loose, allowing me to open the door. It sounds far-fetched, but I know what I saw and heard! Thankfully, he did it again while I was inside, so I have video evidence—because everyone thought I was crazy.
I personally swear by those realtor-style lockboxes that can be hooked on any fence. This eliminates the extra trip for the sitter to come back, as well as any issues should you be delayed in your return and need to add on another day (see tip number five).
3) Have enough supplies on hand
Your sitter would probably do almost anything to make sure your cat is well taken care of, but that shouldn’t include shopping for Fluffy and Rat Tail. Please ensure before your departure that you have enough litter, poop bags, dry food and wet food, treats, toys, etc. I’ve heard stories from sitters where they had to go out and purchase more litter because Fluffy and Rat Tail only had about half an inch in their box. We would rather assume that you are a hoarder of kitty supplies than that you aren’t concerned about Fluffy’s butt and what comes out of it!
Additionally, if you have a self-cleaning litter box like the Litter-Robot, make sure your cat sitter is familiar with the product! A self-cleaning litter box is a great option for cat parents going out of town who want to make sure the litter box is always clean. Your pet sitter will appreciate not having to scoop, but they’ll also need to know how to empty the unit as necessary.
4) Allow for temperature control
Whether it’s 110 degrees or -30 degrees outside, pet sitters need to know where your heating or air conditioning system is, how it works, what you would prefer to keep it at, and all climate-related information. Remember, Fluffy has a built-in fur coat. When we finally get hot, Fluffy was likely hot about 15 degrees ago. On the flip side, when you finally get cold, Rat Tail has likely been cold 15 degrees ago. (Rat Tail is hairless, but you should know that. He’s your cat after all). Be sure to explain your heating or cooling system to your sitter to make sure the kitties stay happy and healthy while you’re gone.
5) Let your pet sitter know your itinerary and whether you’ll have service
I have regulars who do crazy mountain hiking trips, and they drop out of service all weekend. While you couldn’t pay me to do those hikes, you can pay me to make sure your cat is okay. That means knowing when I need to take emergencies into my own hands if you won’t have service. I know some people are super into their privacy (I get it; identity theft sucks), but your sitter isn’t going to share your whereabouts with the interwebs.
Letting your sitter know your schedule will also help them be on top of whether or not you may be delayed. I’m not saying you need to give them your airline and flight number (we aren’t going to pick you up from the airport)—but if you’ve forged a bond with your sitter, it’s a good way to have that safety net should you get delayed by hours or even days.
We know you love Fluffy and Rat Tail. It’s likely we will also love Fluffy and Rat Tail. But make sure you keep these tips in mind—not only for you and your pet sitter, but for the furry and hairless ones that share a pillow with you!