Prepare Your Cat and Your Home for Your Cat Sitter

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We’ve always had great luck with cat sitters. For almost 20 years, Ronnie took care of my cats. All my cats, going all the way back to Feebee, loved her. She went far above and beyond what I’d expect from an ordinary cat sitter. When she retired, I thought I might never be able to travel again, but once again, we’ve been fortunate: Valerie, the woman Ronnie sold her business to, has quickly become our new best friend

She doesn’t just feed Allegra and Ruby and clean out their litter boxes when she comes over. She also spends time brushing them, playing with them, and just hanging out with them. She often stays a little longer than her normal half-hour client visit if she feels they need a little extra attention.

I don’t like to travel because I miss my cats too much when I’m gone, but when I do, I feel more relaxed knowing that they’re in Valerie’s capable and loving care.

However, even though Valerie has been caring for my cats for several years now, I still leave her written instructions for each visit. They’re at least one full page long. Typed. And rather than thinking that I’m an out-of control control-freak, Valerie actually appreciates this attention to detail.

Your cat sitter needs to know more than just what and when to feed your cats. Providing the following information will make life easier for your cat sitter, and it will put your mind at ease when you have to leave home:

Preparations for your cat

  • Make sure there is enough food, supplements, medication, litter and other needed supplies for the time you’re going to be away. A side note for raw feeders: if your cat sitter is not familiar with raw feeding, it helps to freeze/refrigerate your cat’s meals in individual servings. That way, all your cat sitter will have to do is thaw and feed.
  • Leave detailed instructions for food, supplements and medications, and organize instructions by time of day.
  • Discuss with your cat sitter what to do if your cat is not eating. Sometimes, cats will respond to special foods or treats sprinkled on top of their regular food. Make sure your cat sitter knows all your tricks if you have a finicky cat.
  • Give your cat sitter’s name to your veterinarian so they’ll know that someone else will be caring for your cat while you’re gone. This is especially important if your cat has an ongoing health condition. You may also want to consider leaving your credit card number with your veterinarian’s office to cover any charges your cat sitter may incur while you’re away.
  • Make a list of your cat’s unusual habits.
  • Make a list of your cat’s hiding places.

Preparations for your home

  • Give your cat sitter two sets of keys: one to carry with her, and one to keep at her home as a back up.
  • Let your cat sitter know about anything unusual in your home (sinks that don’t drain, doors you want kept open or closed at all times, etc.)
  • If you expect your cat sitter to water your plants during your absence, leave detailed instructions. Not all cat sitters have green thumbs.
  • If you expect your cat sitter to turn on and off lights and open and close blinds during your absence, let her know.
  • If your cat sitter will arrive at your home after dark, make sure you leave an outside light on.

It should go without saying that you leave emergency contact phone numbers of where you can be reached while you’re away. Depending on where you travel, and how difficult it may be to reach you, you may also want to leave a local emergency contact.

Knowing I have someone like Valerie to care for Allegra and Ruby when I travel goes a long way toward peace of mind for me.

Do you have a cat sitter you trust? What types of preparations do you make for your cats before you go away?

Photo by Vasile Cotovanu, Flickr Creative Commons

32 Comments on Prepare Your Cat and Your Home for Your Cat Sitter

  1. Donna B
    September 9, 2014 at 3:57 pm (5 years ago)

    I am a pet sitter and with the help of another cat sitter who came up with some paperwork for her business and was kind enough to let me use her info as a basis for mine. It has all the information that I have found that I needed and used to write out myself on the initial meet and greet consultation. I have just started using it and it was perfect for my newest client as it gets them to write out the answers to questions I would ask and I can go over them during the initial consultation and ask for any additional information that I feel I may need. Because I also foster I have really learned how to work with a pet at their comfort level but any additional information is helpful. I am slowly starting to get more business as my name gets out there and I”m starting to get clients other then family and friends. Never thought of the 2 key thing though. Because I am in a small town most of the people have family or friends or neighbours that also have keys so that has never been an issue.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      September 9, 2014 at 4:45 pm (5 years ago)

      Good luck with your business, Donna!

      Reply
  2. Ilene
    November 20, 2013 at 2:00 am (6 years ago)

    We have had a fantastic pet sitter for the last 8 years. When we knew we were moving here we actually interviewed several people mostly found through Pet Sitters International. Without a doubt we picked the right one. I type up 2-3 pages of directions including where everything is (food, toys, meds, etc.), phone numbers & email, vet info, current issues, hiding places, etc. Occasionally our pet sitter has had an emergency and had to call someone else to cover for her – those instructions were priceless. Our sitter has unfortunately dealt with several very sick kitties over the years. We’ve had cats with diabetes, IBD, thyroid and kidney disease. No matter what always treat your pet sitter well. They work very hard. I love your site and check it often. Thanks for the great info.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      November 20, 2013 at 2:38 pm (6 years ago)

      I’m so glad you love my site, Ilene. Sounds like you lucked out with your pet sitter.

      Reply
  3. Christy
    November 19, 2013 at 3:15 pm (6 years ago)

    Great article Ingrid. Really like The Conscious Cat. Our regular pet sitter works at our vets office and our 3 cats and 2 dogs just love her. So nice to come home to well cared for pets and no attitude from the cats. Last trip we had to use a different sitter and despite having her over prior to our trip, the cats never warmed to her. I know everyone was cared for physically, but the cats were not happy. I know many people think cats are independent and don’t need attention, not true. My kitties love to cuddle (on their terms of course) and it made me sad to think they didn’t get that. I’m like you and don’t like to leave my pets and I don’t think I will be very open to traveling if our regular sitter is not available

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      November 19, 2013 at 3:19 pm (6 years ago)

      I’m so glad you like our site, Christy. I completely understand what you mean about being reluctant to travel unless your regular sitter is available. I won’t even make travel arrangements without checking with our sitter first!

      Reply
  4. Bernadette
    July 28, 2012 at 4:06 pm (7 years ago)

    I actually don’t have a regular cat sitter; I have to find someone new every time I go away. And until recently I had at least one cat with special medical needs–the geriatric kitties in need of sub-q fluids, or Namir with his HCM and four medications twice daily. Those kitties actually went on a little vacation to friends’ homes. But I would lvoe the continuity of a regular pet sitter.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 28, 2012 at 5:19 pm (7 years ago)

      It is nice to have someone who really knows your cats, Bernadette – it adds greatly to my peace of mind.

      Reply
  5. Marg
    July 24, 2012 at 4:16 pm (7 years ago)

    That info is so important. When I used to go away, I would leave pages of instructions. It is hard to find the right person to do the pet sitting.
    Thanks for the good thoughts for Mahoney. The two of us have had a rough three days but Mahoney seems to be adjusting somewhat to her problem. She still can’t walk but she is moving around a lot more that she as for a couple of days. I do watch her and carry her to the litter box a couple times a day and she goes ahead and uses the box. I really think all the purrs etc have helped her.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 24, 2012 at 7:40 pm (7 years ago)

      It is hard to find someone to trust to do it right, Marg. We’ll keep sending healing thoughts to Mahoney.

      Reply
    • Bernie
      July 24, 2012 at 10:56 pm (7 years ago)

      Marg I am sending all the good thoughts and healing prayer for both you and Mahoney. May all the kitty purrs in the universe be sent your way.

      Reply
    • Bopeeps
      July 24, 2012 at 11:23 pm (7 years ago)

      Prayers are with your cat. She sounds like a real trooper.

      Reply
  6. Tami Amburn
    July 24, 2012 at 1:35 pm (7 years ago)

    I really liked this. I don’t have to feel bad anymore about the typed 1 page instructions I leave and update each time she comes. There is NOTHING like the cat sitter you can trust. All 4 will come out for her and she always knows what to do for them. I have traveled to Europe for 10 days or just overnight…I know they are getting the best care possible. Your post is awesome THANKS

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 24, 2012 at 7:39 pm (7 years ago)

      I’m so glad you like the post, Tami. Sounds like you have a wonderful cat sitter.

      Reply
  7. Vicki Cook
    July 24, 2012 at 12:16 pm (7 years ago)

    My xH and I cover for each other – he cares for my four cats when I’m out of town, and I care for his dog and two cats. It works well because we already know each other’s pets and their habits. It might not work for everyone, but it works for us.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 24, 2012 at 1:06 pm (7 years ago)

      Sounds like a good arrangement, Vicki. I think having someone who really knows your pets care for them while you’re gone is ideal.

      Reply
  8. Kelly
    July 24, 2012 at 10:02 am (7 years ago)

    I’ve cat sat many times, also dogs, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, turtles, fish, lizards, snakes and birds (luckily never spiders!). Usually everything was good except once when the family forgot to tell me of the new gerbils in the boys’ room and I only went in their room when the cat didn’t appear at dinnertime. Luckily I got to them just in time! I would’ve been traumatized if something bad had happened. Now I always check all the rooms of any house I sit for, just in case! I just finished watching 7 cats and 2 dogs for 10 days.

    The cat sitter I use is my friend and Oscar thinks she is here to feed him every time she comes over! I usually leave her a note from Oscar’s point of view about what he wants/thinks he wants when I’m gone.

    I never knew how much Oscar loved us until the whole family was gone overnight and when we came home in the morning he was so pleased he started doing kneady paws for the first time.

    LOVE the idea of two sets of keys, I have actually gone and had duplicates made of homes I go to, just in case.

    Great article Ingrid, once again!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 24, 2012 at 1:05 pm (7 years ago)

      I bet you could write a book about your experiences, Kelly! I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

      Reply
  9. Michelle
    July 24, 2012 at 9:50 am (7 years ago)

    Unfortunately I don’t have a reliable catsitter since my dad died – he was the very best – but kind of in the same vein, I have detailed descriptions of my animals, their favorite hiding places & all their medical conditions with treatment plans, taped to the closet door where I keep their carriers. I live in a extremely high fire risk area & I want anyone who comes in the house for rescue purposes to know who & what they are looking for. For example, my cat Hannah is blind & my dog Kobe has cataracts & is mostly deaf. That way potential rescuers won’t waste time calling for a dog who can’t hear them or looking for a cat who will be hiding in low places, nor high ones due to her blindness. Having had a house burn down in a wildfire at 20, I can tell you the saving our cat Charlie was the only thing that mattered. And he is about all that we did save & I am eternally grateful for that. Advance emergency preparations for my animals are now always available. Back when my husband was alive, we had three dogs & 10 cats. We practiced emergency evacuation & got it down to 15 minutes to get everyone out. And I’m so glad we did, we were evacuated in 2003 because of a wildfire with only a 10 minute & we got everyone out safely. Again, advanced preparation made all the difference in the world. We didn’t lose our home that day, but the only thing that mattered that we all got out safe.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 24, 2012 at 1:04 pm (7 years ago)

      Michelle, it sounds like you’ve got emergency preparedness down to a science. Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m sorry you lost your home to a fire, but so glad you were able to save Charlie.

      Reply
  10. Bopeeps
    July 24, 2012 at 8:51 am (7 years ago)

    Great article, Ingrid. I’ve never had cats before Lucy and Rikki. I haven’t had a chance to go out of town (time wise & financially)but just the trought of leaving them makes me sad. I keep thinking they will think I’ve abandoned them.

    Question for cats sitters or Ingrid. Where do you find a good sitter? Word of mouth? Also, I was thinking of doing some sitting freelance. Do you have to have a business license and what kind of insurance do you need? ( Ingrid, maybe you can touch on this in an upcoming article…there may be more budding entrepreneurs). 🙂

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 24, 2012 at 1:02 pm (7 years ago)

      Diana, I think word of mouth is the best way to find a pet sitter. I think insurance and license are important, because it shows you that the person considers pet sitting a job and a business, not just a hobby. I think I will do a future post about this topic, thanks for the suggestion.

      In the meantime, you might want to visit the Pet Sitters International website, there are lots of resources for people interested in becoming a pet sitter: http://www.petsit.com/

      Reply
      • Kate Baker
        March 31, 2015 at 11:48 pm (4 years ago)

        I am a cat sitter, and while I am not a member of Pet Sitters International, I am a member of National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. I am insured and bonded. I think going to either of those websites is a good place to find a sitter, but word of mouth is the best. If you find a sitter through one of those sites, be sure to ask for references and check them out before hiring the person/company. I take my responsibility very seriously, and treat my clients cats as if they were my own. If you can’t find someone who is really dedicated and is only looking at it as a job, that’s not who you want to hire.

        Reply
  11. Caren Gittleman
    July 24, 2012 at 8:37 am (7 years ago)

    One page of typed notes??? I leave FOUR…….lol……..Ingrid! You’re slipping!!! lol

    When I lived in Cleveland I occasionally “cat-sat” for a dear friend and I used to do exactly the same as Ronnie. I would feed, brush, play with, talk to, lay on the floor with and watch TV with her cat and was often there 2 hours!

    A few months ago I featured a superb workbook on Cat Chat (by the Wise Up workbook people) that deals with this subject……their books are thorough and not only cover the tips that you mentioned above but they have others that we wouldn’t necessarily think of. I normally don’t give links when leaving a comment, and I hope you don’t mind that I did, but this workbook is fabulous and is worth taking a look at, it has ALL of your info in one place!

    http://opcatchat.blogspot.com/2012/05/book-review-and-give-away-organizing.html

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 24, 2012 at 1:00 pm (7 years ago)

      LOL Caren!

      That book sounds like a great resource – thanks for sharing.

      Reply
  12. Donna
    July 24, 2012 at 7:19 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks for this. I am a cat sitter and people think it is an easy, mindless job. Not so – every house has its own set of challenges and while some are simpler than others , I always love it when my clients have their instructions out. Last night I was visiting a home but the owner had not told me that her senior girl had passed on 🙁 and canned food was out for me to feed to the 3 male kitties (along with dry food). Since she only has me come every other day and I am scheduled for 4 visits and there were 10 cans of food – how much does each cat get? Sigh.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 24, 2012 at 12:59 pm (7 years ago)

      I never understood why people thing that pet sitting is an easy, mindless job, Donna. Caring for our most treasured family members is so much more than just a job!

      Reply
    • Kate Baker
      March 31, 2015 at 11:53 pm (4 years ago)

      I cannot imagine only requiring a sitter to come every other day! What if one of the cats had a medical crisis? (male cats can have a urinary tract blockage and could die within 24 hours!)
      I will not accept a cat sitting job if I am not making at least one visit a day, but two is my preference – unless it is a very short time.

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        April 1, 2015 at 6:02 am (4 years ago)

        Most cat sitters I know won’t accept every other day jobs, Kate, and I completely agree with you, twice a day is best.

        Reply
  13. Natasha Conrad
    July 24, 2012 at 7:00 am (7 years ago)

    That’s exactly what we do, down to the letter! Our seventeen year old feline furkid has many medications and our twelve year old feline furkid gets quite stressed so instructions are vital in keeping them well and as happy as possible. Unfortunately we don’t have a sitter at the moment as our fabulous friends who used to live in got cold feet as our older cat needed much more care. Love your site…keep up the great work!
    Natasha
    A girl, a guy, furkinds and food.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 24, 2012 at 12:58 pm (7 years ago)

      I’m so glad you love my site, Natasha. I hope you can find a replacement to care for your seniors if you need to travel.

      Reply

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