Cats have a reputation for being independent, which often leads people to believe that they’ll do just fine on their own when their guardians have to go away for a few days. As long as someone comes in and leaves fresh food and water, that’s all they need, right? Nothing could be further from the truth.

Accidents happen. Your cat could stop eating while you’re gone, or become ill. Having a cat sitter visit at least once a day can avoid disaster. In addition to caring for your cat’s physical needs while you’re gone, a good cat sitter will also spend time playing with and petting your cat. This is especially important for only cats. You may think your cat is used to you being at work all day, but when you’re away, she won’t even have your company in the evenings and overnight, and you end up with a very lonely cat.

If you have a trusted friend who knows your cat well, and who doesn’t mind going to your house at least once a day during your absence, that may be a perfect solution. But if you don’t, or don’t want to impose on your friends, then a professional cat sitter is your best solution.

Finding a good cat sitter can be a daunting task. After all, you will trust this person not just with your precious cats, but also with your home.

General considerations

  • What kind of training and/or experience does the sitter have?
  • Will the sitter be able to recognize and deal with medical emergencies?
  • Will the sitter be able to deal with shy or aggressive cats?
  • Does she present herself in a professional manner?
  • Does she have a business license and insurance?
  • Does she present a service contract that addresses fees?
  • How long has she been in business?
  • Does she have a back up sitter if something happens to her?
  • For larger cat sitting services: will your cat always see the same sitter?
  • Does the cat sitter have contingency plans for inclement weather or natural disasters?
  • Is the cat sitter knowledgeable about basic first aid and general cat health issues?

Considerations specific to your cat and your home

  • Is your cat sitter a cat person? You’d be surprised how many pet sitters aren’t that good with cats.
  • How does your cat respond to the cat sitter at the first meeting?
  • How does the cat sitter interact with your cat? One of my cat sitters showed up for the initial consultation with a peacock feather in one hand, and a laser pointer in her pocket. I knew right away that she “got” cats.
  • Does the cat sitter seem to want to learn as much as she possibly can about your cats? This includes eating habits, play and sleeping habits, health issues, personality, hiding places, and more.
  • Ask some “what if” questions. What would the cat sitter do if she couldn’t find your cat? What would she do if there was a medical emergency?

Ask for references. Ask if the sitter belongs to any professional organizations. Membership in a professional organization may indicate a higher level of professional excellence, but keep in mind that most membership organizations don’t screen for quality and accept members simply for paying an annual membership fee.

I think the two most important aspects of choosing a cat sitter are how your cat reacts to the sitter at the initial meeting, and your gut feeling about the interaction between the sitter and your cat, and between you and the sitter. If there is even a smidgen of a doubt in your mind about a potential sitter, keep looking. The right person for you and your cat is out there.

Do you have a cat sitter you love? How did you find her?

Photo by Alex Parks, Flickr Creative Commons

29 Comments on What to Look For in a Cat Sitter

  1. I saw a post recently in which someone was putting out a BOLO for her EIGHTEEN year old cat she’s had since he was a kitten. He had gotten out the door around her cat sitter. The cat sitter hadn’t called her because she didn’t want to “ruin her vacation”. Never ever let anyone look after your family who doesn’t understand they are your FAMILY!

  2. My family learned this the hard way. When I lived with my parents they had two older cats and I had one that was 8wks old. We went on a family vacation and my parents asked our neighbor to go feed and check on the cats. Well when got home it was clear she hadn’t my cat and one of my parents cats had gotten locked in a bedroom. We don’t know how for how long but my cat was clearly suffering from no food and water. The cats were so hungry they tried eating household objects that were in my room. I was so upset because if we had been gone probably a day longer my baby could of died. I’ve had him since he was four days old…. Anyways lets just say I really only let my parents and sister watch my babies now that I don’t live at home. If not they cant I have a close friend and her daughter who loves to play with them. I am so careful with my babies now. I cant imagine loosing one because of another person’s negligence.

  3. We found ours through Pet Sitters International online and love her. She knows each cat by name (we have 12 since we are a cat sanctuary) When we get home there are no surprises and the kitties are happy but it’s obvious that they missed us.

    • There’s no better feeling than having a cat sitter you can trust, but I also think it’s kind of nice to come home and find that your cats actually did miss you. 🙂

  4. I’ve had cats my entire life…and the past few years, more and more people have been asking me to check on their cats for them while they are gone because they know me as kind of a cat lady. If I know the cat already, it’s usually not a problem (Sometimes, cats are very picky about who they like. My grandmother’s cat only liked her and did not want my attention when Grandma was gone on trips…I’d sit and talk to her for a little while, but she didn’t want me trying to play with her or pet her.). Recently I was asked to check in on a cat that I had never met, so I made it a point that I got to meet the cat before they left. I only got to meet her once before they left, and she seemed “ok” with me. Of course, while they were gone she was very grateful for my visiting her and playing with her. I tend to bring a few toys for cats to play with and give them as much attention and love as I can, along with the feeding,watering, and cleaning their messes. So, I don’t sit pets professionally…but I’m starting to think maybe I should consider it. I enjoy caring for pets. They are all so unique.

  5. Hi, great article. I’m a house & farm sitter for friends. This includes horses, dogs, ducks, cats in “all kinds of weather”. I’m particularly happy that I recently got rid of my cat allergy as i love them. The cats of my two friends/clients are friends with me. Mme Lucy jumps on my bed when a thunderstorm is near. AND she hunts mice vor me. Big BUT: Many cats like these 2 like to be petted but hate to be grabed and lifted up by s.o. NOT a family member. Lucy would just wriggle and get away, Josh, the tom cat in the other household would probably claw. You can’t force it. Holding a horse or a dog in case of urgency seems much easier – they give in if they know you & need help, and they also are conditioned to “obey” Which does not work with cats at all. As long as these cats know, I’m here (I normally reside at the place while the owners are gone, because they have more animals to take care of) for feeding and a nice little cosy chat, they’d also come if they were in need, I hope. You can only build up confidence by “listening” to their needs & giving them a treat here and then. Good sign when they come and settle around you while you do your other work & chores. I’m authorised to always call the vet just in case, and you bet I do if something is wrong. Last year while I was there one of the horses laid down to die and the year before, their older dog was very sick. So, to be an animal sitter is not always an easy job. But its rewarding ’cause you really make FRIENDS who open up their heart to you when they know you and feel you are there for them. Good practise if you want to have cats & dogs of your own one day, by the way.

  6. I have two friends I trust my cats with. The great thing about having two people, is that I have them alternate days when we travel. This way there is a person stopping in every day without burdening one individual.

  7. Awesome article. Being a bit over protective nanny cams are good also. Just to put your mind at ease. Especially the ones you can log in and see from your phone. Of course my sensitive boy Lenny usually tells on people….pees where the offender sat…..not the best way to find out there was some issue. Funny when the person gets told they are no longer needed…they ask why and the answer is Lenny peed on the chair you sat in. He has done that when someone has been loud or just did not give him enough attention but still…that is what they get paid for so they should do what they are hired to do, fill in as their servant. I do tell the sitter about the cameras. But you would be surprised what some still do even knowing they are being checked on….

    I always make sure they come at the same times to feed etc. that I do these activities. My cats really do not do well if their play and feeding schedule are not followed. Even the feral colony likes their regular schedule.

  8. I look after a lady who recently moved into the area’s cat for her when she goes back to see to the sale of her property in her former hometown.

    I went with her to pick her kitty up from a transport meeting point, so she knew that I was interested in cats in general and I was quite concerned about the welfare of her particular kitty, in view of the kitty’s age.

    As kitty came out of her carrier, she stayed on my lap and let me stroke her. If your cat doesn’t trust the sitter then there won’t be any play or cuddle time while you’re gone. This is SO important.

    Eboni is a 14 year old, antisocial, shy little kitty who growls and hisses when you first go in. I learned early on to talk in a low, quiet voice and not make eye contact at all. After I’d been feeding, water, litter scooping and moving noisy toys around in the living room for 3 days she got nosy (and trusting) enough to come out and sit near me, rolling on the floor on my feet and asking for strokes.

    If a pet sitter isn’t a cat person, it will always show in the way they communicate with your cat. Make sure they understand basic body language and tell them what is “normal” for your cat in terms of posture, amount of times they eat/drink/play/sleep during the day. The other thing I was told is that she has a “safe” spot where she will always go if she feels threatened.

    Ask good questions of your pet sitter and you’ll get someone worth having. 🙂

    • Great suggestions, Amanda, thanks for sharing. You are so right that it’s important that the cat trusts the sitter, otherwise, there won’t be any interaction while you’re away. I love your experience with Eboni.

  9. What your informative blog failed to address was the fact that the prospective Cat Sitter shouldn’t be antsy about scooping the clumps of waste out of kitty’s Litter Box either.

  10. Thank you for this post. I’m lucky enough that I can hire my sister to cat sit (she house sits too, so the cats are never alone) when my husband and I go on vacation, but it’s good to have a backup plan just in case.

  11. The gal who cleans my house also does in-home pet sitting. She stays at our house while we are gone. This is ideal because our three cats are already familiar with her and she knows their individual habits. It’s also great peace of mind for us, which makes it worth the extra money.

  12. I am curious to knwo how much people in urban/city areas pay for a cat sitter, we are south of Seattle and we pay $20 a visit and if they come twice in one day (as they are on wet food only) its $40 a day and i think that is expensive. how do you manage cats who are on wet food only with sitters ?

    • I live in an urban area on the East Coast and pay about $20 a visit plus tips. I have my cat sitter come twice a day, not just because my cats eat wet food, but because I want them to have the company. Personally, I don’t think that’s expensive. You can’t put a price on peace of mind. If you board your cats, you’re going to spend somewhere in the vicinity of $30 a day in an urban area, and your cats will be in a cage, away from their familiar environment, with very little human interaction.

  13. These are all valid questions. It took us three people before I found someone who P. would trust to give her the inhaler. How many I interviewed is a separate question. My sitter is patient with my need to know how they are doing that she texts after every visit. She has stayed longer when necessary and is friendly with my neighbors. I have cut a vacation short as she has told me that the babies have missed me too much.

    • It’s even more challenging to find a good cat sitter when your cat needs medications like Penelope, Esme. I can totally understand cutting a vacation short!

  14. This is an important post. Thank you! We had a catsitter, way back when, who seemed great. She took pictures of the cats while we were away, etc. But then, while we were gone for a few days, she failed to fill the running water dishes (fountains). The fountains dried up – not a drop left in them. How could anyone forget to check water dishes? I’m glad I left extra bowls of water around the house, or the cats would’ve had nothing to drink. As you can imagine, I was beyond furious. Not only would the cats have been dehydrated, but a dry electrical water fountain, still plugged in, is a fire hazard.

    The petsitter was extremely apologetic, but her apologies made no difference to me when the lives of my animals are at stake. We never used that petsitter again. We have someone new, and when we’re away, she comes in at least twice a day, and we have backup.

  15. And as you had mentioned in another venue, how wonderful to be able to have an ongoing relationship with a sitter who knows your household, your home and you.

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