Housecats rely on their pet parents for food, water and the occasional treat. Other than these basic needs, cats seem to prefer an independent life. So why not just set out a three-day supply of food and water when you leave town for a long weekend?
Turns out, cats do need us -- maybe more than we realize. Hiring a pet sitter will ensure that your cat has adequate food, water and supervision. This is especially important because these creatures are accustomed to human companionship and become stressed by its sudden absence. Plus, a pet sitter can contact a veterinarian if your cat becomes ill or injured.
As a general rule, your cat should not be alone for more than 12 hours. If your cat has a strict feeding schedule or requires medication, she may be able to spend only three or four hours alone. You can expect most professional cat sitters to come to your home at least once a day -- more often if your pet's health demands it.
"We do no less than one visit per day for cats," says Jennifer Pierce, who, along with her husband Andrew, owns the Atlanta-based Spoiled Rotten Pet Sitting Service. "Some pet sitters will visit every other day, but that's way too long to leave a cat if something goes wrong. A cat's health can go downhill very quickly."
According to Pet Sitters International, it takes about 30 minutes for a professional cat sitter to care for one cat per visit. During the visit, the sitter will feed and water your cat and change the litter box. A cat sitter also will play with your cat, so be sure to leave plenty of toys -- including a few new ones to keep your cat entertained.
If you hire an amateur cat sitter, such as a neighbor or friend, make sure you choose someone reliable who will be able to come by at least once a day for at least 30 minutes. A professional may be better trained to handle fussy eating habits or medication, but a cat-owning or otherwise capable friend is a good choice, too.
Be sure to ask any cat sitter about their previous cat care experiences. Ask a professional sitter for references -- and be sure to call them. As a bonus, professional pet sitters are typically bonded and insured, which provides additional safety and peace of mind.