Dear Ms. Kitty,
My family is going out of town for a long weekend, and I was wondering what the best option would be for my two cats? I've heard that you can put down extra food and water and that would be sufficient for three or four days. But I also am thinking about bringing someone to the house to care for them, or possibly boarding them with our veterinarian. Could you give me your opinion please? - What to Do While Away
Dear Going Away,
I am asked this question more often than you might think! While we are all predisposed to the belief that cats are a self-sufficient, solitary bunch, I would not suggest that leaving them entirely alone is a good idea.
Separation can be stressful for cats and result in unwanted behaviors such as urinating or defecating outside of the litterbox, vomiting or lack of appetite, which can cause other health issues.
Asking yourself these questions might help with your decision. Are you or someone else with your cats most of the day and night? Are your cats used to getting small meals or treats throughout the day? Are your cats used to having access to an enclosed outdoor area that they wouldn't be able to access?
Some cats do well with traveling (even camping!) with their guardians and actually enjoy being in the car, but this wouldn't be my first suggestion unless the family has a second vacation home and is going to be away for weeks at a time.
Boarding a cat can cause even more stress than being home alone unless you have been taking your kitty to the veterinarian for short stays regularly and they are comfortable being in that type of an environment. However, I have seen some well-run, cat-only private boarding facilities (there are a couple in the Colorado Springs area) that are designed to meet or exceed a cat's needs - with indoor-outdoor catios, fish aquariums and interactive TV games! This type of arrangement would be fitting for a cat with greater social needs or special dietary or medical requirements. I'd suggest scheduling a time to visit and see for yourself.
My personal preference is for a pet-sitter to come to the home - if only for a long weekend. Even the most seemingly anti-social cats need to know that someone is there to care for them. You might ask a neighborhood student who is home on summer break to stop in once or twice a day. Or there are plenty of professional, accredited pet-sitters to choose from in our community. These people are often pet-care experts and trained in emergency care, should the need arise. They will be able to ensure that your cats are fed on a regular schedule, receive playtime and loving attention, and have their daily hygiene needs met. Plus, you get the benefit of having someone who will check on your home while you're gone.
I hope whichever option you choose, you have a fantastic trip that is free of worry about your kitties!
Albertson co-manages Happy Cats Haven, a rescue and adoption center at 1412 S. 21st St. Call 635-5000 or visit happycatshaven.org. Email questions to AskingMsKitty@gmail.com.