Beyond Nine Lives: Meeting the Pet Sitter

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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now.

Cats love routines and are territorial creatures when it comes to their homes. As a result, they often get stressed when their environment changes in some way. Even slightly different sounds or smells can be upsetting. That is why when you go on a short vacation, it is best to leave your feline friend in the safety of its own home, if possible, instead of taking it with you on your trip or leaving it at a boarding facility.

The problem, of course, is finding someone to look after your little one in your absence. One option is a trusted cat-friendly neighbor or friend who can clean your cat’s litter, fill its water and food bowls, and shower your feline friend with the love and attention you would normally give it. But even if you have network of neighbors and friends ready to help out, there may be times when no one that your cat knows or trusts is available to help care for it. In those cases, you might need to engage the service of a pet sitter.

Most professional pet sitters will stop by at least twice a day to check on your cat and attend to its basic needs. Through training and experience, they should be quite adept at making friends with your feline, but having a new person in the house — coupled with the stress of your absence — could make your cat very uncomfortable.

As we all know, when your cat is stressed, bad behavior such as destroying furniture, inappropriate urination or defecation, and increased aggression become more likely. So it pays to try to prepare your cat beforehand for the pet sitter’s arrival. Here are some simple steps you can take:

  • Before you leave, ask the pet sitter to stop by and meet your cat a few times with you present. He or she could offer some treats or play with your cat, which would help the cat identify “good” things with this new person coming over.
  • Have the sitter feed and change your cat’s water with you around. Having the person go through the cat’s routine in your presence will make this experience less threatening to your fluffy friend. It will then seem like less of a change when it happens with you not around.
  • If your cat is particularly skittish or afraid of strangers, have the pet sitter sit with you in a place where the cat can see both of you. Don’t try to force an introduction or pull your feline friend out of its hiding place. Instead, let your kitty come out and greet the stranger on its own time.
  • Leave a piece of your clothing in the area where your cat sleeps. This will give your feline friend an added sense of security, making it feel more comfortable when you are gone.

If after all this, your cat is still very afraid of strangers, talk to your vet about other things that you can do to help your cat feel more secure when the pet sitter comes to look after it.

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