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Pet Care Partners

Pet Care Partners

There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats. ~Albert Schweitzer

There will be times when you will be away from home, and it's important to have a plan in place that will give you peace of mind knowing that your pet is being taken good care of during your absence. Cats are homebodies and consequently are much happier and less stressed if they can remain in their home environment, with its familiar sights, sounds, and smells. Despite the fact that they are self-sufficient creatures, it's never a good idea to leave them home unattended, even for a couple of days. Accidents happen around the home. Your cat can be left without sustenance, too, if the water bowl gets tipped over and ants invade the food bowl. Long weekends and the holiday season are busy times, so it's important to make arrangements well in advance, especially if you are looking for a reservation at a cathotel or require the services of a professional pet sitter.

Kitty Day Care

It's an established fact that animals left home alone for long periods suffer from intense boredom. They may even begin to suffer from medical conditions such as separation anxiety and issues such as excessive licking and hair pulling. These concerns can develop into severe behavioral problems and cause destruction around the home. Dog owners address such problems by employing a dog walker if they are not able to walk their pets themselves several times during the day. Some even send their pets to doggy day care and special dog camps so that their pets are kept both mentally and physically stimulated.

Believe it or not, there are now establishments that offer kitty day care, too, so that your cat doesn't have to spend endless hours home alone and bored. One such place is Pet Camp's Cat Safari in San Francisco, a specially landscaped greenhouse that offers felines the unique opportunity to enjoy the feel of the great outdoors within this safe enclosure. Surrounded by trees and plants, there are glass towers full of tropical fish and aviaries of twittering birds so that felines can look but not munch. Felines are allowed to play here on their own so there are no catfights. Pet Camp is a well-known pet care facility and boarding establishment with a special cattery for sleepovers at their main location. However, your cat doesn't have to board to be able to play at Cat Safari. Local cat owners as well as tourists visiting San Francisco are encouraged to bring their cats for a day's outing, for some mental and physical stimulation. Unfortunately, such fabulous facilities are not yet available everywhere throughout the United States. Let's hope this unique idea will become more popular in time. It's very important to entertain cats in their home environment by ensuring they have plenty of safe toys to play with and a kitty condo to explore.If you are worried about your cat spending long hours home alone, consider getting a cat-sitter to come in during the day. There are lots of elderly and retired people who, for various reasons, are unable to keep a cat of their own and would be only too happy to come and enjoy the company of a feline friend. Consider posting a notice in your veterinarian's office, local pet store, and even at local retirement and assisted living establishments. You may have a relative who would enjoy some feline company for a nominal fee-or for free!

In general, cats are happiest if they can be left at home while their owners are away, rather than being boarded at a kennel.

There are now establishments that offer kitty day care so that your cat doesn't have to spend hours alone and bored.

Pet Sitter for Your Cat

It's a good idea to consider setting up a reciprocal plan with a pet-owning neighbor to keep an eye on each other's pets; attend to basic food, water, and litter box needs; and spend a bit of time playing with the animals, too. However, it has to be someone who understands cats and will be careful about opening doors so that your cat doesn't escape. Never ask a child be a sitter; taking care of a pet is a huge responsibility. If you're planning to travel during a busy time of year, such as the holiday season, and you are unable to take your cat with you, it's probably a better idea to call upon the services of a professional sitter. A neighbor may be overwhelmed with other things to attend to during holiday time. Pet sitters do much more than simply provide food and water and scoop the litter box. They will spend quality time playing with your cat so that, although you will be missed, your pet won't feel abandoned. Finding the correct pet sitter is just like finding a competent person to take care of your child. It's important to remember that just because someone calls himself or herself a pet sitter doesn't mean he or she is qualified for the job. Popular sitters are often booked well in advance. So make sure you never leave something this important for the last minute.

Where to Find a Sitter

Ask other friends with cats for recommendations. Or ask your veterinarian or the staff at a local pet store. Often, members of their staff are licensed and bonded pet sitters, too. Or just look at their boards; vet offices and pets stores frequently display the business cards of pet sitting businesses. Alternatively, check out advertisements in local community newspapers. There are also nationwide professional organizations-such as Pet Sitters International, Fetch! Pet Care, and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters-that are geared to finding someone best suited to meet your needs. Working with a professional organization ensures that their recommended sitters are licensed, have completed pet care study courses, and are competent to take care of the pets in their charge. (There are also independent licensed professionals.) Nevertheless, whether you are working independently or through a professional organization, the onus is on you to check out your potential sitter's credentials. Before reaching any arrangement, invite the prospective sitter over so you can conduct an interview face to face and introduce him or her to your cat.

What to Ask

Here is a useful checklist of points to cover at this initial meeting:

  • Ask to see written proof that the pet sitter has commercial liability insurance to cover accidents and negligence and is bonded to protect against theft (by the pet sitter).
  • Ask for phone numbers of other clients who have agreed to serve as references and subsequently follow-up by making a few phone calls.
  • Inquire into what kind of training the pet sitter has received.
  • Ask for a written contract that spells out the services the pet sitter agrees to perform relating to your cat, as well as other services, such as bringing in the mail and putting out the garbage, and be clear about the fees involved.
  • If it's a live-in arrangement, specify the times you definitely want the sitter to be home with your pet.
  • If it's not a live-in arrangement, make sure the pet sitter knows where to switch on and off the lights when checking in on your pet in the evenings. Arrange in advance if you want a specific light left on at all times.
  • Be sure to stipulate how much time the sitter needs to spend with your cat on a daily basis.
  • Inquire whether the person or organization has backup coverage in case of illness.
  • Find out if the pet sitter is willing to take your pet to your veterinarian and, if not, what particular veterinary office he or she will take your cat to if the need arises. Make sure the sitter know where the nearest emergency animal hospital is located. It's a good idea to leave MapQuest-styled directions on the refrigerator-just in case.
  • It's also important that the pet sitter understands your cat's temperament. Not all cats are outgoing and friendly toward strangers, and your pal may be a bit reticent at first. Spell everything out, going over how your cat may react at first and what the sitter should do.Don't forget to point out the salient features of your home, such as an alarm system and where you keep the remote control for the garage door. If you have one of those televisions that requires more than one remote to use it, take pity on the sitter and write out instructions, especially if you want that person to leave the TV on for the cat when she or he isn't there.

    It's best to have the sitter over to meet your cat and for you to meet the sitter before you go away.

    Even with a good sitter, your kitty will be anxious for you to come home.

    A Digital Cat Sitter

    Consider leaving the TV on during the day to keep your cat company. There are also excellent catsitting videos that show cats at play, along with a variety of different small animal and insect videos to peek feline interest. Alternatively, a radio left on a talk radio station will offer some vocal companionship.

    Tasks Before You Leave

    Make sure you've written out all instructional information regarding your pet's food, medication, and general routine. Remember to pin your contact information up in a prominent place so you can be reached at any time, and give the pet sitter at least one neighbor's name and phone number. It's also good idea to leave an additional key with someone trustworthy in case your pet sitter gets locked out. (It happens, especially if you have a self-locking front door.) And don't forget to stock up with all you cat's needs, such as food, litter, and medications, before you go.

    Cat Hotels and Boarding Facilities

    The alternative to an at-home arrangement is boarding your cat. Many veterinary offices will look after your cat. This can be an advantage if your cat is on specialized medication and requires constant medical attention, such as the daily administration of insulin shots for diabetes or fluids to control kidney-related issues. Boarding your cat at the vet means that she's probably going to be caged for most of the time. Be sure to ask whether the cats are taken out at all and exercised in a secure place. It wasn't that long ago that boarding facilities for pets resembled stark, cold animal shelters offering caged areas with concrete floors and little else. Pet owners were required to bring with them all their pets would need.

    Although it's still a good idea to take along your cat's favorite blanket and toys for comfort and security, these days, many pet care establishments have earned the right to call themselves pet resorts and hotels. Your cat can expect five-star treatment in establishments that offer a home-away-fromhome ambience. Some pet hotels have installed webcams so that you can keep a close watch on your pet via computer and smartphone while you travel. Many places offer "in-house" entertainment, such as Animal Planet 24/7 or fish tanks for nonstop amusement. Furthermore, there are resorts that specialize in cats only. Such a resort has obvious advantages, the main one being that your cat will not be stressed out listening to barking dogs.

    How to Find a Hotel or Other Facility

    It's important to research a facility in advance. Find out whether the accommodation is a multitiered "condo" so that your cat in fact has a sleeping area separated from the food and litter tray. Some places also have designated play areas with tall cat trees and tunnels, and each cat is given daily time to play in a secure environment under strict supervision. All-feline resorts usually offer cat owners the option of boarding multiple cats together as well.

    Boarding at the vets is a good option, especially if your cat is on meds or has special needs.

    Stats on Traveling Cats

    According to the 2013–2014 National Pet Owners Survey, published by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), seven out of ten cat owners make arrangements for their cat's care when they are away from home for at least two nights. Here are the detailed statistics from the survey:

    • When cat owners are away from home for at least two nights, six out of ten will have family/ friends/neighbors come to their homes to feed and care for their cats.
    • Only 5 percent or fewer will board their cats,
    • 9 percent leave their cats with friends or family
    • 6 percent of cat owners hire a professional pet sitter.
    • Cat owners who travel in the car with their cat usually have only one child in the household.
    • More cats who travel in the car live in the northeastern region of the United States than in other regions
    • Cats traveling in the car also have owners with higher incomes who own their homes and travel; these cats more frequently have female owners as opposed to male pet parents.
    • Only 1 percent travel by plane. Although there are no official statistics, pet friendly airlines say that a number of feline passengers travel on a regular basis for leisure and not just for cat shows

    What to Ask

    If you are considering a cat hotel-styled facility, here are some important questions to ask before you book:

    • Is somebody on the premises 24/7? If not, you may want to consider another facility. Although you may not be home every hour of the day, when you're boarding your cat in an unfamiliar environment, you want to know there is someone there watching out for her.
    • Is the area climate controlled so that your cat remains in a constant-temperature environment similar to what she has at home? For example, make sure her designated condo isn't in full sun for some part of the day, which would make it very hot. (Establishments should know better, but it's your responsibility to check.)
    • Will the staff adhere to the feeding schedule that your cat is used to at home? If not and your cat is on a special regimen, you definitely need to look elsewhere.
    • How often is the litter box cleaned? Boxes should be scooped daily, preferably twice daily-morning and night. After all, you are paying for special service for your cat.
    • Is there a veterinarian on call to come to the establishment if there is a medical emergency? If not, ask the staff what arrangement they have for a medical emergency. If the answer is not "rush the cat to the veterinarian or emergency animal hospital, which is just down the road," look for another boarding facility.
    • What type of food does the facility serve? If you're worried your cat won't eat whatever it is, try feeding her some ahead of time. Or ask if you can bring your cat's own food. Many establishments will allow you to do so.
    • Will the staff meet the special needs of your cats, such as administering medications and daily supplements and even hand out treats at a certain time each day? If not, once again, you obviously need to find a place that will.
    • What vaccinations must your cat have before boarding? Not only is this essential information for having your cat ready in time for boarding (vaccinations must occur at two weeks before boarding), but also if the answer is "none," you may want to consider boarding at another place. A recognized establishment will insist that your cat has all the standard cat vaccinations, as well as a rabies vaccine. Although there is a trend not to vaccinate indoor cats, you will have to toe the line if your cat is going to be boarded. When asked for proof of vaccinations, always submit copies of the vaccinations, never the originals.

    Your cat's vaccinations must be up to date before boarding her at a clinic or pet hotel.

    Installing a Pet Video Monitor

    In late 2013, Motorola, well-known manufacturer of baby monitors, introduced the first WiFi pet video monitor that allows pet parents to view their pets at home from their smartphone, tablet, or computer. The Scout 1 Pet Video Monitor video camera allows pet owners to view, listen, and speak to their pets when away from home. Apart from communicating with your pets, the camera also allows pet parents to play music to their pets. The sophisticated camera can pan and tilt to get the best views of a room and also has excellent night vision.

    From The Cat Bible, Copyright by Sandy Robins, licensed through ContentOro, Inc and used by arrangement with I-5 Press

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