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Checklist of Information for Your Cat Sitter

For Optimal Care for Your Cat and Peace of Mind for You During Your Absence

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Cats are usually happier in their own homes when their human companions have to leave for a few days, with a trusted friend or professional pet sitter to check in on them at least daily during your absence. It's important to make sure the surrogate caregiver knows exactly what to do for your cat, both in terms of routine care and in case of a veterinary emergency. This printable Checklist for Your Cat Sitter will prove useful for that purpose.

Check References of Professional Pet Sitters

While your friend or neighbor who agrees to cat sit for you may be completely reliable, before asking a stranger into your house to care for your cats, it is essential to check her credentials and references. She should be willing to give you copies of her state license and proof of bonding, as well as references from previous clients.

The linked article, "A Pet Owner's Guide to Pet Sitters," by Mary Anne Miller, member of The Cat Writers' Association, also offers a list of questions to ask a potential commercial pet sitter before hiring him or her to take charge of your precious cats in your absence.

Veterinary Information

Your veterinarian's name, address, phone number and office hours. If your veterinarian does not handle off-hours emergencies, be sure to also include the same information for the closest veterinary emergency clinic. If you subscribe to pet insurance for your cats, make sure the policy packets and signed claim forms are together with your cats' health records, in the event emergency care is needed in your absence.

Letter of Authorization for Emergency Veterinary Treatment

Write up a simple "to whom it may concern" letter authorizing your pet sitter by name to seek emergency care for your cat(s.) Also either leave signed blank checks (write "for veterinary care only" in the check memo), or make arrangements in advance with your veterinarians, either by leaving a credit card authorization, or by asking them to bill you upon your return. Understand that not all veterinarians will agree to the latter; a lot depends on your previous relationship with them.

Your Itinerary and Cell Phone Number

Encourage your cat sitter to call you when she has questions about your cat's care in your absence, and particularly if she sees something amiss healthwise

It's also nice for you to schedule a daily call when she is there, so you can talk to your kitty on the phone.

A List of Your Cat(s)' Medications

If your cat is on daily medications, it is imperative that you have your pet sitter come to your home before your trip, so she can practice giving your cat his daily medications. Medications for conditions such as feline hyperthyroidism, feline diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease simply can't be skipped. If you have any doubts at all about your pet sitter's ability or dedication to giving these medications, it would be wise to consider boarding your cat at a veterinary clinic instead.

A List of Your Cat's Food and Instructions for Feeding

Cats are very schedule-oriented, and they expect their regular food to be available at the same time every day. If you are taking a summer vacation trip, it is also critical that your cat sitter take up uneaten canned food no later than 30 minutes after it is served. Air-borne bacteria can even rapidly multiply on dry food cat food if it is placed in direct sunshine, so make sure your cats are fed in a cool, shaded part of the house.

Also make sure your cat sitter understands the importance of providing fresh, clear water for your cats at all times. An automatic water dispenser is the best way of ensuring fresh water for cats.

Give Complete Litter Box Instructions

Diligent litter box maintenance is a must for every cat sitter. Show her the locations of every litter box in your home, and make sure a scooper, full bag of litter, and sanitary litter disposal bags are near each box. Emphasize the importance of observing the waste contents of each box. Loose stools, or stools with mucous or blood are red flags, and indicate a call to your veterinarian without delay.

Demonstrate how to scoop the litter, and how to empty and clean the box, in case your absence will be extended. The last thing you want upon your return home is to find a cat with newly developed litter box avoidance.

What to Do if Cat Escapes

Nothing strikes fear into the heart of a cat lover more than the possibility of his or her cat excaping its home while the owner is away on a business trip or vacation. Make sure your pet sitter will be careful in entering or exiting your home to prevent your cat's escaping. However she should also know exactly what to do if that should happen. The linked article gives complete instructions.

Leave Your Scent in Kitty's Bed

Cats' sense of smell is one of their most important senses, and they are most comforted by the smell of people and things they hold most dear. Leave several of your old unwashed t-shirts or pieces of sweatshirts permeated with your scent in your cat's bed and in other corners and nooks where she might sleep during the day. Not to imply that you don't wash your clothes, but make it a point to wear two or three old t-shirts before leaving, to make sure your scent is well-embedded in them. If you can stand to go without deodorant for a few hours all the better. Your cat will be comforted by your unseen, but scented "presence" during your absence, and you'll feel better with that thought.

Daily Play With Your Cats is Essential

Don't assume your cat sitter, whether professional or not, understands the meaning of interactive play with cats. Your trusted next-door neighbor might really be a "dog person" at heart, and won't understand that cats do not like the kind of rough, hand-to-hand play that most dogs enjoy. If she shares her home with cats too, all the better. Gift her with a new wand toy and let her practice with it at home, then with your cat, before your trip. Here's a list of my favorite Interactive Toys for Cats.

Go over your cat sitter's list of important information with her before leaving, then post it in a prominent place in your home. Make sure she knows where to find medications, food, and litter. Your peace of mind will be well worth the effort!

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