Cat owners often find themselves in a pickle over what to do with their much-loved moggies when they go on holiday – leave them at home with multiple bowls of food, take them to a cattery or get a cat-sitter in?
Loose Women’s Brenda Edwards came under fire earlier this year when she admitted she leaves her cat with an automated pet feeder – sometimes for as long as five days. “It’s a cat, it can feed itself,” she said on the show.
A source close to Edwards later gave more context, suggesting she leaves the cat with her adult children, but prepares their cat food in the feeder beforehand “for her own peace of mind”.
So what should you be doing to keep your cats safe while you’re on holiday? One thing’s for sure: you shouldn’t be taking them away with you. “A change in environment can be very stressful for cats and they can become disorientated by strange smells,” warns Cats Protection.
There are a few things to consider before deciding what to do – such as how long you’re away for and whether your cat would mind being left alone.
We spoke to experts to get their advice on the different options that may work for you.
Decide whether an automated feeder works for your cat.
“Leaving food down or using an automated feeder can be appropriate for certain cats for short periods of time,” suggests a PDSA spokesperson. “However, we’d advise against relying solely on this.”
Meanwhile, the RSPCA suggests never leaving pets home alone, even with an automated feeder, “as if the cat becomes sick or injured there is no-one there to help”.
Enlist the help of friends and family.
The best option by far is to have a trusted friend or family member visit your home to look after your pet(s), advises the RSPCA and Cats Protection, as they are less likely to be stressed and will be more content in their own environment.
Find trusted cat sitters.
If you don’t have a friend or family member who can look after them, look for trusted cat sitters on Cat In A Flat who can come once a day, twice a day or live in your house while you’re away.
Trusted Housesitters also comes recommended by Cats Protection, who advise two visits a day (at the very least) to make sure your moggy is well-fed and safe.
Cats Protection recommends leaving emergency contact details, details of your vet, plenty of cat litter, food and (if needed) medication, for the cat sitter.
While some cats are independent and don’t mind being alone for short periods, others prefer human company and would be better with a live-in pet sitter. You’re the best person to judge how much time and affection they need.
Look into catteries.
Putting your cat into a cattery is another option, but it’s worth noting that some pets can find these facilities quite stressful, says the PDSA. “Even just moving to a different home for a week or two can be very disorientating,” it says.
Before you book, visit the cattery to make sure it’s clean and to meet the staff. It’s important to check the cattery is licensed and, in England, check the star rating on the license. You’ll need to ensure your cat’s vaccinations are up to date, too.
A RSPCA spokesperson adds: “Whether you are away for a night, a long weekend or a longer holiday, it’s vitally important that your cat has everything they need to keep them happy and healthy.
“As a loving pet owner, it is your responsibility to ensure your pet is properly cared for by a responsible person when you’re away.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.