What do you do with a cat when you go on vacation?

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I am a professional pet sitter. But sometimes a pet sitter needs…a pet sitter.

When going on vacation in the past, my boyfriend and I had no problem leaving our cat, Poca, to be cared for by a family member who was willing to sleep over and keep her company. But now that our little girl is working off of one kidney and needs regular doses of medication and fluids, we need professional help.

If you aren’t sure the neighbor is up to snuff, rest assured: there are other options. However, it might take some careful consideration to determine what your cat’s needs are and how to find a situation that both you and your cat can purr about. Here in New York City,  there are so many pet professionals that most laymen assume competition weeds out the less qualified. But, due to the highly unregulated nature of the industry, the opposite is true.

First, you should consider your individual cat’s needs: Some cats are content to sit at home basking in a spot of sun by themselves all day long. Others expect two hours of laser tag and a warm body to snuggle against. Some like strangers; others think strangers are human scratching posts.

If you think your cat might be more than your neighbor can handle, or if your cat exhibits stress behaviors when left alone — such as leaving waste outside of the litter box or excessively grooming himself — it’s time to call in a pro.


One of the deluxe cat boarding rooms at Unleash Brooklyn.

This is for you if you fall into one of the following categories:

-Your cat’s care requires high veterinary skill
-You don’t want a stranger entering your home
-Your cat does not require a lot of stimulation
-You are getting your house bombed for pests

This is not for you if:

-You don’t believe in vaccinations
-Your cat needs a ton of play/stimulation
-Your cat is unhappy traveling and being in new places

What to expect:

Cats who stay at a vet or kennel are usually caged for most of the time. But they’ll also be well monitored. If your cat needs subcutaneous fluids, is on a complicated medication schedule, or is recovering from an illness or surgery this might be the way to go. Your cat must be up to date on all vaccines and will need to test negative for Feline Leukemia to ensure the safety of all boarded animals. Healthy animals and sick animals are boarded in separate areas.

The Cat Practice’s all feline Manhattan boarding room.

Better vets and kennels will let the cats out of their crates daily and give them some love and playtime. Ask what the cat’s schedule will be like, if he or she will get loving attention, and make sure to take a tour of the boarding facilities and play areas. If you’re not sure this is a suitable option for your feline, ask if you can do a trial run for an afternoon to make sure your kitty is comfortable.

Cat boarding facilities usually cost between $35 and $45 a day, per cat.

Recommended NYC Vets:

Recommended Non-Veterinary Boarding Locations:


This is for you if:

-You don’t like the idea of leaving your cat in a crate for the duration of your absence
-Your cat hates travel
-Your cat exhibits stress behaviors such as spraying, destructive scratching, or over-grooming

This is not for you if:

-Your cat needs veterinary care that requires a special skill (ex: insulin shots or subcutaneous fluids) and you can’t find a pet sitter who has experience dealing with these medical issues. Many pet sitters deal with these conditions often and if you plan ahead finding someone with this skill set shouldn’t be a problem. For peace of mind, go through a trial run with your new pet sitter so you can watch them administer medications in your presence.

Finding a pet sitter:

Conduct a search through the member directories at Pet Sitters International and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters to find a professional pet sitter in your area. Look for companies and individuals that have their CPPS certification, as this is not a criterion for directory inclusion. Your pet sitter should also have bonding and liability insurance and proof that they have undergone a background check. If you find someone that meets this criteria, set up a meet and greet to get to know the person better. She or he  will come to your home to meet your pets, help you decide which of services best fit your needs, and review the contract and price sheet. You know you have a winner if the individual comes prepared, happily supplies a list of references, and shows a genuine love for and interest in your pets.

Option 1: Daily Visits

These are between $15 and $40 per visit, and can vary in length from fifteen to 75-minutes. Depending on your cat’s (or cats’) needs, you may choose to have a pet sitter come in once or twice a day to do feedings, change the water, clean the litter box, play, and give any necessary medications.  Most cats that exhibit stress behaviors with a fifteen minute visit will do better with a one hour visit that includes more play and cuddle time.

Option 2: Overnight Stays

Most cat owners don’t think that having someone sleep over with their cats is necessary but if you have it in your budget to give your cats this treat it is the best option available. Pet sitters will sleep overnight at your house, water the plants, bring in the mail, and keep your cats happy and stimulated. You can expect to pay between $55 and $90, charged either per night or per 24-hour period.

Recommended NYC Pet Sitters:

Featured image by Robert Grossman 


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