Loving cat guardians find it difficult to leave their feline friends when they travel for holidays or business but often they don't stop to consider some of the simple things they can do to make their absence easier on their cat. I am going to assume that as a caring guardian you have already booked a reliable, experienced professional pet sitter to care for and monitor your cat while you are away. Take the time to fill out any paperwork that the pet sitter requires and be sure to leave current contact information. You should also be sure to go over your cat's care routine with your pet sitter. Cats find routine calming and gives them a sense of control in their environment something that will be even more important during your absence. As much as possible the pet sitter should follow this routine.
Additionally there are several very simple things that cat guardians can do in the home that will make their absence easier on their cat. Leave out several unwashed articles of your clothing in various locations in the home. Cats have a powerful sense of smell and clothing that smells of their favourite person will help reassure them during a time of change.
Another simple thing that can be done to help cats relax is to have soft background music playing. You can do this by leaving a radio on with the volume turned down low (remember cats have far more acute hearing than humans and loud noises are stressful) or you could get a CD of specifically designed music for cats. Through A Cat's Ear is one CD designed to be calming for cats.
Leaving the TV on low can make the house feel less empty. PBS stations are a good option or you could play YouTube videos of birds that have been specifically made to entertain cats.
If your cat is accustomed to using a puzzle feeder or treat ball (and he should be!) ask your pet sitter to place one of these somewhere different in the home each day so that your cat can engage in natural seeking behaviour. This will help lessen boredom and will release the powerful feel good chemical dopamine into your cat's brain.
Please don't close all of the drapes and blinds while you are gone. Allow your cat access to several of his favourite windows for entertainment and sunlight. Also, keep some lights on or ask that the pet sitter turn certain lights on and off or put a light on a timer so that it will come on at nightfall. Cats will feel less abandoned if they aren't left in a completely dark house at night.
Finally don't schedule any remodeling or construction while you are away. Noise and strangers inside or outside the house will be stressful for your cat. There is also a greater risk that a frightened cat may escape the home with all the coming and going of people.
These are just a few of the more obvious things that you can do to help your cat while you are away. If you know of others not mentioned here I would love to hear from you in the comments below. What do YOU do to help your cat while you are away?
Elizabeth Llewellyn is a feline welfare and behaviour specialist with 30 years experience working with cats in a variety of settings including rescue, breeding, boarding, grooming and veterinary. She lives in Chittenden County Vermont with her three cats.