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Tips for first-time cat sitters

Tips for first-time cat sitters

Posted by Armarkat on 29th Apr 2024

You open the door to your first cat-sitting job and discover the unexpected. Food- check. Water- check. Litter box- check. The physical components are all there, but the cat themself is different from other kitties you’ve met before. To be fully prepared for cat-sitting, you’ll need to be ready for specific feline behaviors, have a couple hours or more each day designated for spending time with the cat, and be aware of different cat personalities.

Emily, an experienced cat sitter of several years, described her abrupt awakening to the realities of unexpected cat-sitting situations. “My first time cat-sitting was for my now mother-in-law. One of my to-dos was to move her newest kitty she had rescued from outside to the bathroom, keeping him separate from the other cats. I wasn't a cat person (yet!), so when the kitty came sprinting around the corner, I was too afraid to catch him. He ran through my legs and disappeared into the crawlspace. It took at least an hour, and a lot of treats, to coax him out!”

Emily suggested, “Ask the cat owners about their feline's level of escape-artistry. Practice caution when opening the door of a talented escapologist's house!” Making a quick entrance can also prevent a normally indoor-loving but nervous kitty from sprinting to the closest area to get away from the stranger they just met, which could mean going out the door.

Emily’s experience demonstrates that the first step to cat-sitting actually begins before you enter the home. That crucial task is communicating with the cat parents about all of the cat’s needs and quirks. Another important topic to discuss is preparing for emergencies. Whenever I cat-sit for my friends, I ask the cat parent for emergency contacts of close friends or family in the area, as well as which vet’s office they use, so that I am prepared in case of a cat medical emergency.

After you’ve prepared for your cat-sitting with information you’ve gathered in advance, be ready to spend a lot of time at the cat’s home. Emily recommended that “the usuals” for any cat sitter’s checklist should include more than just the physical necessities, but also “lots of treats and playtime,” as long as the cats are willing to approach you. Spending time around a cat, even if they aren’t in the mood to play, provides human companionship that eases the loneliness they feel from the absence of their cat parent.

The amount of time a cat can be left alone depends on age and medical needs. According to Jacksonville Community Pet Clinics, the average adult cat can manage being by themselves for 24 hours, although that length of period is not ideal for a cat’s mental wellbeing. A kitten between one and three months of age should not be left unattended for more than four hours at a time. However, “If your cat has any health issues, 24 hours is too long to leave them alone. Diabetic cats often need medications or injections throughout the day, while an elderly cat may have mobility or memory issues.”

Another facet of cat-sitting comes with the fact that each cat is unique. Be aware that the cat you are cat-sitting for may have a very different personality from your own kitty. According to Trusted House Sitters, “Like humans, some cats are extroverts and love making new human friends. They come straight at you, demand attention and can’t get enough neck scratches. Others are introverts, preferring alone time, or they are shy and need more time to get to know you.” If you have a cat of your own, you already have a close bond that allows you to pet them and be in their space. However, a cat you aren’t close to, even if you’ve met them before, needs to earn your trust. You can show your respect for them by not following them and by not approaching them when they are in a vulnerable position, such as being tucked away in a small space, using the litter box, or eating.

Getting to know a new cat you are caring for takes time and patience, but the rewards are more than worthwhile. You make a new feline friend and have the satisfaction knowing that a cat parent is returning home to a less stressed cat.

Quote of the day: “The way to get on with a cat is to treat it as an equal — or even better, as the superior it knows itself to be.” - Elizabeth Peters


“How Long Can You Safely Leave Your Cat Alone?” Jacksonville Community Pet Clinics

“Top 10 Cat Sitting Tips”, Trusted House Sitters