As a cat owner for over 30 years there are occasionally unusual situations that arise where you have to do a rethink on the question of how to care for cats in stressful situations. This has recently been forced upon me with my son’s decision to fly away to spend Christmas with his partner’s family for 2 weeks.
What has that got to do with cat care you say? Well the problem is that they have 2 indoor adult cats, George and Lily, who cannot be left alone in their house and my son has nobody to come in and look after them each day. In addition he doesn’t want to have them in a cat care boarding house over the holiday period.
Another problem is that a daily commute by me to my son’s house to feed and look after them is out of the question because of the travel time involved.
The solution- Be a pet sitter and have them live with me and my wife and our outdoor cat Oscar over the holidays but as cats prefer familiar conditions and territory this was likely to cause stressful situations not only for them but to our cat as well!
OUR PLAN ON HOW TO CARE FOR CATS IN THESE UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCES
Pre planning for car trip to our house
- Cats need to be safely and comfortably caged in separate cages for the i hour trip
- Familiar cat tree scratching post and cat litter trays needed to be brought along as well as sufficient supplies of their normal food.
- Familiar cat blankets and toys were also needed.
Setting aside a room in our house to accommodate the cats
A spare bedroom was cleared specifically for this with large cushions placed on the floor to be used as beds. Litter trays were placed at one end of the room and food dishes and water bowls at the other end. The cat tree/scratching post was placed near the bedroom windows so the cats would be able to view the outside and a few cat toys were left on the floor to play with.
Segregating the house
A very important consideration as Oscar our cat hates strange cats around the house and we didn’t want any cat fights over the Christmas period with potential visits to the vet!
- Because of this no go zones were set up for the periods of the day when Oscar would be in to prevent clashes. As previously mentioned Oscar is an outdoors cat and during the current Summer months here in Western Australia he has his breakfast around 7 am and is generally outside for most of the day until 6 pm when he comes in for his dinner and remains inside for the rest of the day.
- As we didn’t want to upset Oscar’s normal daily routine we were forced into a situation where our visitors had to be kept in the spare bedroom for the period of time Oscar was at home but allowed to use the rest of the house when he was out. Not an ideal solution but the best under the circumstances!
- We also knew that Lily, the female tortoise shell cat, should acclimatize better than George as the former had lived in our house as a kitten for 2 years and would probably remember and recognize her previous lodgings.
How our cat visitors reacted – day 1
- Having set up their room as mentioned above we decided for the first day that the cats should remain the whole time in their room to get used to their new surroundings but that we would keep a close eye on them throughout the day.
- After being released from his cage George immediately hopped straight on to the tree house/ scratching post and peered out of the window. There he remained for hours on end visibly stressed with his new surroundings.
- Lily darted under a blanket and also remained there stressed out for several hours as well.
- Neither cat ate or drank much and didn’t use their litter trays.
Day 2 reactions
- After Oscar had been let out after his breakfast we put food and water in our visitors dishes noting that they had eaten and drunk overnight which was somewhat reassuring!.However the litter trays had still not been used.
- On leaving the bedroom door open Lily immediately made her dash for freedom and ran around the house. She was extremely pleased to be let out and it was very evident that she recognized areas of the house that she had been familiar with as a kitten.
- Oscar knows we have cat visitors! When watering our garden this morning I saw Oscar looking at the windows of the bedroom we have housed the cats in and has seen George looking out. He keeps staring at him and tries to get on the ledge of the window sill but cannot make it! He has also seen Lily looking out of the french windows in our kitchen. He meows to be let in but we don’t allow him!
- George ( as can be seen in the picture below ) is still very stressed out and has been hiding beneath a blanket looking very tired and unhappy. He probably was looking out of the windows all night!
- Having afternoon tea outside on our patio and Oscar approaches me. He has a strange look on his face and he sniffs and rubs himself against me! He is no fool as he knows something unusual is happening!
- Oscar has returned for dinner and the no go zones have been re established. He is now certain that there are other cats in the house as with his acute sense of smell he knows that Lily has been all over the house during his absence today!
- A good sign that stress levels are being gradually reduced is that the litter trays are now being used.
Day 3 reactions
- Oscar went out at his usual time after having his breakfast. It will be a hot day for him outside as the temperature is expected to reach 41C but there are plenty of shaded areas in our garden and he has a large water bowl to drink from as well as the swimming pool which he frequently drinks from ( naughty boy! ) He is well used to hot Summer conditions and never wants to return inside until just before dusk.
- Let our cat visitors out of their room after feeding them and giving them plenty of water.. Lily made her usual dash for freedom down the passageway into our living room areas and settled down under our Christmas tree. ( See picture below )
- George ventured out from his room at last! With his body slung very low he slowly tiptoed down the passageway, nervously glanced around his surroundings and checked out all the rooms. He should be OK from now on.
Although we are only a short way through this 2 week pet sitting exercise both visiting cat stress levels have now been reduced. Oscar has his usual outdoor freedom and is being treated as normally as possible by us in these special circumstances. He should also get through this holiday period without getting too stressed. This may not be everyone’s ideal solution to the problem but so far we have discovered that our plan is working.
We had these cat visitors for 2 weeks before my son picked them up and transported them home in their cat cages. They showed no ill effects from being out of their normal home environment and had got used to the changed circumstances. Whilst Oscar, our cat, was a bit miffed with knowing that we had 2 strange cats in the house during this period he soon regained his normal composure after they had left knowing that we still love him and that there are no rivals for our affection!
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