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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20 thoughts on “How To Care For Cats. Dealing With Stressful Situations”
This is actually very useful for me as I am probably going to have to move my cat when I do move out of my parents house. I’d definitely never leave him behind! He is eight years old, and I know that a move would be very stressful for him so this has helped me a lot! I may have to buy my mum a new cat scratch post though for her own cat! If I’m taking the old one with me for his comfort.
I was wondering, do cats ever try to get away back to their “real” home? That would be my biggest worry, that he would try to escape and I would try to keep him inside for a couple of days at least, just in case.
Thank you for your feedback Emma. Yes it has been known that some cats ( particularly outdoor cats ) after moving into a new home do try to find their way back to their previous abode. The reason for this is that cats are very territorial by nature and will try to look for their old residence because they don’t regard the new home as their territory. It is always best to keep a cat inside a new home for at least several days to acclimatize and familiarize himself with his new surroundings and to rid himself of the stress associated with the move.
Wow. Thanks for this article. I had recently gotten a cat and I am probably going to have to give it away after college since I am moving back with my parents after. My parents aren’t a fan of cats… I’ll make sure to let the new owner know about this topic of new home and territory before the cat runs off back to its old home.
Thanks for that feedback Jason. I am sure the new owner will appreciate your advice on this topic.
Cats have to deal with new situational stress just like humans. So it will take some time and work to readjust to their surrounding. I don’t have a cat but I have other exotic pets such as fish and it can be even worse for aquatic pets
Yes you are right Arthur it does take time and work. In our current experience our 2 new furry ‘visitors’ now seem to be coping OK 10 days after arriving at our house so they have got over the initial stress of an unfamiliar environment.
beautiful, beautiful, beautiful … its all i can say about the article and about your cat. Thanksfor all theinformation and for sharing your cat’s photos with us :*
Thank you Roxen. Very pleased you enjoyed reading the article and liked the photos.
What an awesome read and also very cute pictures! Thank you for sharing.
Keep up the great posts & happy holidays!
Thank you Alicia for those nice comments and best wishes to you also over the holiday period.
Thank you so much for this post I was really in need of this information thank you once again.
I could use this information when my sister has me watch her cat. Sorry to say I’m not a
cat person. But, I would take care of my sister’s cat with compassion and love as I do my two boys. Her cat is always stressed out and anything more like having her stay with me makes it worse. This information I am sure will help to reduce stress for her.
Thank you Millie and very pleased you found the information useful.
This is a very well timed post with people travelling this weekend. Although I’ve had cats for years, I don’t think that I would have thought of the different suggestions that you have made to help the cats handle the stress.
You have shown that pet sitting someone’s cats is very doable.
By the way, thank for sharing the pictures!
Thank you Sondra for those comments. Yes it is certainly doable and from our experience 10 days down the track our 2 ‘visitors’ are now far more settled in their new environment than they were previously.
I really enjoyed your article. It made me think that cats and dogs are a lot alike, when it comes to new surroundings and away from they’re safe home. We have two small dogs and there are a lot of similarities with stressful situations. Beautiful cats, by the way.
Thank you Laurie. Yes they are both great looking cats and we are enjoying their company except when they use our furniture as scratching posts! We have now been pet sitting them for 10 days and they are both well settled. Oscar our outdoor cat however gets very miffed when he looks into our house through our french windows and sees these ‘intruders’. He will be glad to see the back of them early in the New Year!
Love your site. Your pictures are excellent. There are so many things that you don’t think about until there right up in your face. this is a perfect blog for learning how to take care of and help others take care of a little situation. Great site!
Thank you Teena those comments are greatly appreciated.
When traveling I don’t like to leave my cat alone at home, the reason is I’m afraid my cat ruins our traveling venture, but I could use this awesome tips you have shared with us, I always wanted to travel with my Cat, his name is Garfield he looks like your cat, same fur color lol 🙂
Thanks for sharing and have a great day 🙂