In the work I do — as an animal advocate, as a vegan cookbook author, as a cat lover — I am forever debunking myths — about animal welfare, about plant-based eating, and about animals in general. And that’s fine with me. I chose this work for that very reason — to normalize compassion for animals and to normalize (and elevate) the consumption of plants (over animals).
When it comes to cats, one of the ideas I’m constantly pushing back on is that cats are solitary, aloof creatures who are “easier” to take care of than dogs and who can look after themselves for days at a time when their people go away. While it’s true that cats are more self-sufficient (because…litter boxes) and are fine being alone for several hours a day (because…sleeping), it is simply erroneous to think that cats don’t get lonely or anxious if left alone for days at a time.
While this might seem extreme to people who don’t have cats (and maybe even to those who do), my cats have never slept a night alone, and we are consummate travelers — both domestically and internationally. In fact, I host trips around the world, so we’re often gone for weeks at a time. But even when it’s just for a weekend…it’s unthinkable to me that Charlie and Michiko wouldn’t have someone staying at the house caring for their physical and emotional needs.
The first thing I do when we confirm a trip is secure our cat sitters / house sitters, and I’m never relaxed until this is done. We have a regular sitter we tend to turn to for our trips, but because she’s not always available, I tap into our larger network of friends and neighbors.
We’ve always been very fortunate at finding good people to stay, and while sometimes we’ve worked out a trade with a sitter, I’m also happy to pay for the peace of mind that my cats are being well cared for — not just with food and clean litter boxes but with affection, attention, and love.
For my part, I feel much more at ease when I receive regular updates and photos, and in fact it’s one of the benchmarks that we hired an attentive and compassionate cat-sitter. I communicate this need early on, and I do the best I can to find the best person. I get references, I have them meet our cats, and I try to be as discerning as possible.
But it’s not always perfect. Despite the 8 pages of notes I provide, anticipating everything a sitter might need while we’re gone — phone numbers of friends they can call on, the location of the emergency vet hospital, what our cats’ favorite hiding places are, etc. — there have been times when I have been more anxious than not about the person we trusted with our fur babies. Thankfully, everything has always been alright in the end.
I understand that everyone has different standards for the level of care they provide to their cats, and this is not to say that anyone who doesn’t have people sleep at their house when they go away is neglecting or harming their cats, but it is meant to convey the fact that while domestic cats may not necessarily be pack animals like dogs, they are companion animals.
Of course, I say this aware that cats are individuals with different personalities and preferences and some may be more content to hang out alone more than others, but it’s just not true that cats can be left alone for days at a time with a litter box and large bowl of dry food without them feeling the absence of their people.
Cats are social beings who bond with their people and can absolutely suffer from loneliness and depression when left alone for long periods of time.
I know my cats well enough to know this, and I know me well enough to know that *I* feel best when their routines are as regular as possible when I’m not home and that they’re getting as much affection and companionship as possible.
What about you?
Do you have people stay at your house with your cats when you’re away?
How do you find the sitters you can trust and rely on?
Have you ever used a service like Trusted Housesitters?
Do you pay? Do you trade?
Tell me in the comments below, and give some smooches to your kitties for me.