Have you been asked to look after someone’s cat or cats? I have. I seems like a fairly straightforward little pastime of a job that will bring a bit of fun to the home at the same time. There is some fun, maybe lots of fun but there is also a heavy burden of responsibility. Failure is unthinkable. This is because you are often looking after a member of the family. A person who asks another to look after their cat is probably concerned about their cat’s welfare more than a person who boards her cat at a cattery. If that is the case they must, absolutely must choose the right person. If they cannot receive an absolute assurance from the cat sitter/caretaker that their cat will be safe then they are better putting their cat in a cattery. At least in a cattery, despite the downsides, your cat is almost certain to be safe. Bored maybe, but safe.
The above picture was taken today (8th August 2012) about 500 yards from where I live. As you can see the temporary caretaker lost someone else’s cat on the first day that he/she took responsibility of him/her. That must have been devastating for the cat’s owner, hugely upsetting for the temporary carer and it may have wrecked the relationship between the two.
A cat in a strange place must not be allowed out, full stop, period, unless outside is as safe as inside. And cats are good at getting out, finding ways out and they will be well motivated to escape from a strange environment as they will often be frightened. If and when they have escaped from their temporary home they will probably try and head back to their real home as cats have good homing instincts. If, as is the case for the cat in the picture, the cat is living in London or some other city with a lot of roads and traffic, the likelihood of being killed on the road is very high.
And if not killed by a car or lorry, the cat will be in panic and probably get lost and wander around as a stray cat. Of course if the owner’s home is nearby the cat might make it back home but no one will be in.
The lost cat might get picked up and put into a shelter. I think in London the nearest shelter to here is the famous Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and they probably have a good success rate for rehoming or returning the cat to his owner.
I would expect one of the things the temporary carer would have done is to telephone or go around to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home to check it out.
I just feel a sense of desperation and despair for the owner and caretaker. In my case I looked after two very glamorous cats that I recall were purebred cats (one was a Persian I think). I lived in a house at the time in St, Albans, Hertfordshire.
I can tell you that I felt the weight of responsibility and was very careful about the cats’ welfare. This was a time well before I started this website.
The person looking after someone else’s cat also has to factor in the potential distress that may occur to any existing cat in his home. That can cause real problems over a two week period. And what about disease and transmission of disease between cats under these circumstances? Catteries insist on vaccination records for obvious reasons. Recommendation: ensure that there is a place for the incoming cat to hide as it will allow a cat to express innate behavior. Note: some cats will feel at home almost immediately but many won’t.
Bottom line: the first requirement is safety. Everything is second to that prime objective. If neither party to the arrangement feels that that requirement is guaranteed then don’t ask someone else to look after your cat while you are on holiday and if you are asked, don’t do it unless you feel the weight of responsibility and have the time and space and presence to discharge your obligations to a high standard.