Can you trust your partner to look after your cat?

Cat you trust your partner to look after your cat

Cat you trust your partner to look after your cat? Photo by Sean MacEntee.

You live with a person. You want to go away for a break. You love your cat and set high standards of cat caretaking. Can you trust your partner to look after your cat while you are away? What sort of things can go wrong? How do you deal with it if you can’t trust your partner to care for your cat? It is embarrassing and perhaps a indicator that you should not be in a relationship.

These are some of the considerations that come to my mind. I am sure I have missed something:

  • You partner likes a drink. She works full-time and has a bad attendance record at work. How much time is she able to give to your cat when she is at home and sober?
  • You have a new live-in partner. You trust him but don’t really know him. He is allergic to cats. Is he going to cope with looking after your cat to a decent standard?
  • Your partner has a slightly aggressive streak. He seems tense and irritable. You are not sure why. You love the edginess but you love your cat with a passion. He has no track record of looking after a cat. He goes out quite a lot and comes home late.
  • Your partner is allergic to cats and likes dogs.

You can understand the sort of message I am trying get across. The above are just top-of-the-head examples. There are others. If you want your partner to look after your cat and if you are a damn good cat caretaker who genuinely loves cats, you do not want to leave the welfare of your in the hands of anyone other than someone who you are certain will do a good job.

That sets a high standard. It may mean that you don’t go away because putting your cat into a boarding cattery may not be acceptable to you.

As an alternative, can you employ a person working for a cat sitting company to come in and check up on your cat? I don’t think you can if the cat sitter is, in effect, checking up on your partner.


There is a worse situation. You have gone away and left your boyfriend in charge of your beloved cat. On your return there are signs that your boyfriend has abused your cat but you don’t want to believe it. You are in conflict between the love for your cat and the love for your boyfriend.

You come back and your cat is frightened. She is hiding. She has what appears to be minor bruising on her ears but your vet says the bruising is also deep inside the ear.

This is a scenario from the Catsite forums and the overwhelming opinion from visitors is to dump the boyfriend asap.

That sounds harsh but if you suspect that your boyfriend (or your partner, male of female) might be abusing your cat, when you are not there, it is time to say goodbye. The risks are too high and trust is already eroded.

Of course there has to be a sensible approach. The signs of abuse have to be real and tangible. If you leave your cat in good health and go away for a few days leaving her in the hands of your boyfriend and on your return your cat is injured and the injury is not consistent with a typical cat accident (on your vet’s advice) then you have to come to one conclusion especially if your boyfriend has shown little signs in the past that he dislikes cats such as being allergic to cats and keeping your cat away from his bag because hairs might get on it! If a person is that twitchy about cat hair, it does not bode well for the future of your relationship if you are committed to looking after a cat for the cat’s lifetime, which is the only way to do it.

I think we should trust our instincts on these sorts of things. People are able to pick up on small signs that indicate a problem. The biggest problem, however, is for the cat owner to face up to the possibility and put cat welfare first.


Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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28 Responses

  1. Leah says:

    My husband is the only person I would trust to look after my cats; he treats them as I do except when they misbehave then he sometimes wont talk to them. I can tell he would never hurt them because of the way he is and Ozzie loves him so much sometimes he wont leave him alone touching him with his paw for attention 🙂

    If we go away together I wouldn’t trust anyone to pop in and feed them as 2 are housecats and I would worry they would let them out not only that If someone got into the house and hurt them while I was off having fun I would never forgive myself 🙁 I use the same cattery I have for years.

    If I wasn’t with my husband and I was looking for a partner I wouldn’t touch someone with a barge pole that didn’t like cats; I could only ever be with a kind, compassionate animal lover in fact when my husband buried *Mr Grey recently he buried a ping pong ball with him ‘so he could play in the next life’

    *We were feeding Mr Grey an un-neutered stray for ages however he was knocked down and killed the other day so we bought him home and My hubby buried him behind the summer house because that where he used to materialise from when he wanted his food.

    • Michael says:

      Sweet story about Mr Grey. Tender and sad. I think we agree that you can’t take chances with someone looking after your cat. They have to have proved themselves. If in doubt don’t do it.

  2. Barbara says:

    My main answer would be the same as my dear sis Ruth has already written, but I just wanted to add that none of the hypothetic partners described above sound much like the type of person a cat lover would give house room to anyway. 😉

  3. Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

    My childhood friend Melanie lives in the Milwaukee area too now so I used to have her watch Monty. She’s like a second sister to me and we even look more like sisters than Jen and I do. I had no worries about her with Monty. But she had worries about him. She says she won’t stay over and cat sit anymore because as she scooped his litter box he sat above her on his cat tree and growled in such a menacing fashion that she became quite frightened of him. She still finished scooping the box, because that’s just the great gal that she is– but no more.

    Monty is hostile to those he considers strangers in his house and he deplores overnight guests. I thought I was doing him a favor– leaving him a companion. His poor “companion” was terrified of being mauled in her sleep or viciously attacked while awake. Monty’s growl is worse than his bite, but he can be quite intimidating. So now my sister, my husband and I can’t all go on a trip together.

    I’ll bet Michael expected stories of cats being terrorized by cat sitters, but not the other way around!

    • Michael says:

      This is a really interesting comment because it presents a real barrier to cat sitting. And it is a genuine problem because our cats know us and a stranger can’t substitute that relationship.

      And you know, cats can dislike the cat owner’s partner as much as a stranger. Now that is another barrier to trusting your partner to look after your cat.

    • marc says:

      Monty must have felt really threatened by somebody doing your job. I know that some time ago before I got a good one I had a crappy sofa bed and the lady staying at mine just couldn’t take it anymore and slept one night on my bed and both Gigi and Molly, both still kittens, immediately pooped and peed all over my bed. I think they really got worried when somebody was in my place – in the same way your place was taken. They have gotten used to the lady now and me going although sometimes they pee on my or the ladies bed. Once Gigi pooped right on my bed in front of me before I even put my bags down when I arrived home from a trip. I literally walked in the room to put down my bag and Gigi ran up on my bed and looked at me and did it – she was clearly not a happy bunny about me leaving and was telling me directly, punishing me maybe, I am not sure but it was a strong statement 🙂

      I am going away for a week tomorrow. I always ask the lady to come before I leave so they see me leave happily and the lady stays behind – she’s a friend and very nice, and they know her. I hope it goes well this time as it’s not a short 3 days but a full week. Hopefully everything will be fine and they won’t make any bold statements before or on my return.

      • Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

        Monty has never pooped to mark territory or as retaliation, thank goodness! He will sometimes fail to stay in the litter box until the operation is complete. If he hears someone in the kitchen he may run out with poop hanging off his butt, but that’s the worst of it. Good thing Melanie slept in the futon and not in our bed!

        • marc says:

          Oh running out mid poop – great things happen in the kitchen but that’s some serious excitement!

      • Michael says:

        I see a big connection between you and your cats and your cats have the same connection and similar feelings as you. This makes things more delicate. Any changes have a greater impact on the cats and you.

        Pooping on the bed is stress related loneliness (separation anxiety – I wrote this years ago) really. That is my assessment. Doing it front of you may be a direct signal to you to stop going away. It is not punishment, more a signal that she wants her home to be reassuring and you provide the reassurance.

        Don’t take that the wrong way. We all have obligations and we all have to survive.

  4. Marc says:

    I let me ex girlfriend who I got Lilly with and who likes cats, look after mine for a week while I was in England for work. When I cam home I was very unhappy with the details. The fountain was not even plugged in and there were things which I said to not leave around like string incase the kittens would swallow it (they were still small last summer) and I was just generally not happy with the state of the litterbox and from that moment on I decided I would not let her be the one to look after my cats. Yet I might at some point get back together with her but this factor is working against that actually. She has 3 cats who she loves alot but hasn’t enough time for because of work – not her fault but they are indoor cats and she should find time to play with them a bit. In the end they are not equal to her as a humans are and I differ there. To me they are the same or more important than humans and their company is satisfying as such. I am not sure we will get back together and this is a major part of it. I am going to visit her for a week leaving on wednesday and I can’t wait to see her cats – and it will be nice to see her but it’s reached a point where I am going to have to say something to break off the direction of us possibly getting back together.

    It has become that my cats are very important to me. Even with a job I don’t have as much time as I would like for them. So I don’t think that leaves room for being in a relationship. That brings it down to living with a human or living with cats but not both. I guess in the end I am very happy right now and love my cats and don’t want to even risk changing that for a day. Does it have to be a choice? In a way yes I think.

    • Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

      How is Gigi doing, Marc?

      • marc says:

        Thanks Ruth – I know I didn’t reply to your comment a while back. I think her health is fine – she still behaves quite normally in many ways and eats and goes to the litterbox ok – she is just annoyed with being stuck inside and I don’t blame her. Sometimes it results in her just not even wanting to play all that much although at times she does. This morning she was chasing molly around like her usual crazy self. I am going away for a week so it’s going to be hard. I trust the person who is going to be living full time at mine. I don’t like one hour a day visits as its just not enough so I only go away if this person can come and live at mine for the time I am gone. When I get back I will be very happy to see them again no doubt as usual.

        When I get back from my trip I am going to hire somebody to build a catio – it’s expensive here to do that and complicated with permission needed from other tenants so i will have to discuss a very un-intruding structure of some kind. It’s going to cost me at least a grand I can guarantee it. Labour here is at least the equiv to around £60/h or more.

    • Michael says:

      I like your comment because it is attuned to the finer things and you can sense that the quality of cat care is not there. I am the same. A person standing in for me has to show me that they are sensitive to a cat’s needs and dangers and able to work on that.

      For some people it is a blind spot. The point you make about treating cats as equals is so important. If you don’t believe it, I don’t believe you can deliver the same quality of cat care as someone who does believe it.

      It is a vital ingredient to really protecting your cat (quality parenting, effectively) and thinking about it.

      • marc says:

        Sometimes my ex asks if I get lonely or need a hug from a human and that’s where we differ – I get that from my cats where she is not satisfied by her cats as I am. She loves them a lot but it’s not fulfilling for her as it is for me. Ultimately they are not equal to her so as you say her quality of care must be affected by that.

        I think of many small things. I leave the toilet lid down – she forgets, I never leave pots or pans full of water that might have soap or rotten food in the sink – she leaves soapy water in the sink and thinks I am over reacting when I worry the cats will drink it. There are a great many details I stick to in my place even now that they have grown up and aren’t kittens anymore – it’s just how I need to do it.

        • Michael says:

          I think of many small things

          That saying results in great cat caretaking. Excellence in cat caretaking is about thinking about your cat because you care.

          It is not a process like going to work.

  5. Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

    The only person I would trust to look after our cats is my sister and I’m sure she feels the same way about me, the downside is we can never go away together on holiday, but that’s a small price to pay to know our cats are safe and happy. We are both ‘home birds’ anyway.
    I think you can tell by a cat’s reaction to a person if they will be kind and trustworthy, when we did cat sitting for Cats Protection we always asked to meet the cats before the person went away.
    Anyone using a cat sitter should notice if they ask to do that and if the cats interact with that person without him/her forcing themselves on the cat.
    No holiday is worth coming home to find your cat hurt or frightened by the person you left to care for them.

    • Michael says:

      You’re a good team. If you are on holiday and you genuinely care about your cat, yet can’t truly trust your partner, you’ll worry and that will spoil your holiday to some extent. As you say coming back to chaos and a frightened cat is not worth the holiday for me.

    • marc says:

      Ruth – sorry I didn’t quite understand – you do cat sitting for CP or CP organises cat sitters for people who need them and you ask to meet the cat before the person leaves so the person can see you and their cat together.

      Maybe I missed something obvious, sorry if I did.

      • Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

        Yes Marc, Babz and I used to do cat sitting as part of our voluntary work with Cats Protection, if someone was going away or into hospital, we’d go in twice a day to see to their cats and they gave a donation to CP. We liked to go and meet the cats first if it wasn’t an emergency hospital stay, get to know their names and for the cats to check us out. So when we went in to feed them etc when they were alone, we wouldn’t be strangers.
        At one time as CP hadn’t many volunteers we did rescue work (my claim to fame I went down a well to rescue a kitten)

        and Lost and Found, Feral Officers and Fund Raising. Thankfully more younger volunteers came along as it got too much but I do still wish I was younger and could do it all now.

  6. Caroline says:

    My partner/boyfriend has never, would never abuse or neglect my two cats. My housemate is a different story, and I am still trying to move away with my cats, Muckaluck (Lucky) and Shrimp. The most important thing for me is to let go of my pain, bitterness and resentment towards my housemate, who lets me stay with him, as I am homeless. It’s a completely diff. scenario possibly than what you expected to hear when posting this page? My housemate was negligent yrs ago, and yet, until I get back on my feet, I stay here. on my couch. WITH my cats. (Sometimes these situations are quite complicated.)

    • Michael says:

      Yes, relationships and arrangements can be complicated which doesn’t work in a cat’s favour. You even get cats used and abused in divorces and such like. Stability and and old age amongst people are good things for a domestic cat. I am pleased your partner is a good cat caretaker.

      • Caroline says:

        Could you please do an article on the ancient Egyptians, who were buried with their beloved felines? [I realize that it is not fair to ask to have your cat mummified and buried with you, but it’s my understanding that this was requested because predominantly they knew that they were the sole individual that they entrusted with their care, and they worshipped their soulmate. ?

        • Caroline says:

          What I meant to say, they knew that chances were great that they would come fairly close to outliving their cat. It is my understanding that because of this, the ancient Egyptians believed deep in their hearts that they were doing their cat a favour–in time in memorial.

          • Michael says:

            Yes, I was just thinking about that. They must have killed their cats if they were buried with them. That is not good. However, I see your point. It is an interesting idea to explore.

        • Michael says:

          Sure, I’ll do that. There are some articles on Bastet and Ancient Egypt on PoC. Don’t think that everything was rosy perfect for the cat in Ancient Egypt. I argue that there was cat abuse just as there is today.

  7. Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

    How your partner interacts with the cat when you are present is a good clue. If he’s too rough when you are there, better not to leave. Jeff is very good with Monty, eliciting the deepest, loudest purrs. I don’t worry. Jeff says he hates scooping litter boxes so my sister does that. She has instructions only to scoop he has instructions to only feed. Usually when I get back they disregarded instructions and both fed. Monty must like it when I go away. He gets two suppers.

    • Caroline says:

      That was funny, Ruth. 😀 Boy, he must know how to get the best of them both. lol!

      • Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

        Yes, Caroline, he does. I’ve come home from an overnight trip to find Monty in a food coma sleeping it off. Once I drove back through a horrible blizzard because Jeff told me Monty didn’t eat supper. I could have stayed another day, but I pictured Monty as being distraught without me, to the point of refusing food! I got home after three miserable hours on the road (should have been two, but for the weather) and found out that Monty didn’t eat because my sister had just fed him a huge meal before Jeff got home and even Monty’s tummy has limits, apparently.

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