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Every year the hardest part of our trip is leaving behind our two cats, Katze and Jayla. They’ve seen the suitcases load up and wheel out, and when you try to say goodbye they’ll hide under the bed, as if that will change the impending situation. Most vacations, I leave the house in tears. My worst fear is that something happens to us on our trip, and as a result, Katze and Jayla will forever think they did something wrong and we abandoned them. This is what I do to manage their anxiety and mine, when vacation time comes.
Comfort Zone® with Feliway® Diffuser Kit
One year, when we returned from vacation, Katze had been so stressed over us leaving she gave herself a urinary tract infection. No fun! I didn’t know this was possible, and we did everything as we had normally done. My Mom came by in the evenings to give them dinner and spend time with them. The litter box was spotless. The vet said it was definitely anxiety-related. Since then, whenever we go out of town on vacation, we plug in a (associate link) Comfort Zone® Feliway® diffuser into the outlet next to her favorite sleeping spot. That was four years ago, and we've used it for every vacation since. Katze hasn't had a UTI since.
We had heard about Feliway® from my Mother-in-law, who had issues with her cat marking their suitcases while they tried to pack. When that was plugged in, he stopped marking. My Mom has a crazy cat who has a diffuser plugged in all the time. The Feliway® diffuser alleviated the confrontations she had with my Mom’s other, more mentally-balanced cats. Its well loved by our feline family, and I hope it brings your family relief too!
Nest Cam Indoor
This is definitely relief more for my own anxiety than the cats’. They have no idea what (associate link) Nest Cam Indoor is. For me, the benefit is that at any time of day, I can open the app on my phone, and I can see that the house is ok, possibly see Katze and Jayla, and even hear my ticking clock in the background. It's a visual relief that arrests my anxiety in it's place. One time I caught Jayla and my Mom watching a NASCAR race together. I knew because I could see Jayla’s face and eyes following the cars on the screen. When I was feeling homesick and missing them, that was priceless. We have one that we bought several years back, and is still supported by the current app. Its something that while its expensive at first, it will last a while. We position it by our TV in the living room, and it covers most of the hallways and the couch they love.
Securing Pet Sitters
If you have family or friends around that you trust to check on the cats every day, great. Maybe they’d even be game to send photos and/or video from time to time too. Spend time before the trip to make sure they understand any feeding quirks. That’s often how cats will show they’re upset, is by eating less or turning down treats that they’d normally never miss. Jayla has had several teeth removed because of bad genetics, and she needs higher food bowls that work with her, not against her, when she’s trying to eat her wet food. We make sure the caretaker knows about that, and that it's ok if Katze eats Jayla’s leftovers. Typically the first few days we’re gone, Jayla will turn down wet food in protest of the situation. Katze has turned down her wet food if it's not chopped up like she normally has it. They’re our furry divas, and we love them.
If you don’t have family or friends nearby that can watch them, it's time to bring in the professionals! Visit the website for the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) to begin your search. It will help locate nearby licensed and insured pet sitters. It's a good indication that who you are hiring is responsible and takes their profession serious if they’ve become members of the NAPPS. If no one is registered in your area, ask your veterinarian for a referral.
Normally our couch throw blankets are folded up on the arms of the couch, but when we’re away from home, I spread them out flat in a few places, one where Jayla lays a lot, and another on our bed. Two reasons, one, if the girls have anxiety-caused upset stomach episodes, or their well-meaning-family-member-turned-pet-sitter has given them too many treats, the blankets protect the furniture and are easier to wash. The second reason being it's an additional comfort source for them that they can burrow into if they wish.
Pack in Another Room
Our cats definitely understand what a suitcase signifies. One time Sebastian got down our biggest suitcase from the attic, and set it out in the hallway overnight. Jayla left us a smelly present inches away from the suitcase for us to discover the next morning. Since then, we try to sneak the suitcases through the house into the guest bedroom where we can close the door. This isn’t usually too hard, when the cats are out in the catio it's easy to get things tucked away out of sight. Since Sebastian likes to start putting things away for the trip sometimes a month ahead of time, it's better that the cats don’t even know it's vacation time. I would hate for them to be anxiously anticipating our trip for that long. We typically will bring out the suitcases from the guest bedroom for final packing the day before we leave.
At the first sign of turbulence on the flight, my panicked thought is “Oh No! What will happen to the cats!” This is something we’ve been talking about doing forever, and plan to do. You can legally make plans for your pets in the event something happens, and even set aside a trust fund for their care if you’re not quite sure that your possible caretaker would have enough funds to support them. If you’ve never considered this before, here’s a Pet Trust Primer from the ASPCA I recommend looking at to get you started.
How Do You Manage?
Do you have other tricks up your sleeve for managing travel anxiety for your cats and you? Do share! Comment below, or reply via email. Every little bit helps!
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