Confessions of a Cat Breeder

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Leaving Your Tiger at Home: Holidays and Cats

Featured article by Jasmine Kinnear
Jasmine Kinnear

In my practice as a Feline Behaviour Consultant I attempt to never fall victim to a condition known as anthropomorphism. Basically it is referred to as projecting and attributing human thoughts to animals. However I do confess to a lifetime passion for cats, all felines be they domestic or purebred. A dear friend informed me that my therapeutic approach is different from others in this field as I tend to think just like a cat. During a consultation I attempt to interpret the source creating a cat's misbehaviour and then communicate the feline's emotional needs back to the owner. Problems may then be solved with an owner finally understanding the reasons behind their cat's long-term or sudden change in behaviour.

I try not to practice anthropomorphism however as with many cat lovers, I occasionally fall guilty to this practice. It's not difficult for example to ascertain when a cat becomes lonely, is experiencing grief or falls victim to periods of depression. These emotions may all be displayed in a cat during that brief time of year when their family leaves on a long awaited holiday. By anticipating both their physical and emotional needs it is possible to lessen the stress your cat may encounter. You share a loving bond and know your cat better than anyone else. By taking into consideration your cat's personality and following some proven guidelines your feline may better adapt to the changes in their routine created by your absence.

There are a variety of choices when entrusting the care of a beloved cat to others, however the final decision should rest with your gut instincts and personal circumstances. It is best to consider your feline's personality, age and other special needs such as being diabetic prior to deciding the degree of care your cat will require. The length of your holiday and your lifestyle will each dictate a different scenario to best meet the needs of the precious feline family you leave behind at home.

If you have a healthy single inside cat and plan a vacation of no longer than ten days consider having a neighbour or hiring a professional service manage your feline's daily in home care. If your cat has outside access some felines have been known to remain outdoors only returning home occasionally to eat when their owners are away on holidays.

I knew a sweet cat named Sassy who lived up to the energy of her precocious name. Born on a farm as a feral kitten her mother taught her the necessity of survival by becoming a skilled hunter. At six weeks of age Sassy was adopted by a professional family and moved to a prominent suburb in a nearby city. As the kitten aged she was eventually permitted outside access to the family's large backyard which bordered a forest. Sassy matured into a loving and social character and upon occasion would even enter through the bedroom windows of neighbouring homes in her quest to keep the entire area free of pests. Eventually the neighbourhood proudly bestowed upon her the illustrious title of "Our Town's Best Mouser".

When Sassy's family left on holidays it was her choice to remain outdoors and hunt for her preferred cuisine. Although the family would arrange for her daily care she never returned home for dinner preferring to remain in selusion. The moment the family van pulled into the driveway however, she'd emerge from a nearby hedge anxious to greet them. Although Sassy was an incredibly intelligent and social cat, after the first 'lost cat episode' the family was concerned regarding her welfare when they travelled. I was contacted for a consultation prior to the family's next vacation as the last one had been cut short with a message that their beloved cat was missing.

I told them that due to Sassy's feral nature she would never be content if left locked within her home and provided with daily care. Due to her feral nature her survival instincts were acute. When her home was unoccupied she quickly reverted to her feral nature and as an experienced outside cat she was the exception to the rule. Although Sassy was a loving and domesticated feline she insisted on taking advantage of a perfect opportunity. While her family vacationed it became her invitation to also enjoy a holiday, a perfect holiday of feline hunting. In Sassy's case it was best to have a neighbour check the house every couple of days and leave food for her near a preferred cat entry door.

Cat lovers have long argued the indoor/outdoor cat situation. I own four cats, two domestics and two purebreds. They are all inside felines but are allowed supervised outside access to our back deck area. This is the perfect solution for my feline family as they are able to have a little outside experience while still remaining safe. When a family travels some felines left at home may experience abandonment and unlike Sassy will wander or fall victim to a host of possible misfortunes. Should any of your felines be overly sensitive it is best to arrange for in home care restricting all outside access.

For those residing with a large multi-cat family it remains less stressful and costly to arrange for twice daily in home care. In this manner litter boxes are kept clean with food and water being refreshed each visit. The cat sitter is also able to ensure that each feline remains healthy over a shorter duration of time. Compatible feline families of 2 to 3 cats may only require one daily in home visit however they should be timed to fall within the same hour each day. Detailed written instructions regarding each feline's routine and specific idiosyncrasies are essential. Provide several cat food dishes with instructions that they be cleaned daily prior to use. I always provide a soft light at night for my cats which is set on several timers providing a rotating light source to different rooms according to my feline's preferred routine. Contact your veterinarian service with instructions that should an emergency occur you are to be contacted and your cat is to be cared for in your absence. Also provide your holiday telephone contact number for the cat sitter in the event of any unforeseen concerns or problems. It is mandatory that your cat sitter never hesitate to contact you or to bring your feline to the vet should the need necessitate.

In order to maintain contentment take into careful consideration each feline's personality within your home. Play a radio softly in the most social area of your house as your cat is accustomed to this room being the most interactive area. Some cats quickly adapt to their quiet household while others require stimulation to avoid boredom. Favourite toys should be rotated daily by the cat sitter with time devoted to petting and pampering.

Your cat may be particularly attached to one specific family member. Many felines are most comforted by the person who feeds them daily and will often seek their company in the evenings. A highly effective method to alleviate loneliness is to play a tape of this person directly interacting with their cat. Felines will respond to the authenticity of the tones projected within their beloved owner's voice. The tape should be played just prior to the cat sitter's departure using a recorder that turns off automatically.

There are times when a cat sitter must move into your home while you are away. A friend who is able to duplicate your family's love and attention will greatly comfort your cat. This is crucial when your feline is younger, enjoying the senior years of retirement or may have health issues. Although this writer will be examining life with a diabetic cat in future articles it is mandatory that the cat sitter be comfortable giving a feline injections. It is best that the cat sitter start administering injections to the cat several times prior to the family's departure. In this manner the cat sitter will become comfortable with the correct dosage required and be familiar with the feline's reaction to the injections.

My first cat was a feral tabby kitten rescued by an inmate at a minimum security prison. Dustin had been discovered frantically meowing in the middle of a deserted field obviously lost and seeking his mother. Eventually a friend gave this little bundle of joy to me as a four-week-old kitten. My beloved Dustin introduced me to the mystique of felines and provided valuable lessons in the care necessary for a cat while on holiday. When Dustin was two-years-old I had a friend move into my apartment to ensure his total comfort during my first vacation.

For two weeks my friend thoroughly spoiled him with love and attention. Upon my return however I was provided with a valuable lesson in feline manipulation. Dustin provided a cat's version of the cold shoulder and I was totally ignored and rejected for several days. I may have provided him with the best in company including extra treats, however he made his point painfully clear. He preferred me in my place next to him in the evenings and it took much effort to win back his favour.

A few years later Thomas joined our feline family as Dustin's companion. I was now faced with finding suitable care for both my beloved cats. This time I carefully selected the most expensive boarding facility which was a virtual cat paradise complete with a loving and diligent staff. I drove straight from the airport to the boarding facility anxious to bring both my cats back home. Although I was prepared to receive the same indifference from Dustin I was not expecting his joyous reception.

While I was driving Dustin was confined to his travel cage but he would reach through the bars to initiate contact with me. Although his reception was loving I knew his stay had not been a pleasant experience for him. Removed from his home he had been distraught and felt vulnerable. Many cats will grieve and feel a greater abandonment when boarded in unfamiliar premises no matter how spacious or loving the facility may appear to their owner.

Although my cats both provided a loving reaction to my arrival I was troubled by their joyous reception. In hindsight I actually preferred Dustin's aloof resentment which he had so skillfully articulated upon my return the first time. Boarding facilities may be suitable for some felines however cats are really more comfortable staying in the familiar surroundings of their own home. At least that was Dustin's message to me and one that I still follow to this day. Although both cats had been company for one another the lesson I learned was that even for a feline... there is no place like home.

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