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While mom's away, will the cats play?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
I need some help planning for my vacation. Help with what to do with the neurotic cats I'll leave behind, that is.

I haven't seen my brothers and sisters in 11-13 years, so am planning a trip back to Minnesota in June/July. I'll probably be gone a couple of weeks. But I have major concerns about leaving my cats, who are scared to death of other people. One of them is currently on anti-anxiety medication. (It is too early to tell if that is going to do any good.) There was a hint of Red Cat licking or pulling his hair out on his belly before my husband died last May, but I didn't have much time then to pay attention to him, and the bare spot was small. The problem got much worse after my husband died; Red Cat's whole belly is bare now. The vet thought Red Cat might still be mourning. What I don't understand, though, is that Red Cat had had very little to do with my husband. He seemed to view him just as a doorman to let him in and outside. A few times he greeted Walt in the morning by walking over to him and allowing him to stroke his back once. That's it. So it certainly isn't as though he lost his primary human. He is super dependent upon me, demanding to be petted for up to 45 minutes at a time and jumping for my hands if we have been apart more than a couple of hours.

Over the Christmas holidays, I left these cats overnight for the first time in the 3-5 years I've had them. The pet sitter said she would sit in the house for an hour or so and read until they came out of hiding and would play with them, pet them, etc. But in the six days I was gone, she never even could find them, they hid so well.

I usually let the cats out to play daily except in the worst weather or when they are sick. The town has about four vacant wooded lots for every one that is developed, so there is a lot of area in the neighborhood they can go to chase wildlife, climb trees, and play. While I'm gone, I don't dare have anyone let them out, though, as they are so scared of people that they'd never come back in. So they are going to be stuck inside for a couple of weeks. And if Red Cat is already suffering from losing "daddy," I fear he is really going to have a terrible time if he thinks I've deserted him, too. He may pull all his hair out!

Sooooooooooo, help me with suggestions of what to do! Are there specific things which might help make their "solitary" confinement for two weeks a bit easier on them? Toys I should get them? Things I should have the pet sitter do for them even if she doesn't see them? I've still got a couple of months to plan.
post #2 of 7
I use a cat sitter also and have 4 cats. One hid from her but she eventually found him up in the furnace vents. Your sitter should really find them and know that they're alright. If she sits and reads, maybe reading aloud would get them used to her voice. They would get to know her through her voice and/or she could go through your house calling them and talking to them. Is it possible for her to come over before you leave and get acquainted with them while you are there? That's how we started. She came over to introduce herself and explain her job and I introduced her to the kitties and she talked to them and petted them while I was there. Good luck
post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
Having her read aloud is a good idea I hadn't thought of. Yes, she did come over before I left, but you don't know how neurotic these cats are! LOL! When they even hear a car driving in the driveway, unless it is my car which sound they apparently recognize, they go hide until the stranger has left. They even growl when they see the next door neighbor out in the yard - and his house is only 12 feet from my own and he loves cats! He's lived there almost three years and has tried to make friends with them. So I really didn't want to force them to see the pet sitter right away. But I did think that after they realized she was the one feeding them and cleaning their boxes and after they had been without the large amount of petting and affection they both demand, that they'd venture out in a few days. Not so.
post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 
Oh, surely people must have more ideas for me than this. Pleeeeeease!
post #5 of 7
I would do a couple of things. I would block off access to part of the house prior to leaving. Keep spare room doors shut, and get the cats used to being in only part of the house. When you leave, make sure the doors are secure and the cats can't get them open. About a week before you leave, take an old pair of sneakers and wear them without socks around the house as you do your housework or exercise. Get them good and sweaty and stick them in a ziplock bag with instructions for the cat sitter to give them one sneaker the first week you are gone, and the second one later. Even though this sounds bonkers, write to your cats while you are gone, and rub your forehead on the paper to get your smell on it. Have the petsitter drop the letter on the floor so the cats know that you are close.

If you don't have a cat condo, invest in one. Feline Furniture Company makes a good one that doubles as an excercise pad for bored kitties. If your cat is used to being outside, boredom sets in quickly. You can see the condo here:


The pulling of the hair is either a stress reaction or one in reaction to pain. Did you have a blood panel drawn on Red Cat and other tests run to see if he stressed himself out to the point that he got sick? He may not have been close to your husband, but you were, and cats respond to the stress levels of their owners, and that could be what happened there. Unless you put some over-the-counter flea remedy on Red Cat (because they do NOT work) and will often cause those types of side effects.

To bad you aren't closer to me- I am in Oregon. Or I would take your cats in and watch them for you while you are gone.
post #6 of 7
The more I think about it the more I think that it may be OK for her to simply check the food, water and litter boxes to make sure they are OK. I think she should also find them to be sure they are OK even if she can't pet or hold them. Even if they are under the bed ask her to talk with them for awhile. Hopefully they'll make themselves known. Is there anyone you trust to live in while you are gone? They could be a consistent presence for the kitties, be that good or bad. Maybe someone they know and are familiar with?!
post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 
Nobody to live in while I'm gone. The only family in the area is my step-daughter, she lives 50 miles away and could drive to work from here as well as from home. BUT she is allergic to cats! In the five years I've had Red Cat, there is only one other person that he would stay in the same room with, even for 30 seconds. In fact, he shocked me by even allowing her to pet him. (He must have loved the smell of her cats on her!) She's a pretty busy lady, managing a local retail store, but I think I'll at least try to see if she could come by after work and tend to the cats.

The gal I had before was the assistant at the vet's office, and no doubt the cats didn't want anything to do with something that smelled like THAT! She was familiar with my cats and could tend to any problems that might arise, so I thought it was a good idea. It didn't occur to me at the time that she might not smell right to them.

There really are only two major hiding places the cats use in the house. I did block off the storage room, and had told the sitter that they would probably hide under the waterbed in the master bedroom. But I failed to show her where the spot was that they could sneak under there or the door at the foot of the bed where one could look to see them. Apparently she just saw all the wooden drawers and thought that nothing could get under there. But I'll block it off completely next time. Have to let my babies have access to my waterbed at night, though.

Good idea about giving them some clothing or other objects that smell like me while I'm gone. I'll definitely use that idea. And I really liked those cat condos you showed, hissy. Unfortunately, the tall ones I like just take up too much floor space. But maybe I can get my neighbor to help me build something that would go up over a four-drawer filing cabinet or as shelves up over a desk and use more vertical space. You've really given me something to think about there.

Oh, I use Advantage on both cats, not OTC meds. And I don't recall if the vet did blood work. But he did do a full body x-ray to rule out bladder, kidney and some other problems, as well as a fungus test and a couple of other tests. So I feel pretty sure that he's right that it must be an anxiety problem. Since I got Red Cat at about age 3 or so, he's always been an extremely high-strung kitty. But now it is apparently worse. Purdy, though frightened of strangers, is more laid-back, so I'm not as concerned about how he'll do.

Thanks for all your suggestions. That's been a big help.
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