Cat Sitting 101 with Dr. Sandra Lyn

Cat Sitting 101 with Dr. Sandra Lyn

Planning for travel can be stressful, especially when it comes to deciding how to care for your cat while you're away. You might be wondering, out of all of the pet care options available, which would your cat prefer? While life would be much easier if your kitty could just talk to you, (and tell you who their favorite sitter is), our kitties can't communicate in such a straightforward way. However, experts have learned what your kitty may prefer, and what they need to be comfortable based on their behavior. To help you choose what’s best for you and your kitty, we've gathered valuable tips and advice from Purina’s expert in animal behavior, Dr. Sandra Lyn.

Cats have very different needs than dogs 

Q: What are some differences that are highlighted by their at-home behaviors?

A: Most cats will need to get their exercise inside the home as opposed to outside the home. Designing or decorating one’s home with this in mind or seeking out toys that promote exercise is key to ensuring cats get exercise not only for their physical but also their cognitive and emotional health. Creating a daily routine for play is not only a fun way to reinforce the bond between people and their cats but it is a great way to provide exercise. Having an established area for play can help your cat to communicate when they wish to play. If they are going to that area and looking at you, then it is a good chance they wish to play and play specifically with you instead of on their own. 

Toileting is also something cats do inside versus outside the home. Like us, cats prefer clean and non-threatening or non-erratic places to eliminate. Instead of thinking only about where to conveniently put their litter box, consider how you would feel and even how your elimination behaviors would change if your bathroom was set-up in a less than ideal manner. Would you go more or less frequently? Would you hold it until you absolutely need to go? Providing your cat with a clean and comfortable space for their litter box, with preferred litter, is one of the ways you can support their overall health and wellbeing.

Meowtel Pro Tip: Your Meowtel sitter visits include litter box scooping as well as plenty of playtime so you can be sure your kitty’s needs are well taken care of. 

Cats Generally Prefer Their Routines

Q: Why is in-home care the superior solution for cats?

A: Keeping cats in their home is almost always going to be the best solution because they remain in their territory, and they can more or less keep to their routines.

Pet Boarding

Q: What are the downsides to boarding or putting your kitty in a cat hotel while you travel?

A: Boarding cats means taking them away from their home, their own territory, their routines and without their consent. All of this means they don't have control over the decision and as cat owners know, cats really do best when they have some control over their environment and their decisions. Being away from home and in a novel environment with so many new things to adjust to can be quite stressful for cats. Not only when they are at the boarding facility but also when they return home. This is especially true for cats that have not been socialized for out of home experiences. 

Understanding Your Cat's Behavior When You're Away

Q: What are typical behaviors cats can exhibit while their owners are away? We are no stranger to stressed out kitties, but what else could possibly occur?

A: Some expected changes in behaviors when cats are separated from their owners for an extended period of time include behaviors indicative of separation anxiety, changes in feeding behavior, food consumption, elimination behavior, hiding and activity levels.

Preparing Your Kitties for Your Absence

Q: What are three great ways to prepare your kitties for when you'll be away?

A: Some dos:

  • If kitty has never met your cat sitter before, arrange for at least one visit prior to leaving.
  • Prepare useful information for your cat-sitter, such as your contact information, your cat's veterinarian information, your cat's unique care needs (what, how, and when to feed, litter box maintenance, play and enrichment time, your cat's likes and dislikes), and what to do if your cat gets out.

Some don'ts:

  • Don't severely restrict kitty's access to his territory when you leave. You may decide to close a bedroom door, but blocking kitty's access to most of the rooms in his home can make them even more stressed. Ensure they have access to their litter box, food, water, resting areas, and any other areas that your cat enjoys being in his home.
  • Don't assume that if you have automatic feeders, litter boxes, or even ad libitum food and water, your cat would not benefit from having a trusted cat sitter checking in on them daily. Most cats will benefit from having daily social interactions. Some cat owners may even notice that their cat shows fewer atypical behaviors, such as out-of-box elimination, by ensuring their cat gets positive social interaction while they were away.

Meowtel Pro Tip: Free sitter meet & greets are always included in your Meowtel reservation so that you & your kitty have time to get familiar and comfortable with your Meowtel sitter. 

Choosing the Perfect In-Home Cat Sitter

Q: What would you personally look for in any in-home cat sitter for an upcoming trip?

A: The most important is that I can trust the person to take proper care of my cat for the entire time I will be away. If the person is giving signs verbally or nonverbally they cannot commit to cat sitting for the entire period I will be gone and/or won't be able to fulfill important needs for my cat (e.g. can't be free fed without overeating and throwing up) then I need to pay attention and find someone else. If my cat is shy or fearful, needs medication, having a more cat-experienced sitter would be ideal.

Meowtel Pro Tip: You can browse trusted and insured Meowtel sitters available in your area to ensure you find the purrfect match for your kitty’s needs. 


When it comes to caring for your cat while you're away, understanding their behaviors is key because they are always communicating their preferences, even when we don’t always notice it. Opting for in-home care over boarding can help alleviate stress for your cat, by ensuring they remain in a familiar and comfortable environment. By following these tips and booking a trusted and experienced cat sitter, you can ensure your kitty feels safe, comfortable, and well-cared-for while you're away. Start earning Meowtel rewards and learn more about cat behavior by downloading the myPurina app today! The myPurina app brings your pet and Purina's passion together in a single source to support and reward you for being a great pet owner.

Categories: Cat Behavior