What to do with your cat on vacation

Cats. There are videos about them. Adorable photos, creepy photos, bizarre photos and yoga photos that all have to do with cats. What is it with people and cats?! I just don’t get it.

We have a cat. Scratch that. My husband has a cat. I’ve been with my husband since our junior year of college; the cat has been with him since our senior year of college. The cat and I have been fighting for the role of alpha female in the house ever since.

cat sleeping

If you can’t tell already, I’m not a big fan of cats. However, it falls to me to figure out what to do with “our” cat when we travel for long periods of time, move across the country (multiple times) and go on weekend getaways. We’ve finally figured out a system that works for us and solves the “what to do with your cat on vacation” question. Our system includes a timed feeder and hiring the local teenager to come check on her every few days, but here are most of your options when you decide to leave your precious feline at home while you wander the globe.


There are plenty of places to board pets. Veterinarians sometimes have boarding offered in their office. You can even get the cat fixed and its teeth cleaned while you are away. You can also find people who will board cats in their back barn or garage. There are cat hotels that cater to every feline whim. This will cost you a pretty penny though. Ask around for the best boarding house for your cat, as not all are created equal no matter how much they cost.

Hire a pet sitter

Just as there are plenty of boarding houses for cats, there are also a plethora of pet sitters you can hire. Sometimes you can get a house sitter who will also take care of your cat if you need to kill two birds with one stone. Other times a pet sitter will just pop by once per day to scratch the kitty behind the ears, clean out the litter box, and add food and fresh water to the bowl.

It’s up to you to decide how much you need done and how much you can afford to pay. One way to save money is to get a housesitter through a trusted website. Many nomadic travelers, and even traveling families we know, will house sit for free in exchange for free lodging. It’s a win win for everyone. If you live in a city you will be the golden goose as it is hard to get a housesitting gig in major cities since everyone wants to snatch them up as soon as possible.

Hire the neighbor kid

If we are going to be gone longer than three days we always hire one of the neighborhood kids to check on the cat, gather the mail and make sure the house is still standing. We generally pay a flat fee for the time we are gone since it really isn’t that much work. The kids in the neighborhood are happy for the extra cash, access to our movie collection (yes, we give them permission to grab a few while we are gone), and a few minutes of peace away from their siblings.


If we are going to be away for just a weekend we don’t bother with having anyone check on the cat. We have an autofeeder that releases a measured amount of food twice per day and a water trough that constantly refills so the cat never gets dehydrated. This saves us money, but also time even when we are at home. The cat used to wake us up in the morning for food and whine all evening until we gave her dinner. Now she knows when she will be fed and leaves us alone. Trust me, getting whacked on the face at 7am is not fun, especially since it was before we had kids!

Our cat is an ornery old lady. She hates other cats, despises most people and was routinely labeled as the “problem cat” whenever we used to board her. Finally we gave up and left her alone when we traveled, leaving the neighbors a key to check on her. They never see her when they pop in; they just know she is alive because she uses the litter box and eats her food. As soon as we get home she whines at my husband for a solid 24-hours to tell him how devastated she was that he left her. Not me, not the boys, just my husband. She still doesn’t acknowledge that the rest of us exist. As long as her human husband comes home every night she is happy. The rest of us could stay away forever and she would be thrilled.

Do you have a cat? What do you do with it when you travel?

standing cat

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4 thoughts on “What to do with your cat on vacation”

  1. nicole | the wondernuts

    We always drop off our dog at the in-laws, which is a pretty good choice.

    But, at my cousin’s wedding, there was a cat that I thought was just the most adorable thing ever. I simply had to pet him. That is, until all the “claws” came out. I don’t think I was the only who had a run-in with the cat, because absolutely no claws actually came out, just the action of trying the scratch my eyes out. And this cat meant business. I was like, ‘that’s REALLY aggressive.’

    So, yeah, cats….

  2. maureen kennedy

    My husband and I have had a cat for years, and when we travel, we do anything to take him with us! When we travel in North America, by plane or car, he goes right into his carrier and off we go. At the airport he takes a quick jump out to be carried through security and then back in. We are usually very lucky to find hotels that permit animals if we are not staying with family. WHen we go overseas for extended periods of time (usually about three months), we have found a wonderful woman who boards our cat for us.

  3. Cassie

    Keryn, have you tried Trusted Housesitters? That’s what we use for free pet care in exchange for a place to stay

    1. Keryn Means

      Cassie I’ve never heard of them but great find (and tip!) Thank you so much!

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