You have been asked to look after your neighbour’s cat for two weeks while she is overseas on vacation. Now imagine your worst nightmare: you show up at her house early one Sunday morning to find her cat collapsed and in obvious distress. You try to phone the cat’s owner but you cannot reach her. What do you do?
Sadly, situations like this do happen. Before accepting the responsibility of caring for someone’s cat while they are away, give careful thought to the information you will need in the event of an emergency. Likewise, if you have asked someone to look after your pet while you are away it is crucial that you provide accurate instructions that will assist the pet-sitter make the best decisions for your pet during your absence. This article outlines some of the more important topics that should be addressed when cat-sitting arrangements are made. Planning ahead may help prevent a pet-sitting disaster.
If there is more than one animal, be certain you can identify each pet. Have a copy of each pet’s recent medical records and written detailed instructions regarding diet and feeding protocols.
Do the cats go outside? This may be problematic if you are visiting the house only once or twice a day. Consider keeping the cats indoors for the duration of their owner’s absence.
Do any of the pets have an underlying medical or behavioural problem? If the pet is taking medication, be sure that detailed, written instructions are provided including the name of drug, strength, dose, dosing frequency, time, and how the medication is to be given. When are the first and last doses to be given? Is there sufficient medication to last until the owner returns? Will you be able to give this pet medication? What would side effects of the medication look like and what is to be done if they are observed?
Have the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the pet’s regular veterinary and emergency veterinary clinics at hand. Ask for maps or clear directions to both locations. Make sure there is a cat carrier readily available in the home in case a quick trip to the veterinary clinic is needed. In addition, ensure the owner knows how to reach you in case their return home is delayed.
Under what circumstances should the cat be taken to the veterinarian? Is the cat’s owner to be consulted in the event of an emergency? If the owner cannot be reached, is there another contact person to make decisions for the owner? Be aware that you may be required to provide proof that you are a designated agent for this pet when requesting treatment at a veterinary clinic.
Arrange in advance how veterinary services will be paid for. How much is the owner willing to spend in case of an emergency? Are you, as the cat sitter, authorized to make critical decisions involving diagnostic procedures, treatments, or even euthanasia? In the worst case scenario and the pet dies, what is to be done with the pet’s remains?
Some alternatives to having a friend or relative look after your pet are to hire a bonded, professional pet sitter or to board your cat at a reputable kennel or animal hospital that provides this service. Bytown Cat Hospital provides boarding services for cats with veterinary supervision.
While this article makes several suggestions for a successful pet-sitting experience, it is not an exhaustive list. If appropriate, be sure you are comfortable with the additional responsibilities of caring for someone’s home and are aware of insurance and liability issues.
[Dr. Glenys Hughes]
Animal Emergency Hospital: 613-745-0123
. . . . .