amuletLast week I wrote about 4 things frequent travelers need to consider before getting a cat and the unique challenges having them as pets present. One of the misconceptions many people have about cats is that it doesn’t bother them when they are left alone. Cats have a range of temperaments and personalities but they are all social animals.  It’s important not to let them feel like that you are far away while keeping their minds and bodies occupied.

Using the Internet and making your home an interesting place to be will not only keep your cats happy, but allow you to return to an orderly home.

  • Create A Pet Fund – One of the advantages of having a cat is that they can (with proper preparation) be left home alone for a few days by themselves. Any more than that and you’ll need a friend, family member, or somebody else to take care of your animals. In these cases you’ll need to set up a pet emergency fund to cover any illnesses which can progress quickly in small mammals like cats.
    • Vets are expensive, plan to put away at least $500 for your pet sitter. (A diagnosis and simple office visit alone can set you back $300 and you’ll want some left over for any medications or basic supplies like food. Make this part of your simple travel budget.)
  • Give Them A Call – You can’t call yourself on Skype so you’ll need to create another account for your cats. Using the free remote access service LogMeIn, you can call an old laptop or computer you’ve got in the living room and pick up the line so your cats can hear your voice. If you’re lucky they may also come up to the web cam so you can see them too.
  • Hide Treats Around The House – A small number of enticing treats hidden around your home will give your cats some entertainment as they try to ‘hunt’ them out. It’s best to use treats scented with catnip to really get them searching and satisfy their natural instincts.
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  • cat callKeep An Eye On Them – To make sure your cats don’t need extra supervision and check if they really aren’t jumping on the kitchen counter, use some free motion detecting software. Mac users, try the free iAlertU (here’s a good tutorial on setting it up), and Windows users can install Dorgem.
    • Of course, if all that counter-jumping really gets on your nerves you can try setting up a blender defender.
  • Use Smart Toys – There a number of programmable toys that will supply some much needed exercise to your cats to drain their energy into playing and not clawing your curtains. The Mouse in the House is a cat toy that can be set to send a robotic mouse running (along with audible squeaks), at different times during the day. There are a number of other products like it in the market, a good Google search should yield good and inexpensive options.
  • Shuffle Your iPod – Hook up your iPod or other audio player and set it to shuffle. Soft music and sounds from nature are the best choices. You can even record your voice in between some of the songs and sounds in a special playlist – another way to make your cats feel like you’re not that far away.

Unlike in dogs, the initial signs of cat stress are difficult to see. It’s when curtains are torn to shreds and there is a heaping pile of poo in the kitchen that most traveling cat owners realize that their pets don’t like to be left alone. Even with a pet sitter around (just like a dog) your cats are attached to you. Cats make difficult pets for frequent travelers and although they don’t need walks or to be let out for the bathroom, you can’t neglect their emotions and needs as social beings.

Consider getting a second cat so they can keep each other company, installing light timers to maintain their routine, and ask your nosey neighbors to drop by from time to time. Your cats will appreciate it.

[photo by: comicbase]