You’ve had the most wonderful vacation ever, and can’t wait to get home to the fur kids. They missed you, right? Maybe you left them in the care of a pet sitter or boarding facility like Rover. You felt your cat wouldn’t enjoy vacationing with you. So why do cats hate vacations and why does your cat attack you when you come home from vacation?
Does your cat hate vacations? Will your cat hate you for leaving? When you return, your cat’s vacation angst makes her want nothing to do with you. She even *gasp* pees and poops outside the box to get back at you. It’s obvious Kitty is mad you abandoned her.
Cats Often Act Out During or After Your Vacation
Or is it? Kitty vacation angst can prompt a variety of behavior complaints. They have nothing to do with anger or cat aggression, and everything to do with cat stress. While a trip away from home can be fun and relaxing for people, all your cat knows is her favorite person DISAPPEARS, and her familiar routine disrupted. Plan for holiday visits with pets using these tips.
For some cats, that leads to separation behaviors that a cat sitter might notice while you’re gone. Others act out once you come back home. What’s going on?
Cats Hate Vacations that Change Routine
Cats love routine so much that any change can put sensitive cats into a tizzy. When you leave them behind, it’s not just your absence that puts a kink in their tail. Perhaps a stranger visits to feed them, tries to pet or play they don’t want, and changes feeding times or other favorite events. Boarding your cat outside the home means they must adjust to an entirely new environment, too. That means scary smells and sounds, maybe even strange dogs or other cats.
Even well-cats require five days to two weeks to accept a new-to-them routine. Sensitive cats can take longer. Then, when your cat finally becomes accustomed to the cat sitter routine, you return from vacation—and go back to the original routine. If that’s not enough, you smell different, like a stranger. Cats identify friendly people because we smell like the cat’s cheek-rub markings that label us as family. So the combination of routine disruption and funny smells prompt some cats to hide, become defensive, or offer other unwanted behaviors.
These include hiding, and perhaps even urinating or defecating inappropriately, especially in places important to the cat, like your bed. After all, where you sleep smells the most like the best friend she misses.
Decreasing Vacation Stress in Cats
When Kitty stays home while you’re on vacation, introduce your pet sitter well in advance. Make these meetings happy times with favorite games and treats, so your cat already knows and likes the caregiver. If your cat sitter understands cats, he or she knows to give Kitty space, rather than forcing unwanted attention, which can increase fear and stress in sensitive cats. Work together as much as possible to keep routine close to normal. Refer to these tips to help keep cats calm during the holidays.
If you know what will change while gone, make some changes several days before you leave. That transitions the change less abruptly for your cat.
Give your cat a comfort-scented item that smells like you, such as a pair of socks you’ve worn but not washed. Some cats like hearing your voice, so a phone call or recorded message might be an option. Check in advance, though, to be sure this doesn’t make your cat upset.
You can also speed up your cat’s recognition when you return with the sock trick. Each family member your cat loves should choose a clean pair of socks, and rub-rub-rub them over the cat (especially her cheek area). Seal the socks in separate plastic baggies and save them for your homecoming. When you return from vacation, slip on the cat-scented socks so that you once again carry the cat’s signature identification that “you are family.” That can help speed up your cat’s willingness to welcome you home.
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!
Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!