By Elizabeth Xu
Chances are your cat likes to stay to him or herself most of the time, so you might think they don’t even notice your absence each day after you head to work. Actually, you’d be surprised at how much they do notice.
If you’re a cat person, it might appear pretty easy to set things up for your cat while you’re away, and in general, for a lot of cats, it is pretty easy. However, there are special considerations to keep in mind if you leave your cat every day to go to work or school, or plan to head out of town for a few days. Sure, your cat is pretty self-sufficient in most ways, but that cat litter box won’t clean itself.
Here are nine things you need to know before you leave your cat alone during the day, with a pet sitter or at a boarding facility.
Reconsider the Boarding Facility
If you don’t like the idea of leaving your cat completely alone while you’re away for an extended time, you’ve no doubt considered taking them to a boarding facility that specializes in cat care. After all, that way you’ll have someone to watch over and feed your cat, and your cat will have someone to interact with, too. Turns out that actually might not be the best move for your cat.
“Cats are territorial and it’s typically much more stressful for them to be placed in an unfamiliar environment, especially if that environment contains the sight, scent, and sounds of other animals,” says Pam Johnson-Bennett, cat behavior consultant and owner of Cat Behavior Associates, LLC. “When cats are placed in a boarding facility, they get the double whammy of not having the cat parents around as well as losing their territory.”
Remember to Scoop the Litterbox
No matter how long you’ll be gone, cats need a clean litterbox, says Kelly Meister-Yetter, animal advocate, blogger, and author of Crazy Critter Lady. If the litter box has not been cleaned, you won’t like the results.
“They will often go just outside the box to let you know that it needs cleaned, or they’ll find some out-of-the-way place in the house to use,” says Meister-Yetter, noting that sometimes cats will go outside of their litter box when they’re feeling unwell, too. Before you get frustrated, it’s a good idea to look into all of the possibilities, especially if your feline’s usually good about using the litter box. Unless the cause your cat’s “accidents” is obvious, make an appointment for a health evaluation with your veterinarian.
Cats Need Stimulation Even While You’re Gone
People think cats can be left alone because they sleep so much and tend to be independent, but Johnson-Bennett says they need interaction and enrichment, too. This will help your cat to alleviate any boredom issues, and the behavior problems that can develop as a result.
“Create a little fun for the cat before you go off to work,” she says. “There are so many simple ways to create activity and entertainment for a home-alone kitty. Puzzle feeders, a cat tree, cat perch, open paper bags, interesting and safe cat toys, and even a cozy bed near a sunny window can make a difference to a cat who spends the day alone.”
Cats Get Lonely, Too
You enjoy spending time with your cat, whether you’re playing or just cuddling up on the couch. But sometimes you have no choice but to leave your cat alone—especially if you work outside of your home. Even if your cat is used to you leaving daily, they can get lonely and you should know the signs that there might be a problem.
“Because cats appear very stoic, it can be easy to miss signs indicating that all is not happy in kitty’s world,” Johnson-Bennett says. “Changes in behavior, appetite, litter box habits, or grooming could be signs that a cat is having trouble with too much time spent alone.”
Try to Ease Your Cat’s Anxiety
If you discover that your cat doesn’t do well when you leave even for short periods, there are things that can help their anxiety. Meister-Yetter suggests using a pheromone plug-in, which uses artificial pheromones to help your cat to stay calm. She says that having some background noise, such as a TV, might help with anxiety, too.
Cats (Probably) Notice That You’re Gone
Even if your cat isn’t the most loving creature, rest assured that he or she will eventually realize you’re not home. You are the source of their food, after all.
“My own cats’ reactions to me going on vacation range from glad to see me again to, ‘Oh, were you gone? I hadn’t noticed!’ to ‘Who are you and where have you been?’” says Meister-Yetter, who has four cats.
Your Cat Might Need a Friend
Sometimes lonely cats just need a friend—a feline friend, that is. If you leave your cat alone every day, consider whether you have the time and energy to give to your cat. If the answer is in the negatives and your cat clearly needs more interaction, another cat can fill that need.
“Many cats who spend time alone may actually benefit from having a feline companion,” Johnson-Bennett says. But never get another cat solely for the benefit of your current one. You must be fully committed to your new pet and to working through any issues that might develop between your pets.
Cats Crave Routine
A pet sitter or friend should always be called if you’re going to leave your pet for a long period of time, Johnson-Bennett says. Cats should never be left for more than 24 hours without having someone check on their well-being. In addition to helping with unexpected illness or injury, the caregiver will help keep your cat on a routine, which is important because “cats are creatures of habit,” she says.
“It will be less stressful for the cat if a normal routine is maintained in terms of having the litter box scooped regularly, food served at the normal times, and some degree of normal activity in the home,” Johnson-Bennett says.
Meister-Yetter agrees, and regularly employs a professional cat sitter. “The sitter should check the food and water bowls and refill accordingly. The sitter should also administer any medications, scoop out the litter box, and spend a good 15 to 30 minutes either interacting with the cat or simply being present in the home.”
Keep Feeding Routines Regular
You’d never leave your cat without food and water, of course, but when they get that food is very important. Because cats like routine, Johnson-Bennett says that any friend or pet sitter should visit your cat at least as often as the times you give your cat meals.
“If the cat is normally fed on a schedule, you would want to keep as close to that schedule as possible to reduce stress,” Johnson-Bennett said.
Updated August 12, 2019
Author: Mike – FishLore Admin
Time for vacation! You’ve been working hard all year long and it’s finally time for that well deserved vacation. Ah, just to think about it gives me the vacation fever.
The time is drawing near and you suddenly realize – what the heck am I going to do about the aquarium and fish care? Who’s going to feed the fish? What do I need to do to get my fish tank ready before I leave on my trip? There are several things to keep in mind and we’ll try to help you get things in order before you leave so you can have a stress free and relaxing trip not worrying about your fish and your aquarium!
What about feeding the fish?
Fish can go for several weeks without food. Some believe they can go for 3 or more weeks even. Yes, this is true believe it or not and your fish will be fine while you’re away. Your tank may even look cleaner when you get home from vacation since there should be less wastes in the water from the lack of fish food entering the aquarium and less wastes being produced from fish eating that fish food.
If you just can’t stand the thought of your fish not eating for the amount of time you’ll be gone, invest in an automatic fish feeder. These fish food dispensers are relatively inexpensive and they can actually be put into full time use, even when you are at home. You can fill them with a mix of tropical fish flakes (or other flake or pellet foods, depending on the fish you keep) and it should be several weeks before you need to refill the food container. Most are fully adjustable (you can release as little or as much food as allowed), operate on batteries and will easily attach to the top of the tank.
Another option is to use one of those plastic pill boxes that are composed of small boxes corresponding to the day of the week. You put in the amount of food that day’s container that you’d like for your friend, family member or neighbor to give to your fish and then you don’t have to worry about them overfeeding and polluting the aquarium water.
Try to do a partial water change right before you leave for vacation. This accomplishes a couple of things. The fish will get some good clean water, which should lower their stress levels and should help keep them healthy in your absence. This also gets the water level topped off so you may not have to worry about a low water level in the tank, but it depends on the rate of evaporation of course.
Rinse out the aquarium filter media, or replace half of it. A clogged filter shouldn’t pose a problem since many filters (especially power filters) have an alternate path for the water to return to the tank should the filter become clogged.
You may be concerned about what to do with the aquarium lighting while you’re gone. Should I leave it on or leave it off? There is a very simple solution here. The aquarium lighting can easily be turned on and off automatically using an aquarium light timer. If you’re keeping freshwater plants or saltwater corals in a reef tank or macro algae in your refugium, you really should have a light timer anyway so that your plants and corals receive adequate amounts of aquarium light.
We try to go on vacation at least once a year (if we’re lucky) and we have a neighbor come over several times a day to let our dog out. They have a dog too and we do this favor for each other when we go out of town. It really is extremely beneficial to have a good neighbor you can trust. While they are letting the dog out, I just ask them to check out the aquariums to make sure nothing is leaking and that nothing looks out of the ordinary. I have asked them to rinse out a protein skimmer collection cup before while I was away. If you’ve never seen a full cup of skimmer gunk, it can be very dark colored, yucky and smelly. They did it for me. I guess I really do have some good neighbors.
Make sure you give the fish sitter a phone number to reach you at while on vacation just in case of an emergency with your fish or tank. A leak could develop, the heater could stick in the on position leading to a rise in temperature, the automatic water top off system could stick in the on position, etc. Remember Murphy’s law here – “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong at the worst possible time”. Write down a small list of tasks you’d like for them to do. Keep it short and don’t put anything that is not absolutely essential. Here is a sample aquarium list of things you could ask your fish sitter to take care of:
Feed the fish daily from that day’s slot in the pill box – just that amount and no more please.
Look at the temperature of the tank and if it’s above 84 degrees F, call me.
Quickly look around the base of the tank and on the floor in the immediate vicinity and inspect for leaking tank water.
Dump out the contents of the protein skimmer collection cup (saltwater tanks only).
Invite the fish sitter over a day or two before you leave and walk them through your list. Show them exactly how to do the various tasks. Don’t expect them to know what a protein skimmer collection is or looks like! Show them exactly how to put the food in the water and exactly how to empty the collection cup, etc.
What if I don’t have someone to come over?
If you’re only going to be away for a week, your fish should be fine without food as mentioned above. If you have a saltwater aquarium you may need to adjust the skimmer collection cup so that it doesn’t collect as much since you won’t be there to empty it. If you’re going to be away for a longer period of time, than say two weeks, you will be really risking it not having someone come over. This is from a water evaporation and feeding standpoint. Although you’re fish should be ok from a food standpoint, your tank water may not be in the best shape after two weeks without your care.
So, plan ahead, take proper pre-cautions and show the fish sitter exactly what needs to be done and rest easy knowing that your fish will be fine. Have fun on vacation and we’ll see you when you get back!
Lowering water heater temperature before leaving is a must. (Photo: Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images )
- How to Prevent Water Damage While on Vacation
- Home Security & Safety While on Vacation
- How to Protect Your Home When Traveling
- Should You Unplug a Refrigerator for a Long Vacation?
The only thing better than a vacation is a long vacation! But homeowners can stress over leaving the home behind for a few weeks or a few months. It’s a little simpler for those from the Sunbelt, but if you’re from cold zones and want a winter getaway, you’ll need to take a few more steps to prepare your house for a vacation in winter.
Refer to Your Home Insurance
Before planning your vacation, know where you stand with your household insurance policy. Let’s say you go away for a week and leave the water turned on. Did you know some insurance policies are invalid if you haven’t turned the water off for an absence of four days or longer? Some are invalid if you haven’t hired a house sitter for absences of more than 21 days.
For two or more months, you may need a house sitter. These days, it’s easy to sign up for a house-sitting website, which is often free. Sites like Trusted Housesitters will run criminal background checks and credit checks, giving you greater peace of mind that someone reliable is on the watch 24/7 in your absence.
Standard Practice in a Digital Age
Once, it was recommended to put lighting on timers while away, but now experts say thieves casing neighborhoods look for lights that literally come on like clockwork. Today, options like “smart bulbs,” such as the Philips Hue lightbulb and other gadgets allow you to control lighting through your smartphone – even from half-way around the world! Consider “smart plugs,” which you put in an outlet and plug appliances into, which allows you to remotely control that appliance from wherever you are, whether it’s a TV or a lamp.
Look for other digital solutions for a secure home while abroad. A digital thermostat, such as the Nest system, allows you to monitor weather at home and raise or lower ambient temperatures as needed. Nest Protect is a smoke alarm that remotely monitors smoke and carbon monoxide, sending you a push alert if levels grow hazardous. The same company also makes indoor and outdoor cameras for watching your home ‒ and even your cat ‒ remotely.
These digital solutions can sometimes fail, for example, if your router conks out, the power goes out, or your cable goes down, so does your remote connection. Entrust a neighbor to step in when your Wi-Fi needs rebooting. And be smart about social media when away – unless you have a house sitter, don’t make public updates on accounts under your real name, because smart thieves search for “gone fishing” announcements.
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Care.com pet sitters offer a variety of services that depend on the type of animal that you have, so you can determine what works best for you and your pet. Here are the most common services:
- Pet walker: If you have an active pet that needs exercise during the day, consider hiring a pet walker. They can provide refills of water or food as well as offer some companionship for your pet while you are away.
- Pet sitting at your home: This is often a great option for cats, bunnies or guinea pigs who don’t need such intensive daily care, or pets who like a familiar environment and don’t need to take long walks.
- In-home pet sitter: It’s a good option for pet parents that need to be away and feel comfortable leaving their pets at someone else’s house. This can work for pets who want more of a connection, need medical care, or get stressed in a kennel environment.
Whether you have someone come to your home or you leave your pet at a sitter’s home, experts advise that you always check for pet sitting certifications, get referrals, do a background check, and check the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) or Pet Sitters International (PSI) to see if the sitter is in good standing.
Are pet sitters background checked? Yes, pet sitters on Care.com are asked to complete an annual background check called a CareCheck. Pet sitters who complete this background check will have a badge on their profile displaying the date it was run. While CareCheck is a good start, we strongly recommend that you follow some additional steps for hiring a pet sitter safely, which include interviewing candidates, checking references, and running your own background check. Visit our Safety Center to learn more. How can I find a good pet sitter? Care.com has hundreds of profiles for pet sitters, pet walkers, animal groomers, trainers and more. You can search the site to review profiles for the different pet sitters in your area and contact those that fit what you are looking for. You will find a description for each provider sharing details about their experience, the type of pets they can care for, and the services that they can provide. You can also post a job describing what you need and have the provider to contact you through the site. What should I ask a pet sitter during an interview?
Here are some things that you can cover while interviewing a pet sitter:
- Training and experience: Is this person trained or have the right experience? Pets can have a variety of needs ranging from physical or medical, to emotional. Be sure this person is a good match.
- Rates and services: Create a list of all the tasks you’d like your pet sitter to perform and then discuss it. This person can determine if they are able to fulfill these needs and what those services will cost.
- Emergency plans: Ask if they’ve ever handled a pet emergency and discuss a backup pet care plan.
- References: Ask for references and check at least three.
- Meet and greet: Schedule a meet and greet so you can see how the pet sitter interacts with your pet, and if your pet likes them too!
Outdoor dining in Bonn, Germany. Indoor dining is riskier than outdoor meals, experts say. Outdoor air can disrupt viral particles that have been expelled. Andreas Rentz/Getty Images hide caption
Outdoor dining in Bonn, Germany. Indoor dining is riskier than outdoor meals, experts say. Outdoor air can disrupt viral particles that have been expelled.
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Each week, we answer “frequently asked questions” about life during the coronavirus crisis. If you have a question you’d like us to consider for a future post, email us at [email protected] with the subject line: “Weekly Coronavirus Questions.”
How long do you need to be exposed to someone with COVID-19 before you are at risk for being infected?
The question was brought to the forefront this week after the White House announced it would only perform contact tracing for people who had spent more than 15 minutes within 6 feet of President Trump, who tested positive for the coronavirus on Oct. 1. That “15-minute rule” is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guideline for defining a close contact of an infected person.
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Coronavirus FAQ: Folks At Trump-Biden Debate Were Scanned For Fever. Is That Helpful?
But experts say the risk of infection is a lot more nuanced than that guidance might imply.
The 15-minute rule does not necessarily put you at zero risk if your exposure to an infected person was of a shorter duration. “It doesn’t mean that you’re getting off scot-free, nor does the ‘6-foot rule,’ ” says Dr. Joshua Barocas, an infectious disease specialist at Boston University School of Medicine.
“There is no magic number when it comes to distance or duration,” says Emily Gurley, an epidemiologist and contact-tracing expert at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The coronavirus spreads when an infected person releases infectious particles while talking, coughing, singing, sneezing or even just breathing. Some of these particles are released as droplets, which generally fall to the ground within a few feet of the person who exhaled them. That’s where the 6-foot guideline comes from – though it’s just a guideline, not a shield of impenetrability.
A person can also expel smaller infectious particles that linger in the air for minutes or even hours and travel farther than 6 feet in a room, Barocas notes. In a poorly ventilated, enclosed space, these smaller particles can build up in the air over time. If you’re in a crowded room with lots of unmasked people talking, “whether you’re [in contact for] 15 minutes or within 6 feet, it may not actually be that important anymore because there’s so much virus in the air,” Barocas says.
Gurley says in some jurisdictions, contact tracers also look for so-called proximate contacts – people who were in an enclosed room with an infected person at greater than 6 feet away – though they aren’t considered close contacts under CDC guidance.
So where did that 15-minute part of the guideline come from? Gurley says it’s based on earlier data from China on who was being infected and how infections occurred. “Even when they found lots and lots of very casual, quick contacts, that’s not where they saw evidence of transmission,” she says.
Instead, she says, infections were occurring when people had “meaningful” amounts of close contact – such as traveling, dining or living together – that had a higher probability of resulting in transmission. She says the 15-minute guideline is a way to help contact tracers quantify which types of interactions were long enough to be meaningful in this context.
But again, it’s just a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. “We don’t have strong evidence for exactly what the right distance or the right duration is, or else we’d use that,” Gurley says.
And lots of variables can affect the risk of infection from close interactions, experts say.
“Certainly, if you’re in very close contact with somebody who’s shedding a lot of virus, and you happen to get a droplet on your hand and then wipe your nose, that could take far less than 15 minutes” to infect you, says Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.
How you interacted also matters a great deal, Barocas says. For example, was the infected person coughing? Was the person wearing a mask, which can help contain a lot of the infectious particles someone might be breathing out? Were you indoors or outdoors, where airflow would quickly disperse any infectious particles the person might have exhaled? How infectious was the person at the time of interaction? (Studies have shown that people with the coronavirus are most infectious just before and in the first few days after they start to show symptoms.) If an infected person were to cough on you while walking past, that would constitute a high-risk interaction – even if it was brief, he says.
“All of those [factors] go into what I would think of as a combined likelihood or combined probability” of getting infected, Barocas says.
Conversely, not every type of lengthy interaction is equally risky, he says. Talking outdoors on the beach on a windy day for longer than 15 minutes with someone who is asymptomatic at the time is going to be less of a risk, he says.
While indoor settings are generally higher risk than outdoor ones, the context is key, Rasmussen says. An indoor bar where people are drinking, which requires unmasking, and possibly shouting to be heard over loud music (thus emitting more particles as they talk) is going to be riskier than a trip to a hair salon where everyone is masked and only a limited number of clients are in the room at the same time.
“I finally got my first pandemic haircut a couple of weeks ago,” Rasmussen notes. “And I was there for two hours.” But she wouldn’t dine indoors, she says, because you can’t eat while wearing a mask.
Rasmussen says because so many variables can influence the risk of transmission, it’s important to focus on doing all the things we know can reduce the risk of infection – wearing a mask, washing your hands, keeping your distance, trying to keep interactions outdoors as much as possible, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. You might not always be able to do all of these things all of the time, she says – but the more of them you can do at once, the more you’ll reduce your risk of infection.
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What is house sitting?
Simply put, house sitting is the practice whereby a home owner, leaving their house for a period of time, entrusts it to one or more “house sitters”, who by a mutual agreement are entitled to live there rent-free in exchange for assuming responsibilities such as taking care of the homeowner’s pets, performing general maintenance etc.
Membership has its privileges! Create your own listing, save Shortlists of favourite listings, search the database, devour our FAQs, set up email alerts, contact home owners…the list goes on.
Why register with MindMyHouse?
House sitters – ever been desperate for some time away but don’t quite know how to raise the funds for holiday accommodation? Or perhaps you’re currently giving all your money to your landlord rather than saving for a house of your own. Join the club. Better still, join this club.
We’re an established global matching service dedicated to bringing house sitters and home owners together online. By searching our database you may be able to find that perfect ‘change of scene’ you’ve been looking for. House sitting can be a free arrangement that benefits all parties. Let us guide you through the process.
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1. Become a member and create your listing
Register, then login to your personal homepage on our site. From here you can create and update your own sitter available listing – instantly. Home owners can then contact you directly.
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Use the sample forms and information in our Advice Centre to help make the whole process run smoothly. Happy house sitting!
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Au Pair Options for Excellent Au Pair Care
If you’re seeking an au pair then GreatAuPair can provide the best au pair options for your family. If you’re a U.S. family and you want a fully vetted and trained au pair to live-in for up to two years, then our Au Pair USA Program is for you. If your family lives outside the U.S. and you want a live-in our live-out au pair, find au pairs seeking live-work opportunities in your country.
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For nearly two decades, we’ve helped millions of host families and au pairs connect in over 150 countries. Whether you’re a U.S. host family seeking a full-time, live-in au pair through our Au Pair USA Program, or perhaps you want a live-out nanny or sitter. Either way, we offer you our experience, knowledge and the very best in matching technology to ensure your specific child care requirements are met. You can find au pairs on your own but the only legal means of obtaining an au pair visa is through a designated agency such as GreatAuPair USA.
What is an au pair?
An Au Pair is a young adult living abroad with a host family who takes care of their children and provides light housekeeping related to the children in exchange for accommodation and a minimum stipend. Au Pairs are treated as part of the family, joining in family meals and activities. Au Pairs often choose to be an Au Pair for the cultural experience and to improve their language skills.
Au Pair vs. Nanny: What’s the difference?
An Au Pair must meet the Au Pair Requirements to participate in a government-sponsored Au Pair Cultural Exchange Program, where local nannies do not. In the U.S., Au Pairs must be between the ages of 18 and 26 with demonstrable childcare experience. Nannies may be much older than Au Pairs. Au Pairs and host families agree to program rules and regulations defined by the government, which are overseen by the Au Pair Agency sponsors. Au Pairs typically don’t make a career out of childcare work as nannies more often do. As such, nannies are generally paid more than au pairs. Au Pairs are seeking a cultural experience and want to be part of the family. The relationship between a nanny and a family is typically more of an employer and employee, not governed by an exchange program.
Be an Au Pair in America!
Being an au pair in America or overseas can be a life-changing, cultural experience. If you are between 18 and 26 years old, have childcare experience, and speak English well, then the Au Pair USA Program may be the right adventure for you. Or, for additional experience, there are au pair jobs available around the world.
See the premium jobs and candidates for quick access to active profiles! Showcase your profile for additional exposure on the home page and in search results.
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Au Pair, Bianca of Enfield, England Reviews GreatAuPair for her Au Pair Job