Cats vs Christmas: What To Do With Your Fussy Feline Over The Holidays · The Wildest

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Cats vs Christmas: What to Do With Your Fussy Feline Over the Holidays

From catteries to cat sitters, we break down your options if you’re going to be away from home

by Ro Elfberg
6 December 2023

Stubborn, hates changes, unwilling to compromise – no, I’m not talking about your latest failed situationship, I’m referring to cats. Despite their many wonderful qualities, the universal truth about cats is that they’re extremely particular. And while this might be manageable in terms of food and litter preferences, it can become slightly more challenging when figuring out what to do with your feline companion when you need to go away.

Whether you’re driving them home for Christmas (Chris Rea soundtrack optional) or travelling on public transport, taking your cat away from their safe space can be a somewhat traumatic experience – one that involves corralling them into a carrier, keeping them calm on the journey, and settling them into a new temporary home.

With Christmas around the corner, it’s time to consider your options for keeping your cat safe and happy if you’re away for the holidays. 

Take them with you

When I suggested to my own parents that I bring my cat, Kobe, with me for a few days over Christmas, I was met with, “But what if he scratches the sofa? He might climb on the counter and smash things! His meowing will keep us up all night.” Cat discrimination at its finest. If you are lucky enough to have willing hosts, then taking your cat with you can be a great option (as long as there aren’t other pets in the house who are going to cause problems for your cat, and vice versa), because as much as they hate to admit it, your cat loves you and will feel the safest in an unfamiliar environment if you’re there to reassure them.

Before you embark on the journey, make sure your cat has had the opportunity to go to the toilet and that they’ve abstained from food for a little while so you won’t have to deal with the absolute horror of them stinking out an entire train carriage if they poo in their carrier. If you’re travelling by car, you should place the cat carrier on the back seat and, if possible, strap it in with the seatbelt. But no matter how much they meow, do not let your cat out the carrier while you’re driving – I don’t think I need to spell out why. 

Cats tend to be quite sensitive to changes in their routine and their surroundings, so to make their staycation as pleasant as possible, ensure you stick to your usual feeding schedule and bring their familiar food bowls, litter box and favourite toys with you – and fill their stocking with plenty of Dreamies, of course. But don’t expect your cat to feel sociable in a new house amid a hectic festive atmosphere: your best bet is to leave them in a safe and quiet room with all their necessities to hand, so they can hide under the bed if they need to or venture out if they’re feeling brave. Feliway diffusers and other calming cat products can help make things more bearable for them, too.

Book them a holiday of their own

There are a growing number of catteries in the UK, from luxury boarding to more budget-friendly options – prices range from £14 per day for one cat up to £45 per day for a luxury spa package if your cat is the high-maintenance type. Cat Haven in London, for example, offers ‘chalets’ (yes, I’m also picturing a chic cat in a fluffy headband sipping hot chocolate after a day on the slopes) with sleeping areas, exercise areas, sun shades and thermostats for optimum cosiness. If you have more than one cat, they can share a larger chalet together, but otherwise you can rest assured your cat will have the privacy and solitude they need to continue their plans for world domination, uninterrupted. If you’re hoping for immunity when these plans come to fruition, you can really spoil your cat by booking them a stay at Cat Tropicana, which offers ‘Pawsecco upon arrival’ and an ‘A-La-Cat menu’. All catteries will also gladly administer medication to your cat if you provide it, and ensure your feline enjoys regular meals and a clean enclosure.

While bidding your cat a tearful farewell and leaving them somewhere unfamiliar can be anxiety-inducing for both of you, knowing your cat is staying in a safe, secure environment with people on hand to tend to their needs can provide much-needed peace of mind while you’re away.

Find a trusted cat sitter

If the idea of leaving your cat in a somewhat confined cattery doesn’t quite appeal, then another option is to take them to stay with a friend, family member or private cat sitter. Your cat will still have to endure the mild discomfort of being in a new environment, but they’ll have the dedicated love and attention of their host (servant), and space to roam around the house. Plus, you can demand regular updates, pictures and videos to help you deal with the separation anxiety. Just make sure whoever is looking after them doesn’t let them outside, otherwise they’re likely to try and find their way home or get lost, and no one wants a Homeward Bound situation on their hands over the holidays. 

Leave them at home

Possibly the least disruptive option if you’re going away is leaving them at home without you for a few days. If you’ve got a reliable food dispenser and a large or self-cleaning litter box, you could in theory leave your cat to their own devices for a day or two, but preferably you’ll want someone to come in and check on them at least once a day.

Cat in a Flat is a great resource for this: you can search for local cat lovers who can let themselves into your place to feed, play with and keep your cat company for a few hours a day. Prices vary from £10–£20 per visit, but many cat sitters are happy to offer discounts for multiple visits per day, and some even offer to stay overnight. Much like a reverse AirBnB, each cat sitter has reviews on their profile, so you can make sure you choose someone who is reliable and trustworthy. Cat in a Flat also strongly recommends organising a meet and greet first so you can get to know your cat sitter and introduce them to your cat and your home. They also provide a complimentary guarantee with all bookings that includes a vet reimbursement of up to £700, a loss of key replacement and payment protection (check the website for more details).

Alternatively, lots of people stay put for Christmas, so perhaps it’s time to call in a favour from a friend or neighbour and ask them to pop in and check on your beloved. If you do want to keep an eye on your cat (and anyone coming into your home) while you’re away, the Google Nest cam allows you to hone in on specific areas of the room and even communicate with your cat – helpful if you want to shout, “Get down from there!” from across the country or check whether your cat has had to set a series of elaborate booby traps to protect your house from the Wet Bandits.

However you decide to tackle the cat vs Christmas challenge, make sure you choose an option that fits your cat’s temperament and creates as little stress as possible for them and for you, so you can focus on what really matters: eating, drinking and falling asleep to Home Alone.  

Ro Elfberg

Ro is The Wildest’s Senior Editor. She has previously written and copy-edited for British Vogue, Glamour and DICE. When she’s not being manipulated into dishing out Dreamies to Kobe the cat, she spends her free time trying to convince her snake, Butters, to wear a tiny hat.

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