Pet Sitter or Pet Boarding?

Updated on June 20, 2011
T.C. asks from Round Rock, TX
14 answers

We're going on a summer vacation vacation and trying to decide whether to board our cat or use a pet sitter with it in our house or keep it outdoors.

Last year when we went on a long vacation(driving from TX to CA) we kept our cat at home. I had my FIL feed the cat in the morning, and a neighbor check on it once in awhile in the evening. It disappeared a few days before we got back, got bitten by something, resulting in weeks of recovery, vet bills, etc.

As an outdoor cat, we're not sure how it would react to being in a small cage for a couple of weeks. It's barely learned how to use a litterbox. An there's the cost of boarding. If I keep it outdoors, someone will have to feed it every day. This year, FIL doesn't want to do it because he's mad at us for something unrelated. We can't use an automatic feeder outdoors because or fire ants and other animals. The cat hasn't been wandering much lately, and it does have enough shelter on the front porch and the backyard with trees. If we keep the cat in the house, we could use an automatic food and water bowl, with someone checking on it every couple of days. But it might use the furniture as a litterbox.

What should I do?

To answer some questions: it is a male cat. Last year we had to keep it indoors a few days after surgery on the infected bite(we also had it neutered at the same time). It didn't like being stuck indoors and escaped out a 2nd floor window. it would not use the litterbox, but would go on a towel on the floor. Then we tried a box of leaves. A couple months later after visiting kittens used the litter box it finally seemed to get it. But it has peed in the laundry and beds a couple times since then.

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So What Happened?

The cat did great staying inside the house. We took away the rugs and closed the baby gate at the stairs. The neighbor and my FIL each came twice a week to refill the food and water bowl. The only problem was that they did not clean the litterbox! I'm not mad at my neighbor or FIL, just a bit sad and puzzled why they would let the cat use the same box for 2 weeks. I set out 2(a regular one plus a disposable one), with a bag of litter and 2 spare disposable ones they could have opened, and they could have called me if there was a problem. The cat kept using its favorite box, wouldn't touch the disposable box, and missed a few times. Even so, the cat was still happier and safer being inside the house while we were gone.

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answers from Columbus on

I really think you should hire a pet-sitting service. It is hard enough on many indoor cats who are used to being indoors, for them to be boarded---it would probably be a miserable, traumatic experience for this cat, who is an outdoor cat.

If you don't have a good friend or neighbor you can ask, hire a pet-sitter, and just explain the circumstances to him/her about the cat's personality and background.

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answers from Chicago on

With any pet, esp. with cats, it's better for them to be in their own environment. Cats don't really have to be litter box trained - pretty much from day 1 they use the litter box unless 1) they can't find it, or 2) they have a medical condition like bladder stones causing pain when they urinate...going outside the litter box in that situation is a way to tell you what's going on. If possible, I'd leave the cat in your house, with the auto feeder & water, and have someone check on him/her. Leave 2 litter boxes in easy-to-find places.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Is there a way you can find a pet sitter to watch it inside your house? I had an indoor/outdoor cat (she was mostly outside), and that is what we didn't when we went on vacation. We kept her inside, because it is better than a cage. Can it just use the litter box as a litter box?

If not, I'd take her to a place that doesn't use cages, but rooms instead (yes, more pricey)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

I would keep the cat at home, much less stressful for him. They instinctively want to use a litter box. Any way you can bring him in for a few days before you leave and see how he does. Even keep him in a bathroom overnight and see if he uses it. I think he will. If he does just keep him the house while you are gone with a self feeder and waterer, but have someone check on him every few days. Also leave a back up bowl of water just in case. Keep your bedroom doors closed or close him off in the basement while you are gone.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Biloxi on

What about leaving it in one room of your house, preferably one with a window that it could sit in.

Begin getting it used to that room now, with a litter pan.

It should be fine.

I have always had cats, though always indoor pets, and they do very well when we are gone with an extra litter pan and auto food and water.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

We have used pet sitters. Do you know any high school age kids who like to do this? We pay neighbors $5 per visit and they seem happy with that. Much cheaper than a professional pet sitter. We also have male cats. When I did use a professional pet sitter, I had her come every 2 days and she was ok with that. I kept the cat in the laundry room with tile floor, so he could not damage anything else in the house while we were gone. A bathroom would work, too. (put the litter box in the tub and cover the drain so litter does not clog it up). Make sure the cat has a soft bed to sleep on and plenty of water. Many cats who do their business outside don't like litter boxes, but if the litter is kept clean, he might be able to adjust.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

We have always had a college student or a friend stay at the house to take care of the animals, 2 cats and 2 dogs, now just 2 dogs. The dogs love all the attention they get and the time spent inside during the day...they sleep outside at night. The house also has an occupied look. The mail and newspaper are brought in daily, so there is no piling up. And any watering that needs to be done, is taken care of. Our latest sitter reminds me that she is still willing to stay for our vacation, and she even plans her time around our time.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I wouldn't leave him alone outside while I was gone for a long period. Too many things can go wrong. If you do decide to bring him in, warn the person coming in to check on him that he may try to slip outside. My mom's cat loved the outdoors and when I would go over to feed her my mom would leave a squirt bottle outside the door so I could squirt her before she scooted out the door. Once she got out, it would be a long time before I would get her back in. My aunt has primarily outdoor cats and when she is gone long periods she will bring them into her screened in porch.

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answers from San Antonio on

Got any reliable teenagers around to watch it at home?

In our area, kids watch pets a bunch around here. Two yrs ago when we traveled, we boarded our indoor-outdoor cat. She caught some kind of virus and coughed badly, ran a fever & needed meds for 2 weeks.

Last yr, we hired someone, and she was in and out several times with the 15 yr old girl who watched her. She seemed much happier being at home.



answers from Beaumont on

I would find a reliable person to feed him. We pet sit for family/neighbors all the time. Just make sure that person knows what/what not to do so he doesn't get out of the routine you've established. I'd also make sure the cat is as comfortable as possible with this person. Pets are always more comfortable at home if at all possible. Enjoy your vacation!


answers from Las Vegas on

Is he/she litter box trained? How long until your vacation? Maybe you should transition your cat inside before the vacation and have someone who will check on your kitty. If not, just talk yourself through it and go with a boarding place that keeps the kitties in rooms so he/she is not trapped in a cage. My 3 year old cat was an outdoor cat and he'd scratch on the door when he wanted to come inside. But when I moved the neighborhood wasn't so driver cautious so I transitioned him to an inside cat.
Just out of curiosity, what gender is the cat?


answers from Tampa on

If you will be gone longer than 3 days - go to a boarder. Seems you don't have luck with him outside completely or indoors completely and unless you have a LARGE comfortable room to keep him in - with food, water, bed and litterbox - which the neighbor can come once a day... then it's a bit cruel to leave him outside.



answers from Waco on

We almost always use a pet sitter. We pay $15/day. Our petsitter checks on our pets 3 times a day, feeds them, makes sure they have plenty of water, checks the mail, picks up the paper, etc. We've boarded our pets before, but it's always more stressful on the animals, I think. When you use a petsitter, the animals get to remain in the environment they are familiar with.



answers from Nashville on

yikes, picky cat. I would consider keeping him in the garage and having someone check on him. I kept our old cat in a kennel one time and when we picked her up, she sprayed me so was so mad. From then on we had a pet sitter some into our home but she was an indoor only cat. We now have an indoor/outdoor and have only had her a month so you bring up a good question we will have to deal with at some point. She does not like to stay in, she literally wants to be outside all day and inside at night. I wonder if it would make her mad if we had someone watch her. We also have a dog and what we usually do for her is have my MIL come and stay in our home. That way the animals get to stay in their own home and have their normal schedule. Maybe there is a neighbor or a teenager neighbor that you could trust to come in and feed the cat and check on it? I would say the garage in case there are messes. You could leave the dish of food outside but other animals could eat it, bugs could get in it, etc If not the garage, is there a room or bathroom you could keep him in for easy clean up? Does he sleep outside every night? If so, leaving him out could be an easy option. Our cat sleeps indoors so I wouldn't want to leave her out for our entire vacation.

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