Cat Sitting: What Could Go Wrong?


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Getting to enjoy someone else’s cat without the responsibility of ownership, doing a friend a favor while they’re out of town … cat sitting is a win-win, right? It sounds simple, but I’m here to tell you, lots can go wrong when you’re watching other people’s cats. It’s a huge responsibility to keep a cat safe, fed, hydrated, and happy. Add to that administering medicine, cleaning up after cats with “delicate stomachs,” and keeping track of hiders, and it can be just short of a nightmare.

Digestive Issues

I watch a cat with some major digestive issues. He can’t keep much down, and what stays down comes out explosively, starting on the wall at the back of the cat box and finishing in a sickly spray across the floor next to the cat box. Three times a day, I have to arm myself with a strong fan, gloves, a mask, swim goggles, disinfectant, and some cat-friendly wipes for cleaning his nether regions. It is truly hazardous waste, and I should probably invest in a yellow suit.

And, naturally, his veterinarian prescribes medication to help alleviate this problem. His instructions: “Draw medicine into syringe, slip into side of cat’s cheek, then gently plunge medicine down throat. All while holding cat firmly but with featherlike touch.” Honestly, the wrestling match that has to happen before the single drop of medicine makes it inside this cat doesn’t seem worth the emotional trauma it causes both of us. And guess what the cat does next time he hears me slip the key in the front door?

I’ll tell you what he does—he hides. A lot of shy cats hide from strangers, and it can strike terror in the heart of a cat sitter to walk into a silent house where nothing is stirring. Lucky for me, the eyewatering odor from the cat box tells me he’s here somewhere, as do the bits of food scattered about the kitchen. But where?

Getting In Is the Easy Part

I once spent a solid hour searching this cat’s house, panicked, feeling like a criminal, and peering into places I was never meant to go. I was convinced he’d somehow gotten out and I would now be responsible for his certain death.

Finally, I noticed a dresser drawer left ajar, so I pulled on it to remove it from the dresser. It didn’t come out. Some sort of mechanism locked the drawer in place—it opened but couldn’t be removed. My heart sank when I heard the first small meow. The cat had gone into the open drawer, climbed over the edge and dropped down into the drawer below. So I couldn’t close the open drawer without decapitating him, but I couldn’t pull out the drawer he was in unless he ducked his head to clear the drawer above. After another half hour of grappling with the cat and drawer, I started to remove the back panel of the dresser with a screwdriver I found in the garage while searching for the cat.

Thankfully, I was only two screws in when one paw, one ear, and half a head appeared at the bottom of the dresser. I lifted up the heavy dresser, hoping he could maneuver the rest of the way out. After much scrabbling and every last ounce my strength, I saw him streak out of the bedroom, off to some dark place where he hid for the remainder of his owner’s vacation.

Eyes Wide Open

Cat sitting might sound like the perfect way to get your cat fix without owning one, but don’t go into it without understanding the unimaginable predicaments you can get into when you’re caring for a cat that isn’t yours. Expect the unexpected, and be sure you’re fully committed and available to do whatever it takes to care for—and hopefully enjoy—the precious little furball you’re being entrusted with. And don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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