Where to Leave Your Cat

Professional pet sitters and upscale boarding facilities pamper your cat while you're away.

By Andee Joyce

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One sitter who's always busy is Heidi Kistler, who runs The Pawsitively Pampered Pet sitter service in San Francisco. Named Pet Sitter of the Year for 1999 by Pet Sitters International (PSI), based in King, N.C., Kistler employs eight sitters, including herself, who spend about half an hour in each home they visit. Her agency charges $14 a visit for one to three cats, including feeding, water changes, litter scooping, giving medications and anything else they can fit in during the half hour visit. "Some people charge more per visit if they have to give [medications]," Kistler says. "If I can do it within the half hour, I just do it."

Kistler recommends getting three or four client references from a potential sitter and checking them, as well as asking for proof of NAPPS or PSI membership and insurance specifically for pet sitting. Veterinarians can be a good source of referral, she says, and so can the Yellow Pages. "You have to be a pretty substantial business [afford to be listed] in there." In the end, however, Kistler believes a person can rely on gut instinct when choosing a pet sitter. "If you have any weird feelings, find another sitter."

Like many reputable pet sitters, Kistler and her crew are booked far in advance, giving first priority to existing clients. The Pawsitively Pampered Pet requires booking at least one week ahead of time, and two or three weeks ahead of time during popular vacation times. "In December, I don't take on anyone new," she says.

Kitty Camp
If you think your cat would be miserable alone in the house, and the thought of a kitty rampage in your absence sounds unappealing, consider a boarding facility. More facilities are offering services such as playtime, day care and are paying individual attention to each animal, says the American Boarding Kennel Association (ABKA) in Colorado Springs, Colo. The cost is similar to that of hiring a pet sitter, although a cattery will require your cat be up-to-date on vaccinations and free of airborne-communicable diseases, such as feline infectious peritonitis.

San Francisco's Pet Camp is one facility that reflects the special-care trend. Cats are housed in a separate area from dogs, and classical music is piped into the cats' area. All of the cages are equipped with the cats' favorite toys, blankets and food and overlook a large picture window with a view of wildflowers in the summer. An aquarium offers an alternative to the outdoor view. Multiple-cat families can reserve adjoining cages so the cats can play or snuggle together. Employees address each cat by name and play with them frequently. Best of all, each cat is allowed an hour a day to roam around the room outside of its cage, under a technician's supervision. "They can be petted, play with the toys, harass the fish, do whatever they want," says Mark Klaiman, senior counselor for Pet Camp.

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Lynne    Houston, TX

6/10/2010 9:34:08 AM

My best friend has 6 cats that get mad at her whenever she goes out of town. They pee all over the house. She has a sitter she has used for years that the cats now and love but this does not seem to make them less made at their Mom. She is considering a week away and letting them stay a Catnip Inn. At lease she would not come home to the smell and they are not happy at home. Would this be a better solution for her and the cats?

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