Having pets and going travelling: surely in 2022 we don’t have to choose between one or the other?

As a besotted cat owner myself, I know the rush of feelings that come with wanting to jet off on your travels: the guilt, the worry, the panic – and also just the fear that your cats are going to hate you so much when you get back they’ll move out.

I have 2 ginger cats called Jim (bottom left) and Ralph (bottom right), who are the absolute loves of my life. As I work from home a lot of the time, they’re used to having the run of our flat. I feed them at set times every day, and I’m on hand for regular cuddles when they need them. In short, they’re used to having constant company and the freedom to do what they want, when they want.

Photos of my ginger cats: Jim, left, is ginger with white paws and a white belly. He's sitting inside his little play tunnel. Ralph, who's all ginger, is pictured staring into the camera.

All of this means that I can feel the guilt pretty badly when I go away – but as hard as it is, I know I can’t let that guilt stop me from getting out there and seeing the world. And neither can you. Life is too short!

Things to consider before you travel

There are many different things to consider before you decide what to do with your cats when you travel. A few things I encourage everyone to ask themselves are:

  • What is your cat like? For example, are they quite chilled, or can they be nervous around others?
  • Does your cat need regular medication?
  • Is your cat an indoor or outdoor cat? If they’re used to going outside, how do they cope with being kept indoors?
  • How does your cat deal with being taken out of their own environment?
  • How sociable is your cat?
  • How long are you going away for?
  • How secure is your house and the area around it?
  • Do you have a friend or neighbour nearby that you can trust?

Your options: what to do with your cats when you travel

Every cat is different and so is everyone’s situation. The most important thing to consider (alongside any health needs your kitty has) is to bear your cat’s temperament in mind – this will often give you a good indicator of what’s the best option for them.

1. Take them to a cattery

Pros: Your cats are constantly looked after. Regular food, too!
Cons: Unfamiliar surroundings, cooped up, and it can be stressful.

A lot of people take their cats to catteries, and a lot of cats are very happy with this option. After all, your pet will be looked after round the clock, there will be someone keeping an eye on them constantly, and there are some incredibly fancy catteries available all over the world (check out the 5* Longcroft boutique cat hotels to see what I mean!)

However, catteries aren’t always the cheapest option – or the best idea for cats that are quite skittish. If your cat likes its own environment and needs lots of room to run around in, they might find the cattery experience a little stressful.

2. Have a neighbour feed them

Pros: Cats get to stay in their familiar environment, and they’re looked after by someone they know. Plus it can be free.
Cons: You can feel a bit of a pain asking your neighbours, especially if you go away frequently. Also, not much use if you’ve just moved and don’t know your neighbours…

Asking a neighbour, or a friend nearby, to pop in and check on your cat while you’re away can be an easy way to get around other, more costly options. You might want to offer your neighbour a little bit of cash as a thank you – or they might even have their own pet you can offer to care for while they’re on holiday!

Your cat gets to stay in its familiar surroundings, and (hopefully) has already formed a bond with the person coming to feed them every day.

This can be a great option if you’re going away for a few days. Any longer than that, and you may start to feel like you’re taking advantage of your friends…

3. Have a cat sitter come round to feed them.

Pros: Cats get to stay in their familiar environment.
Cons: Might only get 1 visit a day, plus it can be expensive.

A cat sitter is a happy medium between sending your cat off to a cattery and asking a neighbour to feed them.

A cat sitter is usually someone who’ll pop by your house every day (usually once or twice), and spends a little bit of time with your cat before giving them food. The upside to this is cats get to stay at home, and your cat sitter will often also offer additional services around the house – for example watering plants or closing your curtains to make it look like someone’s home.

The downsides? The cost can add up quickly, especially if you’re going away for a week or more. If your cat sitter only pops around for a short period of time, you might also want to keep your cats indoors so they don’t disappear (especially important if you don’t have a cat flap!)

4. Have someone stay round constantly.

Pros: Cats have constant attention.
Cons: Expensive!

If your cat can’t have you, I’m sure they would settle for the next best thing – someone else who will take care of their needs throughout the day and night. Having someone stay for the duration of your travel can be extra reassuring, as you know your cat’s stress levels are being kept to a minimum. They’ll have someone there for company, as well as someone to bug for more food!

Again, the downside to this option is that it can be quite expensive. But, with websites such as Trusted Housesitters and Cat in a Flat, it’s never been easier (or cheaper) to find someone.

5. Take your cat with you.

Pros: Your cat gets an adventure and you don’t have to worry about them missing you!
Cons: It takes a very very very specific type of cat to be ok with being carted around. Plus not to mention the costs involved and the fact they may have to endure a stay in quarantine (depending on which country you go to).

This one would obviously be my preference but there is absolutely no way in hell my cats would be ok with travelling abroad… They can’t even be picked up and carried down the hallway without having a screaming fit!

The main things to remember…

It IS possible to have cats and still travel – it just requires a little bit more organisation! Start planning way in advance so you have a better chance of finding something you’re happy with.

Above all, remember that happy owners equal happy cats. Book that holiday to Greece, get researching that month-long trip around Thailand, and start looking up flights to that bucket list destination. Your cats will be overjoyed to see you when you return (and they always make the reality of coming home after a wonderful holiday all the less painful!)