Thursday, May 14, 2015

Caring for a Pet Remotely

Mama Kitty

I have alluded to the fact that we are caring for my mom's  cat while Mom is recovering from her surgery, which happened in 2014. Mom's dogs are with a sitter, as caring for a dog remotely is just not possible. By "remotely", I don't mean I'm using any funky tech to spy on the cat from a distance and operate computers that feed her and let her out.  What I mean is that I care from her from a distance.  We travel to my mom's once a week--which Mom said she wanted, whether the cat was there or not--to check on the cat, give her company, and of course replenish her food and water.

When the pet sitter first suggested this, I was kind of horrified, to be honest.  I could not imagine leaving an animal by him/herself for days at a time.  There is so much that can go wrong.  We talked about it at length, though, and she told me the story of a cat her family had had when she was younger.  The cat lived at a second home, which they visited once a week, and she said the cat was fine.  She also told me that she felt Mama would be happier at home, stating that when she takes Mama to stay with her, Mama hides a lot.  This is someone we've trusted with Mom's pets for years, so I took what she said to heart.  It has worked out fine.

Though Mama is overweight, the only way we can keep her fed throughout the week is with dry food.  She recently went to the vet--I take her fairly regularly--and her blood work is fine.  We'd like her to lose weight, but we'll be able to manage that more easily when someone is back living at the house with her.   In the meantime, I make sure she has toys and room to run around.  (It's a big house.  There is plenty of room !)

When we get there, the first thing I do is take up her food.  Most of the time, we just stay over one night, so the food gets put away until we leave.  She gets a small amount of wet food that night and then when we leave, as a treat.  Since the house is in the country and Mama never ventures far, when we get there, we let her out.  Depending on the weather, she sometimes stays out for hours.  There's not much more we can do for her, since we don't live there.  I just watch her weight and check her for any signs of illness or distress when we get there each week.

Her water is changed and the bowls washed every visit.  The bowls for both her food and her water are all large enough that there's no danger of her running out.  I've been talking with a neighbor about leaving her one of the garage door openers in case we can't get there on time, too.  We are still trying to work that out.

We have had very few problems with her.  Lately, she has started soiling, so I'm going to monitor that and take her back to the vet if needed.  I suspect it's just because we can only clean her boxes when we visit, so she probably does not like that they are not clean all the time.  I'm hoping that's all it is.

We are hoping that this situation will be remedied soon.  I'm working with the nursing home to find out when Mom can go home, so we can get Mama on a more stable schedule with more company and more activity in her day.

Overall, she is a happy cat, and I always make sure the house is safe for her before we leave.  When you have a situation like this, it's really the best you can do.  I absolutely do not recommend leaving a cat for more than a week at a time!  Most times, we're only gone 5-6 days, really.

Before leaving an animal, always talk to your vet and a trusted pet sitter, if you have one.  How successful this arrangement will be depends heavily on the health and personality of the animal in question, and like I said before, you really can't leave a dog for more than a day or two.  If you decide to do this, have the animal thoroughly checked out by your vet first, and always have a backup plan/a neighbor with an extra key or something.  My own preference is to hire a sitter to come in once or twice a day, but in this case, we were unable to do so.

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