A Guide to Cat Sitting for Beginners

If you are cat sitting for the first time, you may be excited, nervous or completely clueless as to what to expect when watching your new cat pal. Cats can be, well, intimidating. They have major cattidude, and do not suffer fools gladly. But that is also part of their kitty charm.

Cat between owner's feet looks up at camera
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I recently volunteered to cat sit for a good friend and found myself face to face with her two genius felines who were utterly amused at my attempt to amuse them.

As a lifelong dog owner, how I wished I had a guide to cat sitting back then! Luckily, we've created this cat sitting 101 for new cat sitters and veterans alike!

Lesson 1: Have a “Pow Meow” before the cat’s owner leaves

You will want to get a feel for your new kitty friend, his likes, dislikes, habits and idiosyncrasies. This is also your chance to ask about any medical problems and the tasks that are expected of you, and to get a feel for your way around the home. This way you are on the same page with the cat owner before he goes out of town and is not able to answer any of your questions in person.

Lesson 2: Don't expect constant playtime

When I first arrived at my friend's apartment, I had no idea what to do with myself or the cats. I thought we would play, and maybe watch Netflix for a little bit? But they were seriously uninterested in me or anything else. So I went into their toy basket and tried to throw a ball around, but I soon found out that cats do not play fetch. At least not the ones I was watching. The lesson here: cats may want to be left alone for much of the day, and that's okay. (That said, cats should have some playtime each day. Ask the cat's owner how much playtime their cats generally like!)

Portrait of cat
credit: Sarah Yard / 500px/500px/GettyImages

Lesson 3: Cats can vomit...a lot

So here's the thing, unless the cat owner has an automatic feeder, cats can overeat when their owner is out of town. This can lead to vomiting – and lots of it (oh joy!). If your friend does not have an automatic feeder, be sure to stop by more frequently so that you can feed his or her cat in smaller amounts. You do not want to be cleaning up "special gifts" left for you all over the house.

Lesson 4: Don't feel guilty for leaving

Don't. As a dog owner, and general emotion-feeling human, it may feel weird to leave a cat alone overnight. Don't feel bad. Cats are different from dogs or humans and generally do not need the same types of attention. If you are dealing with a cat who does, then speak with his owner beforehand about how you can properly tend to his needs.

Lesson 5: Don’t let the cat escape

Besides feeding the cat, and possibly changing the litter box, this is your one and only job. Do not let your cat escape. Be mindful of doors and windows and ask the owner beforehand if the cat has any secret tricks for getting outside. If the cat is allowed outdoors, be sure to keep a watchful eye on him while he does his thing (and ask his owner for the specifics on his care and keeping).

Cute bengal funny cat playing
credit: Ingus Kruklitis/iStock/GettyImages

Lesson 6: Be sure to send a few photos!

Update the cat's owner with a few photos of her cat each day. That being said, don't go overboard and document the cat's every move, but a photo here and there will keep the cat's owner feeling confident that her cat is happy, safe and in good hands!