Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Cat doesn't like the pet sitter? Here's how to help

Popoki the cat may look bold, but she is really shy
Shy cats like Popoki don't always take a shine to their pet sitters. And I suppose I don't blame them. Typically, a pet sitter is around for just a few days at a time--which really doesn't give a cat a chance to test that person for safety and cattitude. To shy cats, a sitter is simply an intruder to be avoided. And thankfully, most sitters know that.

But, just because shy cats can be understood doesn't mean shy cat people can't help when they're planning to go out of town. In fact, there's a lot shy cat stewards can do to ensure that the trip goes well both for the cat and the pet sitter.

Here's what I tried over Thanksgiving.

1. A plethora of treats

When people meet Popoki for the very first time, she likes to keep a great deal of distance between her body and the intruder's body. So meet and greets often start off with this huge bubble of space around the kitty.

Shy cat Popoki keeping her distance

It's hard to touch her when she's off in the distance like this.

But, Popoki can quickly become friendly when she thinks there's a treat involved. Before my trips, I stock up on her favorite munchies, and I keep them out of her reach. Sometimes, just rattling the bag will send her running. The hope is to help her approach the sitter, even once, so the whole ordeal seems less stressful to her.

2. Interactive toys 

Popoki does engage in self-directed play from time to time. But she really goes crazy for laser toys and pole toys. And, those toys require a human's help. Placing a few of these items within the reach of her pet sitter could, in theory, entice her to do a little playing with a new person. That physical activity could help her to burn a few calories, and it could help her beat back boredom. Plus, it's a bonding activity. Everybody wins!

3. Realistic instructions

There are all sorts of things I do every day for Popoki that I would love for a cat sitter to do. For example, she needs regular eye/face care in order to stay healthy. And, I am a big believer in daily tooth brushing for cats. But, chances are, Popoki is not going to allow a stranger to do these things to her.

Popoki the shy cat looks a little worried

She looks at me like this when I try to handle her grooming every day. I can't imagine what she might do to a stranger.

So while I outlined how I care for Popoki every day on the instructions to the sitter, I also made it clear that some steps she might or might not tolerate. That way, when I came home and heard that Popoki wouldn't allow for any kind of grooming, I wasn't surprised. And my pet sitter didn't feel obligated to go to extremes (and ruin their nascent bond) by forcing the kitty to do things she wasn't ready to do.

Every time Popoki spends a weekend under the care of the same pet sitter, she will get more confident and comfortable. But still. These tips do help to smooth things. I hope they help you, too!

And remember: Popoki is on Instagram! Follow along! 


  1. A good post with some great advice...I'll make sure my wife reads as she is about to start offering some pet sitting over here in the UK.

  2. Hi! Great article! Popoki sure is a cutie. Annie is also on Instagram (anniedabear) We will follow you!