Worried Cat Mommy

by a reader

Hello Doctor!

This past weekend, my husband and I went out of town for a couple days (Friday afternoon - Sunday evening around 6pm) and we made a horrible mistake.

Our neighbor girl was supposed to come over and feed the cats (ages 4 and 3), change the water and play with them. Come to find out when we got home that we accidentally left our screen door locked and the girl could not get in the house.

So the cats went without food from about 3:30 Friday afternoon 'til about 5:45 Sunday night! They still had water and I always make sure the toilet boil is clean with fresh water just in case of such an emergency.

They seem fine, but I'm still worried. Did we traumatize our kitties with this horrible mistake? I feel sick about it!

When we got home, they were very hungry and I fed them, but at the time, I didn't know what had happened so I only gave them a portion and a half (little less than half a cup of food a piece) plus some treats.

I don't know how I forgot to check the door before we left, but it happened. Please tell me that we didn't make the cats frightened to be alone for the rest of their lives. We'd take them with us everywhere if they liked the car better, but they are VERY upset in the car.

Any information you can give me on the matter would be most appreciated. As I say, both the neighbor girl, my husband and I are very upset over this.

Thank you SO much and have a great day!

Dear Worried Cat Mommy,

Stop Worrying! You obviously are a very loving, caring cat owner and a very human mistake was made and your cats are no worse for the wear. They were not traumatized, just a little hungry!!

There will be no long-lasting effects from this.

They will not equate what happened with you or the sitter.

They will not associate you leaving next time with a one-time shortage of food.

They will not remember the incident.

They will not blame you.

They will not fear you or the sitter.

They will not fear your going away.

They would be more traumatized by riding in the car and going to a strange place than they would be at home even if they could remember!

Be happy they are fine and simply learn from your mistake. When I go away, after my family is out of the house and in the car, I go back in to do a complete inspection of the entire house before locking up.

It's inevitable that as I do that last walk around, I find someone left a door open that should be closed or closed a door that should be open, etc. If necessary, make a checklist of things to do for the cats before you leave including check the doors.

One absolutely essential thing is to always leave your sitter a phone number where you can be reached. Also, always leave the number of a vet in case of an emergency. I always leave an extra bowl of food and extra bowl of water just in case the sitter doesn't make it in one day for some reason. I'd rather leave too much than not enough.

No harm done and thank you for sharing your story. It's this kind of sharing that helps us all learn from each other and avoid future mistakes.

Thank you! Relax and enjoy your precious kitties!
Dr. Neely

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