Cat misbehaves with pet sitter

Hi there. We have a wonderful, patient sitter who has shared with us that one of our two cats has become very mischievous during the past couple of sits. He’s a two-year-old domestic short-hair that we have raised as a kitten. He’s very intelligent, curious and loving. But when we go away, he jumps on counters, breaks into his treat box, escapes over the fence, climbs on the roof – things he never does when we’re home. Other than an adjusted morning feeding time (we feed him wet stuff at 6 a.m. whereas the sitter rises about 8 or so), nothing is changed. She’s home most of the time, she plays with both cats, and she has loads of experience with all kinds of animals.
I feel so bad for the work he’s causing her (She’s not complaining; she’s just informing us). This is probably his way of telling us he’s not happy we’re leaving him. But he even started escaping over the fence when we got home from our recent trip too. He may be punishing us, but I think he’s also got some wanderlust. He now wears a harness and is leashed when outside (although he’s broken out of that too.) We could leave him inside forevermore, but that would break his spirit. We will get a tracking collar when we get home.
Just wondering if anyone has any tips or advice. Could this be a stage he’ll grow out of? We are already limiting our holidays because of him, but we do like to take one- to two-week trips a few times a year.
Thanks in advance.

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I’m watching a cat right now that was raised to be an indoor cat but the homeowner said when they moved to the new house, it learned to get out of the catio enclosure. She said she tried many times to prevent this but gave up. Now it escapes everyday and comes back for dinner. She told me while in my care, she will not hold me responsible if he doesn’t come home for whatever reason.


Your cat might have wanderlust, plus might be enjoying catching creatures while outdoors. Compared with such adventures, it would be hard for many cats to enjoy staying indoors only.

I’ve sat cats that were indoors / outdoors, as well as indoors only. The cats that were indoors / outdoors seemed happy to come home and enjoyed being petted and socializing (and being fed and getting treats), but clearly loved being outdoors as well. They’d sit by doors and meow to be let out.

Personally, I was happy to let them come and go (though their humans wanted them indoors at night). I had one scare when one cat stayed out, but he came back early the next morning. And at another sit, the humans seemed nonchalant — I asked what to do if he didn’t return in the evening, and they said, it was what it is. I took that to mean that they were confident he’d eventually return.

Is he neutered? That can affect to how far he will go.

Cats are also super sensitive for any changes, some more so than others. You travelling is a big change in his routine and brings stress, even if he knows the sitter well. Also, the change in the feeding time can play a role here.

I can’t give advice re your cat’s changed behaviour as have never experienced that but at my last sit I had two cats who had an amazing cat run. I don’t know if that’s something you could set up? During the day they had a normal cat flap but when they had their dinner (at 5.30pm) they were kept in. They could access their cat run (day or night) from the top bunk of bunk beds where their beds were. This led to a large screened off area where they could sit and/or do their business. I thought it was quite amazing and worked really well. Hopefully you get an idea from theses pics


Hi @RobS,
As someone that has had/looked after/sat for over 50 cats, some can notice change and rebel. Our first family pet (a cat called Sam) would often disappear for days when my grandad looked after him during our holidays.
My brothers cats started marking inside when my nephew was born (they are sisters and 6 years old at the time).
Maybe you could tempt him to stay around with new treats or toys to be played with?

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Hi @Smiley. That looks amazing. Not seen one this detailed before. Bet the cats loved it?

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@RobS Cats are masters at hiding how they feel. Certainly could be he is acting out because he misses his normal morning feeding and you. We recently had an incident with our cat while a sitter was here. We took our cat to the vet and hd a thorough exam with mulitple tests done. Nothing medically wrong & vet says our cat is stressed when we leave which is why he acted out. Our vet had us do 2 things that you could discuss with your vet. One is we added a product called Calming Care by Purina (it is a single strain of a probiotic - we gave daily for 2 weeks and now every other day). Second we are going to have future sitters give him (1) gabapentin once a week starting with the day the sitter arrives.
Gabapentin relaxes your cat, you just have to play with the dosage to make sure you aren’t just making your cat sleepy. We’ve used it a couple of times during thunderstorms and it works well.

We are gone for 4 weeks this fall, so time will tell. I too had feared we wouldn’t be able to travel as much if this continues. Highly suggest you discuss the behavior issues with your vet, wishing you the best of luck!
On final question, is he neutered?

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Cats are generally known for acting out when displeased, for various reasons, even when their owners aren’t traveling. Many folks know that even if they’ve never owned or sat a cat, because people often joke about such behaviors. There are cartoons and memes to that effect on social media. And so on.

That’s why for instance I don’t leave my baggage, shoes and other belongings laid out where a cat could damage, pee or poo while I’m on a sit, LOL.

But apart from acting out, a young cat that’s been raised indoors only might also be testing limits and enjoying new adventures. Some outdoor cats weren’t originally raised that way — they started getting freedom and their humans start feeling more at ease with that over time. Many cats relish outdoor time, which is why many humans get or build them catios.

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Wish I had advice… In the US, cats I’ve sat have been indoor only or access to a catio but not allowed to roam freely. On one of my earliest sits, the cats were confined to the master bedroom and the catio. I would see them when I had the dogs out but otherwise when I’d go into ‘their’ room they would hide under the bed. I knew they were around because the litterbox needed cleaning and the bowl refilling.
In Australia, the cats have been indoor or indoor and catio only.
In the UK the cats have been indoor/outdoor - mostly with catflaps although I tried to make sure they were inside at night. A cat in Worcester would accompany me when I took one of the dogs on walks - but only the dog who needed to be on lead for walks. When I’d walk the off-lead dog or go to the grocery on my own the cat stayed home. Cats just seem so much more willful.

Thank you for these suggestions! I will definitely look into those options and other possible relaxants and discuss with our vet. Much appreciated. And yes, he’s neutered. My husband thought that would calm him down. Nope. He definitely has his mellow moments, but he’s discovered the big wide world out there, and he wants a piece of it.

Thanks for the pics and suggestion! Our backyard wouldn’t really be able to accommodate something like this. We tried using a lot of deer fencing, but he still found ways to climb the trees and fencing. He breaks out of his harness, and he ditches his collars, which rules out a tracking device like Tractive. He is tattooed, so I may have to live with the uncertainty of his whereabouts and hope that if he gets lost, someone will take him to a vet for identification.

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Yes, that’s my thinking as well. We’ve had the same sitter come for the last few mini breaks, and she says they get along well. But when we’re home, Mick jumps on my husband’s chest for a nightly snuggle (even though I’m the one who feeds him and plies him with treats!) so he’s likely missing that too.
Yes, he’s neutered.

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The change in your cat’s behavior is natural. He’s not sending you any message other than, “I wanna go out and explore.” The decision you need to make is how comfortable you are with this new arrangement. Any vet will tell you that outdoor kitties don’t live as long. You can mitigate some but not all dangers. One thing you could try, though it’s expensive, would be adding a cat fence. These are fences or fence tops that curve inward.