I've been silent for quite some time. To my readers, if I have any (highly unlikely at this point), I apologize. Work got crazy, traveling got crazy, and I neglected the blog.
I'm back and ready to get going again, though. Frustration of the week: cat care! When I was away on my recent research trip, my cat had a meltdown. This was brought about by my cat-sitter, who completely blew off the job and didn't show up at the house. The cat was locked inside for almost three days, until I got worried (because I couldn't get ahold of the cat sitter--I kept calling my home phone and her cell and there was no answer). I asked my landlord to check on the cat, and sure enough, she was out of food and nearly out of water.
As soon as my landlord opened the door, the cat shot straight out of the house and onto the neighbor's roof. She doesn't like being locked inside, and she must have made up her mind not to return to the house until I came home. So my landlord put the food and water outside (I'm very grateful for his help). I managed to arrange another cat sitter, but at no point was he able to convince the cat to come in the house. This was a problem, because I usually bring her inside at night--I don't want her tangling with the raccoons.
I found out all this business about the cat refusing to come inside only a few days before I came home. My replacement cat sitter didn't bother to let me know what was going on (you'd think, since I was paying him $200, that he could have at least let me know what was going on!). He thought everything was fine, and there was no problem, because it looked like the cat was eating. But when I finally got home, she had lost a lot of weight! I believe the cat sitter actually did put out food for her, but the raccoons probably ate most of it.
I have several more trips planned within the next six months, and I'd like to prevent another cat meltdown. Step one is to get a reliable cat sitter. Step two: deal with cat anxiety. She's incredibly suspicious of my travel now, and the sight of the suitcase puts her on her guard. Is there any way I can convince her that the cat sitters (when they show up) are not evil, are not going to lock her in the house for days on end or make her into cat stew?
Here are the options I've come up with so far:
1. Tranquilizers--on the morning I leave, give her one. When the cat sitter comes the same afternoon or evening, the cat will hopefully be calm enough to accept the presence of a (comparative) stranger.
2. Bring the cat sitter over to the house before the trip, and see how the cat reacts to him/her. If she's obviously afraid, it won't work.
3. Only go with cat sitters whom the cat has reacted to well in the past. (I tried that this time, unfortunately--someone whom the cat likes and who has been really responsible in the past really let me down.)
4. Maybe the cat could come with me on a couple of my trips? I'm hesitant to try this, because the airplane ride and unfamiliar surroundings might scare her more than the cat sitter. But it might be the only way of ensuring that she's fed and looked after when I travel.
5. Kennel (or pet hotel, to give it a nicer name)? Again, not great for a cat who's scared of most people, but if things just don't work out with the cat sitters, I may be out of options.
I hope some combination of these will make my future trips go more smoothly. I love my cat and don't want her to suffer. If anyone out there in the blog world has some advice about dealing with panicky cats, I'd be glad to hear it.