What do you do when you have three older pets and you are single?
In the past I'd have somebody sublet my place and give them a good deal to take care of them. But this summer one or another of them required treatment for this or that. Something that I couldn't / wouldn't leave for someone else to do while I was off pedalling.
When I had only one cat, it was easier to take off. Stinkums loves everybody and can't wait to get outside in the morning. She's eleven. This summer she got into something and was struggling to breathe. I thought I had lost her. Weekend emergency vet. Big bill. Fortunately, it wasn't antifreeze.
Stinkums, Betsy, and Big Woo
I inherited my mother's two cats - Betsy who is thirteen and Big Woo who is fifteen. They are much more needy and neurotic - having spent their lives with a person who had Alzheimer's. Can you blame them? Big Woo has recurring UTIs that require a week to ten days of antibiotic pills. No pleasant job for anyone who has tried to get a pill down a cat.
Anyhoo, the upshot of all this is that I didn't do a major tour this summer. Hell, I didn't even get in a weeklong tour last week because Big Woo got sick again.
Fortunately, my parents ... specifically my mother ... has been willing to take care of my 16-year old diabetic male cat and my 11 year old female cat.
Prior to moving to a location where my parents could do that, however, I used professional pet sitters ... paid a fortune to my pet sitter to go to the Paris-Brest-Paris in 2003, but it was worth it. Check the yellow pages in your area to see if you've got housesitters/pet sitters. Mine not only took care of my cats (including coming twice a day to give Sabre his insulin shot), but she also got my mail, and would have watered my plants had they been real, and made the place looked lived in (moving curtains, turning on and off lights, etc.).
I was kept in this summer by my little Mooshes and her renal failure, but I wouldn't have wanted to do anything else. The last few months I had with her were something I'll treasure forever. Keep taking good care of your babies, and time for touring will come when you're ready. In the meantime, keep an ear out for any of your friends who do good, high-maintenance cat-sitting.
Talk to friends, ask vets - spread the word that you are looking for a kitty-cat sitter. I did the reverse of that 4.5 years ago - telling friends and vets that I would kitty sit and ended up spending almost 4 years taking care of a number of kitties. The time frames ranged from a few weeks to 6 months. The cats had various health issues for which I would take them to the vet as needed, give them pills (there are tricks to make it easy - relatively), etc. I had a great time. When I wasn't kitty sitting I would tour. I grew up with cats so it was easy for me.
If you have enough lead time before your planned tour your efforts will yield a number of potential cat sitters. Interview these people well but let Stinkums, Betsy, and Big Woo make the final decision. While that last statement may sound funny (or odd) to some folks, the cats will let you know who is their choice. Let the potential sitters interact with the cats. The cats immediate body language will be very clear as to whom the feel safe and at home.
I'm sorry to hear about you losing your little Mooshes - but glad to hear that you were able to care for her gently in her last months. I think you hit the nail on the head for me - I wouldn't want to be gone if anything happened. I live in a spectacularly beautiful area - right at the base of the Bighorn Mountains with Cloud Peak Wilderness within sight and canyons and rushing streams at my doorstep.
I did have one person live in my house back in 2005 who I trusted with the kitties. When she answered my ad, she added in a pleading voice that she had a dog - a big dog. I paused and told her to come over anyhoo. It turns out that she had rescued Hagrid at a state park in Texas when she had worked as a conservation officer down there. Somebody had abandoned him and he was starving. By 2005 he was a giant galoot - half St. Bernard, half horse. But he was the sweetest doggie - and well-behaved, too.
I live in a small town so there is limited pet-sitting. I will check into what is available; however, I tour low-budget because of limited income - so, it may be a budget breaker for super-long touring. Shorter tours may have to be the choice in the interim. And flexibility.
Thanks, everybody, for your ideas. They are appreciated.
With regard to the budget busting - I didn't charge for taking care of the kitties. For the right person, having a place to live in exchange for taking care of the cats can be worth it. About 10 years ago my mum became quite ill. I took care of her for almost 2 years until she passed. Like you, I live in a beautiful place so spending time in the area with my mum vs touring far and wide was not a issue. I knew the rolling mirror of life would bring tours back into my life when the timing was correct.
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I sympathize with your problem. My wife and I have been lucky in that her parents have been willing to take our cat when we go on vacation. Houdini is 19, now and is becoming a major consumer of medical care. This will cut down on our vacations because she's getting to be a bit to much of a hassle for my parents in law to handle.
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This is precisely why I don't have any pets [I love cats!] or kids for that matter...
To get my pet fix I pet-sit for friends when they go away which helps them and lets me get some pet time without being tied down when I want to travel.
I think you need to be honest about your lifestyle and the commitments you make. If you want to travel regularly that may not be compatible with having pets. Even the pets that I know who deal with change reasonably well don't like it when their owner's take off for extended periods of time. I could have a cat and get friends to look after it when I'm away, but ultimately I don't think that's fair to the cat so I don't have one. If at some point I decide I really have to have a cat I'd curtail my travels for the lifespan of the pet.
It's a tough choice, but sometimes you can't have it all.