So the world has gone a bit topsy-turvy and all these changes and uncertainty can cause quite a bit of stress and concern for us humans – and also for our cats. They’re used to a particular routine and being able to predict what’s happening in their environment is how they make sense of the world and detect if there's a potential threat out there. So with a lot of us suddenly working from home, with children at home too, that’s a completely new routine for a lot of households - plus more noise and activity and your cats are going to notice these changes. Also, cats are very sensitive to our moods and so if we’re stressed and agitated, they will pick up on our change in mood as well. A couple of suggestions:
Firstly, as much as possible, keep to a routine. That means keeping to a routine for feeding as well as letting your cat inside and out.
• For feeding – try to keep to a routine for mealtimes – it doesn’t need to be to the minute, but some consistency will help your cat know when food is available (key for their survival instinct).
• Also with letting inside/out - the UK's RSPCA website says:
If your cat is used to staying in then try and keep them inside making sure they have access to their litter tray and that it is cleaned regularly. If your cat is used to coming and going as they please, keeping them inside could be very stressful and may make them ill. We would advise minimising interactions with them and washing your hands thoroughly after contact with them or any of their items.
When possible, people who are sick or under medical attention for COVID-19 should avoid close contact with their pets and have another member of their household care for their animals. If they must look after their pet, they should maintain good hygiene practices and wear a face mask if possible.
To help reduce stress:
The second suggestion is one based on research that shows that cats like to have somewhere to hide where they will be undisturbed by children, other animals … and yes, even us adults who like to go and check on them from time-to-time. It’s an avoidance strategy. It means that when they’re stressed they can go somewhere to avoid the source of the stress and relax. This is beneficial for them because it keeps their stress-hormone, cortisol, in check and it means they have somewhere they feel safe – and safety is so important to good wellbeing.
You might need to get creative and make somewhere high up accessible and out of reach if you have little children or dogs. So it might be up high on top of a bookcase or chest of drawers, or snuck into a cupboard (make sure they can get out again) or a cardboard box tucked away somewhere with a blanket. If your cat regularly goes someplace, they're telling you they feel safe there. Just let them be and know they’re taking their own time out. How clever are they eh?!