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cat waiting outside the doorWe all know that dogs love being with their families, but how have cats fared during the lockdown? Knowing that cats hate change to their routine, has your cat been grumpy because you’ve been at home? Casey and Gibbs are used to me being at home all the time because I’m retired.  It’s when I go away for a few days or a bit longer that Casey gets anxious.  If I’m out of the house (this is pre-lockdown as I’m not allowed out at the moment) say, at the pub quiz on a Wednesday night, he’ll be waiting in the hallway for my return.  But the lockdown hasn’t affected us three per se, as it has for many people who do go out to work, returning several hours later. 

While we’re out of the house, cats have their own routines.  We know they sleep between 16 – 18 hours a day so what do they do with the remaining 6 – 8 hours? Well, some of that time, they’ll be interacting with their human staff, but they’ll spend time grooming, gazing out the windows if they’re indoor cats, or inspecting the sweet peas if they have access via a cat flap to the great outdoors. They’ll also interact with other cats or dogs that share their house space.  Unlike dogs who can become destructive if they’re bored, cats will sleep the hours away till their owner returns.

The RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has suggested winding down the time you spend with you cat(s) to prepare them for your eventual return to work.  If you’re able to go out of the house – and many people are now allowed to spend time in other people’s houses, or exercising outdoors – try to go out at the same time each day and return at the same time, so that your cat gets used to the idea.

If, after 12 weeks or more (I’ve got to do at least 24 weeks) you’ve been given the green light to return to work, and you just get up one morning and leave the house, you cat will wonder what the heck is going on.  This will cause anxiety and stress, which is why the RSPCA has suggested a gradual process of spending time away from the house.  It can be 15 – 30 minutes to start with, building up over a period of days or weeks, to 4 or 5 hours.  Your cat will then become used to you not being there and he or she will start to organise their own day accordingly.

If you’ve developed a routine with your cat where you spend some time playing together before you both flop out on the sofa to have a nap, your cat will be expecting that to continue.  Try, therefore, to reduce these interactions slowly and gradually until you’re spending less time playing with him, and more time out of the house. 

Quality time with your catWhen you return to the house try to resist the temptation to shriek your hellos to your cat.  Come in calmly, put your house keys where you can find them, along with your car keys.  Make a coffee or tea and wait for your cat to come to you.  Sit down and have cuddle time – but on your cat’s terms.  Some cats are absolutely bewildered by their human’s behaviour when they come home, as their human’s voices go up by several octaves (and probably only dolphins could hear what they’re saying!) – high pitched noises do hurt a cat’s ears, it would be very wise to remember that.

If you have a needy cat then these suggestions are worth putting into place as soon as you can, long before you even have a date for returning to work.  If you’ve been given the go ahead to go outside to exercise or go for a walk, whether you want to or not – do it! This will help your cat in the long run to get used to the idea of you spending time outside of the house for any length of time.

Some cats might be pleased to see the back of their human.  Not all cats are attention seeking, fuss loving, lap cats, and some humans – devoid of the interaction they have in their workplace - can go over the top with their affection, picking the cat up every ten minutes, slobbering him with kisses, and generally pissing the poor cat off. 

We are in extraordinary times at the moment, but with a bit of forethought we can make sure that our cats are happy to share this time with us.  In case you’re worried, though, I’d sleep with one eye open and count the cutlery to make sure that nothing is missing.  Cats are fiendishly clever little creatures and I wouldn’t put it past them to use this pandemic as the vehicle for world domination.   

                 

A Morning Kiss

A morning kiss, a discreet touch of his nose landing somewhere on the middle of my face.
Because his long white whiskers tickled, I began every day laughing.

Janet F Faure