Ease Your Cat Back Into Routines Before Going Back to Work
In April I published an article on how cats thrive on routine, and how you suddenly being in their space during the day when you should be at work might actually upset them. After changing their routine with that little stunt, now it’s looking as if people will start returning to their workplaces over the next month or so, depending on a lot of variables.
Just as suddenly staying at home changed your cat’s routine and likely added new routines, now going back to work will change those routines again. Some cats will just go back to sleep. Others will be concerned about their place in this changing world. You can start now in helping your cat, and you, adjust to the change, before you return. Just as when you began staying at home, keeping your cat on a routine, easing into one and easing out, helps to avoid behavior issues that pop up when your kitty starts to feel unsafe because of changes routines.
Feeding and snacks
Your cat may have been able to convince you that more treats were needed, or even extra meals. When you go back to work you won’t be there to give them. If the treats or any extra food were more than 10% of their diet and it’s suddenly taken away, your cat can develop health conditions as severe as hepatic lipidosis and even if not it’s darned uncomfortable to be hungry. Start now slowing down on extra treats and meals, especially during the hours you usually work.
You could alternately give the treats via hidden food puzzles around your home while you’re away. This not only gives kitty the same food as before, but it also enriches their environment when they can “hunt” their “prey” and have the pleasure of catching it and having a small meal, and get exercise at the same time.
Start feeding again at the time you would if you were going to work each day. This helps accustom your cat with both digestion and physical habit to how they’ll be fed when you do go back.
Leaving and coming back
Practice leaving for short periods of time each day. You may just go for a walk or a bike ride or run an errand in your car, but get your cat accustomed to being alone in the house again and being without you for a short time. You can establish a routine when leaving or returning to take a little of the potential fear out of it and make it fun, like giving a treat or using a special favorite toy.
Refresh toys and beds
New things for your cat, even if they are old things you’ve put away to give them a break, are fun changes. Associating new, exciting things with your absence and the changes in daily schedule will help avoid stress and seem like a reward. You can integrate them into your leaving and returning routines.
Many of us will have changes in our jobs, or may even change jobs after our stay-at-home time, and you may not actually know your future schedule. If you do you can settle your cat back into meal, play and sleep times around that. If you don’t know, just pulling away from the time together so your absence is not as much of a shock is a start toward the full change of your returning to work.
Keep an eye on their activities as you transition
Because their reactions to changes in their routines may become quite physical and even life-threatening, it’s a good idea to watch them closely, track any changes you see in behavior, food consumption and interest in meals, and help them with any anxiety you see.
Some signs of illness in cats include the classic ones, vomiting, urinating or defecating outside the litter box, and decreased eating, as well as:
- changes in social interactions
- increased vocalization
- lack of grooming
- change in sleep patterns
That’s not the end of the list, of course, but they are some of the most common and obvious. Really, pay attention to any change in habit or behavior because it’s often the only thing that indicates illness in cats, and nothing is too small to note.
Reassure your cat that everything is okay even if it’s not the way it usually is by establishing routines specifically with your cat that are reassuring. Make mealtimes consistent, set up a consistent play time at least once a day and play for a set time ending with a treat and affection. Try to reduce your own stress levels so your cat doesn’t pick up on your stress and run with it.
Remember that our pets can’t see the big picture of what’s happening. Our pets are dependent on us for much of what’s good in their life, and because we’ve chosen to take them into our homes we are responsible for their well-being. Take them seriously, and let them know you’re there for them. They’ll love you even more for it.
Information on behavior, stress and enrichment in cats
Read Give Your Cat, And Yourself, A New Routine While Staying At Home for information on specific changes in your cat and what to do when you see them as well as studies of feline behavior in times of change and under stress.
Read my entire series of articles on the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19
There is no evidence that our pets can give us the coronavirus.
Wash your hands and don’t touch your face!
Even healthy cats act sick when their routine is disrupted https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110103110357.htm
Tips for Preventing Cat Behavior Problems During COVID-19 isolation https://www.catbehaviorassociates.com/tips-for-preventing-cat-behavior-problems-during-covid-19-isolation/
The Top 7 Changes In Cat Behavior https://news.vet.tufts.edu/2017/08/the-top-7-changes-in-cat-behavior/
How to Use Positive Reinforcement for Good Cat Behavior https://www.felinebehaviorsolutions.com/use-positive-reinforcement-good-cat-behavior/
Your Cat’s Emotional Connection https://www.felinebehaviorsolutions.com/cats-emotional-connection/
Other articles here about COVID-19
Humans, Pets, and the Coronavirus (https://thecreativecat.net/humans-pets-and-the-coronavirus/)
No Coronavirus Found in Pets, But Keep Them in Your Emergency Plan (https://thecreativecat.net/no-coronavirus-found-in-pets-but-keep-them-in-your-emergency-plan/)
Fostering Saves Lives, Self-quarantine With a Foster Kitty During the COVID-19 Crisis (https://thecreativecat.net/fostering-saves-lives-self-quarantine-with-a-foster-kitty-during-the-covid-19-crisis/)
Veterinary Medicine During A Time Of Restriction Of Elective Services And Social Distancing (https://www.wormsandgermsblog.com/files/2020/03/COVID-guidelines-essential-elective_social-distancing_Mar24b-2.pdf)
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19):Owner Contact Guidelines (https://cdn.brief.vet/CB/CB_Covid-19_eblast1/DT_Covid+2019_03302020_G.pdf)
What you need to know about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/2019-ncov-factsheet.pdf)
Social distancing WITHIN veterinary clinics (https://www.wormsandgermsblog.com/2020/03/articles/animals/dogs/social-distancing-within-veterinary-clinics/)
COVID-19: Protecting your veterinary team during the pandemic (https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/animal-health-and-welfare/covid-19/protecting-your-veterinary-team-during-pandemic)
FAQs – Practicing Veterinary Medicine in Pennsylvania During the COVID-19 Pandemic (https://www.pavma.org/blogpost/1674843/342444/FAQs–Practicing-Veterinary-Medicine-in-Pennsylvania-During-the-COVID-19-Pandemic)
COVID-19 Response: Limiting Non-Emergency Surgery in Shelters and Spay Neuter Clinics- updated 3/16/20 (https://www.uwsheltermedicine.com/news/2020/3/covid-19-response-limiting-non-emergency-surgery-in-shelters-and-spay-neuter-clinics-updated-3-16-20)
Telemedicine Resources During COVID-19 (https://www.pavma.org/page/COVIDvetTelemedicine)
Considerations for mobile and house call veterinarians during the COVID-19 pandemic (https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/animal-health-and-welfare/covid-19/mobile-house-call-veterinarians-covid19-pandemic)
Read more articles about Health and Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
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Great Rescues Day Book:
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Each month features one of my commissioned portraits of a feline or felines and their rescue story along with a kitty quote on the left page, and on the right page the month name with enough lines for all possible dates, with standard holidays and animal-themed observances and events. Great Rescues also includes a mini cat-care book illustrated with my drawings including information on finding strays or orphaned kittens, adopting for the first time or caring for a geriatric cat, a list of household toxins and toxic plants, or helping stray and feral cats and beginning with TNR.
Each book includes also 10 sheets of my “22 Cats” decorative notepaper with a collage of all the portraits in black and white so you can make your own notes or write special notes to friends.
The portraits in this book, collected as a series, won both a Certificate of Excellence and a Muse Medallion in the 2011 Cat Writers’ Association Annual Communication Contest, as well as the 22 Cats Notepaper mentioned below.
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