In 2019, millions of people made it to the office, leaving their cats largely to their own impenetrable devices. The ravenous fluff balls were alone and free to doze off in sinks, scratch furniture, and generally hide.
Today, millions of people have made their homes an office thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. But no one stopped to ask if it was OK with the cats.
The internet is teeming with stories of people settling into work-from-home routines while their felines look on, who seem confused and / or annoyed that their owner is looming during the day in addition to the evening. It’s a serious disruption to many cats’ routines, and Fluffy doesn’t have it.
“It’s not that cats don’t want us, it’s that they are very responsive to change and therefore prone to stress,” Rachel Geller, Ed.D., a specialist in Mental Floss, told Mental Floss. feline behavior at Wellness Natural Pet Food. “Working from home is a change and a change in schedule that can be destabilizing for cats … Whether it is to sleep later, have a different meal schedule, arrange the house differently to accommodate a home office, receive more deliveries throughout the day, or even something as small as different light patterns, cats are responsive to these changes even if they seem small to humans.
The reason for their dissatisfaction comes down to habit. Cats love the familiar, and when a human schedule is revised, so does theirs. “Most cats follow a set pattern that they follow each day that generally fits our schedules and routine, and this routine-oriented life helps cats feel safe and confident, which means parents animals will want their cat’s routine to be as consistent as possible, ”says Geller.
It has become more difficult due to the explosion of home office arrangements. In March 2021, 21% of the US workforce was telecommuting. Although down from a high of 35% in May 2020, it is still enough for countless cats to feel out of place and anxious. Some become more emotionally demanding; others take the opportunity to beg for food. Truly disturbed cats may urinate outside the litter box, chew excessively, engage in destructive behavior, or obsessively groom themselves. (Dog lovers, take note: dogs seem to fare better, but can still be needy behavior.)
If you are at home with children, the increased bustle and noise can also be a stressor. Even a Zoom call can be problematic.
“Cats pick up our emotions and the tone of our voices, so now they’re exposed to those things that they weren’t before when we were in the office,” Geller says. “If you’ve had a stressful Zoom meeting or call, or if you’re working on a project on schedule, your cat will understand it and might become just as agitated as you are. “
So how can owners avoid walking through cat puddles or finding their favorite sweater reduced to a ball of yarn? The key, Geller says, is to get them to release their stress. “One way to do this is to have an interactive play session with a fishing rod type toy that helps build your cat’s confidence because he can ‘hunt’ and ‘conquer’ the toy successfully,” he says. she. “Interactive play sessions create good feelings, positive associations and feelings of achievement, while releasing tension. “
Vertical spaces are always useful too. Cats, after all, love to roam their fiefdoms. “The raised spaces provide the cat with safety and security, and cats love the ability to monitor their home from a secure point of view,” Geller explains. “Climbing and jumping in elevated spaces, then watching the world go by, prevents anxiety, stress and boredom. Vertical space allows the cat to pretend they are sailing to faraway places and taking fun trips, while keeping them busy and active.
The second strategy is to keep their old routine as much as possible. “Feed your cat at the same time, have regular play sessions, and maintain a consistent daily schedule, as best you can,” advises Geller.
Cats also benefit from not being isolated. While it is intuitive for humans to shut themselves off to enter the workday, it could confuse the emotionally vulnerable cat in your space: “If you can, try not to close the door and lock your cat out. your home workspace or office. “
Be aware, however, that cats need their own private space. Keeping an open room or area where they can retreat gives the cat a place to unwind from their busy and stressful life.
The good news? With enough time, cats can familiarize themselves with their new normal. “When the new situation doesn’t hurt your cat or have negative consequences, the cat will stop reacting over time,” Geller explains. “The cats are not forgetting the new situation. Instead, they actively learn not to react to it over time. In other words, they get used to it as long as they are given the proper time and patience.
Ironically, cats can get angry a second time, if and when their owners decide to return to the office. “If you know your date of return to the office, it’s time to start preparing for it. Start leaving home for a few hours when you leave for work. Get up when you need to get up when you return to the office and resume your usual routine: showering in the morning, having breakfast, etc. Get your cat used to the new feeding schedule. Let your cat relax in the transition. When your cat has the opportunity to learn that the new program and routine is not hurting or having no consequences, it will not react negatively.
Exercise, comfort, and routines – cats do best with all three. And humans too.