Many of us will be spending more time away from our homes now that COVID-19 restrictions have eased and holiday season is upon us. This may be a welcome relief to some, but not to our four-legged family members. Our introverted feline friends will find the transition hard, which can cause cat stress and affect their behaviour.
The Cat Protection Society Victoria (CPSV) Behaviourist, Natalya Dundovich feels that we should be mindful of our cats during this time, especially those who seek out human interaction.
“Returning to normal routines such as working out of the house and having children back at school will change the home environment significantly for our cats. It will be a big change for them after spending the last eight weeks with us at home.”
“To make the transition easier for them we want to get them used to short periods of being home alone, then gradually build on that so it will reflect our day-to-day routine. Now that restrictions have relaxed a little you could go to the park or visit a friend for a few hours so when we are able to return to work our cats will be prepared,” she said.
Signs of cat stress
Ms Dundovich says we can look for tell-tale signs of cat stress.
“Changes to their normal eating, drinking, and toileting habits can be a sign of stress. Other signs can include reduced interest in play and perhaps exploring the garden, being sleepier than normal, changes in vocalisations as well as an increase in neediness. We may also see some destructive behaviours around the house,” she said.
“If your cat is showing any of these signs it is important to talk with your vet, particularly if there are changes to eating, drinking or toileting. Serious stress can cause health affects so it is important to get this checked out.”
“Once anything serious is ruled out we can help our cats by increasing the play we do with them, especially hunting style games as this makes cats feel good and reduces stress. We can also get them foraging for their meals, starting with scattering food on the floor and pointing out the pieces. Cat puzzles and toys can also help,” Ms Dundovich said.
Things you can do to prevent cat stress
There are also a number of things you can do to ensure your cat is okay while you are not home.
“Leaving your cats with something that smells strongly of you, like a dressing gown or pillow case, and keeping some background noise such as the radio or TV can help. Some people like to leave ‘cat TV’ on for cats while they are gone. The food foraging activities can be set up while you are not home too. It can also be helpful to have a friend or a pet sitter drop in to break up the day,” she said.
CPSV is particularly concerned about cats who have been adopted out during isolation. The Shelter has seen an influx of adoptions over the last two months.
“For those who were adopted during isolation and only know a life with you at home, it is even more important to start leaving them for short periods and building up that time, from a few minutes to a couple of hours to a full day. This may require the help of a behaviouralist,” Ms Dundovich said.
“It is important that we expect changes in behaviour as cats pick up on our emotional state and many people are out of balance at the moment. We may see some behaviour that is out of character as a result.”
“Cats are just as easily trained as dogs so if behaviour is becoming problematic there are always options available to assist you assist your pet. You don’t need to relinquish your cat at the first signs of problematic behaviour there are people that can help,” she said.
During isolation the CPSV helped lift community spirits through ‘Furever at Home’ a video platform sharing cheeky and funny video clips of cat antics during isolation. To find out more visit https://www.catprotection.com.au/fureverhome/