How to help your cat adjust to you going back to work after lockdown
If lockdown has been a confusing experience for us, imaging how baffling it’s been for our pets.
While our cats once had weekdays as their time to freely reign their home, suddenly they’ve been confronted with an endless supply of quality time, their humans around non-stop and asking them to please, please stop sleeping on the laptop.
It’s been a big adjustment, and when lockdown ends there will be new challenges. Just as your cat is getting used to having you around a little more, you’ll vanish back off to work again.
Don’t just assume they’ll be jumping with glee at the prospect of you leaving them to cause havoc.
The RSPCA has issued guidance on the important steps to take to help your cat handle the changes the end of lockdown will bring.
Sarah Tapsell, one of the RSPCA’s regional clinical animal behaviourists, said: ‘All cats are individuals and some may enjoy human companionship and time with people more than others.
‘This means there will likely be some cats who are enjoying the increased time spent with their owners during lockdown whereas other cats may be happy to have more quiet time when you return to work.
‘Whichever kind of cat you have, cats can be sensitive to change, and so a change in routine can cause stress to your cat. It is important to make any changes gradually, whilst still ensuring all their needs are met.’
Essentially, any change in routine can be distressing for our feline pals, and you might not notice that they’re not happy campers.
In the runup to lockdown lifting and members of the household returning to the office (or at least spending more time outside of the home), there are things pet owners should be doing so it doesn’t feel like sharp shock to the system.
“Before going back to work it’s a good idea to gradually reduce the amount of interaction you have with your cat to help them prepare for your return to work,’ Sarah explains. ‘For some cats, a sudden reduction in interaction could lead to stress and frustration as the cat’s expectations are not being met, although others may be happier to have less interaction.
‘It’s important to try and identify how your cat is feeling especially if they are doing something that is unusual for them compared to how they are normally.
How to help your cat adjust in advance of your return to work post-lockdown:
The RSPCA recommends these simple steps to take:
Any changes in routine should be introduced gradually
Ensure your cat has hiding places and elevated resting places which help relieve stress for cats by offering them a safe place to hide
Ensure you aren’t over handling your cat to try and comfort them. Being picked up or followed around can add to their stress if this is not their choice
Gradually adjust your routine to what it will be when you return to work i.e. feeding times and frequency, play times
Help prevent boredom while you are at work by providing puzzle feeders, toys and scratching posts – this is especially important for indoor cats
Your life may become a lot busier after lockdown but it’s important to ensure you still spend quality time with your cat every day
‘A cat who seeks more interaction from you and maybe plays more roughly with you may be frustrated or bored and struggling with the reduction in attention.
‘A quiet and withdrawn, or more irritable cat may be stressed and in need of their own space. It can be useful to recognise this so you can give them their own time and a safe place to rest. If you know your cat well, you will likely know where their favourite places are.
‘Once you do go back to work, ensuring you still spend quality time with your pet when you return, and doing things which they enjoy such as playing or grooming is also important in helping them get used to any changes.’
It’s essential to pay attention to how your cat is feeling and keep an eye out for any causes for concern.
They can’t talk (if your cat can, please do let us know, as that’s quite impressive), so we have to be observant of cats’ behaviour and body language to check in on how they’re doing.
Alice Potter, the RSPCA’s cat welfare expert, said: ‘Compared to dogs, who are a highly social species, cats naturally live in small family groups and can often cope with a more solitary life. This means they can sometimes seem aloof to us and at times, just want to do their own thing without us.
‘But even if your cat isn’t a fuss loving, attention seeking lap cat they can still get stressed from your return to work so take time to make the transition as smooth and stress free as possible.
‘After spending so much time together during lockdown you’ll probably be excited to see your cat after a long day at work.
‘Once you get home though, it’s best to keep things calm and give them time to greet you on their terms.
‘Look out for the cues that your cat gives to show they want to spend time with you, or if they’d rather have some alone time. For example, approaching you with their tail held up with the end pointed horizontally is a friendly greeting and a cat that is hiding needs to be given space.’