Worried about your cat being left on their own more often post-lockdown? Read our guide to help them get used to a change in routine
Whether they’ve enjoyed it or not, there’s no doubt we’ve been spending a lot more time at home with our cats over the past year.
However, now that the roadmap out of lockdown is progressing, it’s likely that things will start to change. As we go out to work or socialise with friends and family more regularly, our cats will find themselves home alone a lot more.
While many cats will enjoy this extra peace and quiet, a change in routine can be worrying and stressful for them. To help them adjust to this ‘new normal’, we’ve put together some expert tips to help make the transition as smooth and stress-free as possible.
Make changes gradually
If you know you’re soon going to be leaving the house more often, such as to go to work, then start gradually adjusting your cat’s routine a couple of weeks before. Start to reduce the amount of interaction you have with your cat during the hours you’ll be away and move their feeding times if needed. Any sudden changes can be stressful for cats so take things nice and slowly. However, try to keep some elements of their current routine if you can, such as some evening lap time.
Consider a sealed feeder
You could buy a handy sealed feeder that will help keep your cat’s food fresh all day while you’re out and open for them automatically when they’re ready to eat. You can even get a feeder that only opens for your cat’s specific microchip, preventing any food stealing by other cats. Our friends at Sure Petcare have a great range of smart feeders, and as well as giving you 20% off, they’ll also make a donation to Cats Protection for every sale.
Provide some boredom busters
A great way to keep your cat entertained while you’re away is to provide them with some puzzle feeders, also known as enrichment feeders. These are simple games that cats can play in order to get access to some tasty food. There are lots of these puzzle toys you can buy, but you can also make your own from household items.
Get them microchipped
You might be worried about your cat getting lost or stolen while you’re not at home, so getting them microchipped will give you some peace of mind. If they do go missing and are then found, a scan of their microchip will enable them to be reunited with you quickly. If your cat is already microchipped, check the details on the chip are up to date.
Install a cat flap
If you’ve been acting as doorperson for your cat, letting them in and out of the house as they please, then you’ll need to find an alternative for while you’re away. A cat flap is a great option, particularly one that is linked to your cat’s microchip, as this will prevent any intruder cats entering your home. Sure Petcare have some great connected cat flaps to choose from with 20% off. To teach your cat how to use their new cat flap, watch our video guide.
Check their toilet
For cats who like to toilet outside, check they have a suitable spot close to the house in which to do their business. They’ll like a quiet, private place with some loose soil or sand that they can easily dig. Even if they do regularly go outside, it’s best to also provide them with a litter tray indoors, so they can use this if their outdoor toilet is inaccessible.
Give them space
When cats are nervous or stressed, they like to hide away or get up high as this helps them feel safe. Make sure you set up lots of cosy hiding places around the house and maybe clear a few shelves or tops of wardrobes that your cat can access easily. Cardboard boxes make great hideouts for cats, so try popping some comfy blankets inside to make them even more appealing. When you do get home, try not to rush to comfort your cat as this could overwhelm them. Instead let them come to you for a fuss on their terms.
Spend quality time together
Even if you are going out more, you should still make time to give your cat a bit of attention if this is something they like. Playtime is a great way to have some quality bonding time with your cat, and it will encourage them to get a bit of exercise too. Watch our video for some top tips on how to encourage your cat to play. If they enjoy a cuddle with you, make some time for this each day too.
Try a pheromone diffuser
A good way to reduce your cat’s stress at home is to use a pheromone diffuser such as FELIWAY® Optimum. This gives off a chemical signal, which is undetectable by humans, that helps your cat feel calm and content. If using a plugin diffuser, make sure you plug it in more than 24 hours before you’ll be leaving the house, and place it near to where your cat spends a lot of time, eg next to their favourite snoozing spot.
Leave your scent behind
If your cat is very attached to you and you think they’ll miss you when you’re not around, you can leave them an item of clothing that smells like you to cuddle up to. Cats rely heavily on their sense of smell and so they might find having your familiar scent close by comforting until you get home.
Look for behaviour changes
If you notice a worrying change in your cat’s behaviour after their routine changes, get in touch with your vet so they can help rule out any medical issues. If the behaviour continues you can then try contacting a qualified behaviourist from the Animal Behaviour and Training Council or take a look at our behaviour advice online.