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Concerned about keeping your cat safe during building works? Find out how in our guide

If you’re having building works done in your home, completing a full house renovation or just doing a few odd jobs, you might be concerned how this will affect your cat. While the dust, debris and endless upheaval can feel more than enough for us humans, our feline family members can become very stressed during building works – and thanks to your cat’s excellent ability to hide their pain and stress, you might not always notice.

Why is my cat likely to be stressed during building works?

There are a number of reasons why having renovations on your home can be tricky for cats to deal with.

  • Cats are highly territorial. You might notice they tend to have more than one favourite spot in the house, for example. Having works done on your home leaves your cat with less space to enjoy, which can leave them feeling anxious.
  • Cats also thrive on routine – from their allocated time for breakfast to their favoured sleeping space. Anything out of the ordinary, such as welcoming builders into your home, can disrupt their core territory and routine.
  • Noise is also a factor. Cats spend 16 hours of their day snoozing, so it’s no surprise that cats and construction noise aren’t really compatible. Sudden loud noises, such as those from power drills and saws, can easily scare cats. Even if they appear to recover quickly, the fearful response that cats (and humans) are hardwired to have, releases the hormone adrenaline, and this will stay in their bloodstream for some time. You might find them appearing increasingly fearful, or notice a change to their normal behaviour.

Of course, nervous cats will also find it difficult to have unknown people coming and going into their home. As well as the new and unfamiliar scents of building work, there is the unfamiliar scent of strangers – something shy cats may find particularly difficult.

Find out more about shy cats

How can I tell if my cat is stressed by building works?

Cats are clever creatures with subtle body language, so you might not always be able to tell if they are feeling stressed. It might surprise you to know, however, that many of the signs of cat stress are similar to those when your cat is in pain. These can include:

  • hiding or becoming more withdrawn than usual
  • becoming less tolerant of people
  • reluctance or hesitation when using the litter tray, using the cat flap or sitting on your lap
  • eating or drinking less
  • overeating
  • a visible increase in anxiety or fear
  • looking disturbed when sleeping or feign sleeping
  • pacing, circling or appearing restless
  • a scruffy or matted coat due to grooming less
  • over grooming fur
  • soiling or spraying in the house
Find out more about stress in cats

What to do with cats during house renovations

If you’re worried about the effect that building works may have on your cat, it is vital to plan ahead before you even plan in the works. This will depend entirely on your cat’s personality, your individual situation and the scale of works you’re having on your home. If you’re having a complete renovation, for example, or a number of rooms changed around with plenty of noise and dust, it may be advisable to take your cat out of the home completely.

Consider placing them in a cattery or in a friend or family member’s home for the duration. Again, you’ll need to plan in advance as many catteries can get booked up.

Of course, if you have a particularly nervous cat and think it would be more stressful for them to be uprooted from their home, it may be advisable to keep them in the house and follow our tips on how to keep them calm.

Find out more about choosing a cattery

How to calm a cat during construction

If you’re having small scale building works or need to keep your cat at home, what can you do to help your pets during construction? There are a number of ways to help reduce your cat’s stress.

  • Keep your cat’s environment as similar as possible. Ideally, keeping resources like litter trays, food bowls and toys in the same place as usual will limit the amount of stress
  • Likewise, maintain your routine as much as possible. Feed your cat when you would usually feed them and if possible, spend your evenings with them watching TV or a similar activity to keep normality
  • Give your cat their own space. Ideally, this would be a quiet room away from the building works where they can get away from the noise if needed
  • Provide your cat with plenty of places to get up high. Getting to a high spot allows cats to feel safe, providing them with a place to survey their environment. A cardboard box on a high shelf offers a great place to hide, while a snuggly bed in a high spot is always welcomed
  • Allow them freedom to come and go. Always make sure your cat can enter and leave the room as they please. Confining them to a room is likely to make them feel more anxious
  • Try leaving a radio on a low level to keep them calm. You could also try a plug-in diffuser designed to keep cats calm, such as Feliway.
  • Ensure your builders know where your cat is and to keep out of their way

Painting with cats in the house

While painting a hallway or bedroom might be seen as a much smaller job, some cats will still find the upheaval stressful and there are plenty of hazards to be aware of.

When you are painting, make sure to keep your cat away from the area. Cats are curious creatures and at best, you’ll end up with some interesting interior design – at worst, your cat may try to lick the paint or end up with it on their paws or fur. Cat-proof your environment as you work, making sure that any chemicals, paintbrushes and loose nails or screws are out of reach. Highly territorial, cats often like to sprawl out on painter’s drop cloths or attempt to climb ladders – it is often easier to have them in a ‘safe room’ away from the painting site altogether.

Are paint fumes harmful to cats?

Keeping your cat away from any chemicals involved in painting is advisable. The fumes from products such as varnish and paint remover as well as rust removers and glue can all be dangerous if inhaled by your cat. If you suspect your cat has been poisoned, contact your vet immediately.

Find out more about poisoning and cats
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