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dogs with toysWe are living in very different and difficult times right now and have been for almost a year.  Many people are having to work from home and if you have pets, this can present a variety of problems.  If you have a dog, he’ll be delighted to have you at home, and will bring you a selection of his favourite toys with which he expects you to play with him. And of course, the limited exercise you’re allowed, can be spent walking the dog twice a day.

But if you have cats, there will be a different reaction.  Cats hate change.  They dislike (intensely) change to their established routines and many people are finding that they have a Godzilla on their lap or bed, as their cats take it out on them for disrupting their routines.

The average cat will sleep maybe 18 hours a day while you’re out of the house for any amount of time.  During the time you’re out, your cat will groom himself, eat some food and if he has access to the garden, he’ll take himself off for a walk, usually to toilet or maybe visit the neighbours.  Some cats are quite sociable and like visiting. If your cat is an indoor cat, he’ll use the litter tray, and groom, and then go back to sleep. 

That’s their routine in a nutshell.

You arrive home from wherever you’ve been all day, your cat is pleased to see you, you spend a bit of time interacting before getting some dinner for him.  If you’re lucky, he’ll sit on the sofa with you while you watch television, and then if he’s allowed, he’ll sleep on your bed, or go to his own preferred sleeping spot in the house.

That’s their routine which includes you in a nutshell.

So, what’s been the problem?

Some people are reporting ‘clingy’ cats.  Cats are very independent creatures.  They amuse themselves as described above while we’re not at home. However, with many people finding themselves out of their own routines, the edges are blurred, and the poor cat finds himself in a quandary. He doesn’t know what to do with his day because you’re there, and you’re not supposed to be!

But as we’re not leaving the house, they do feel out of sorts, much like we do when our plans go awry. This has been manifesting in unwanted behaviour. Going to the toilet in inappropriate places, for example. Crying if we leave the room or the house.

Garfield in my arms  And the cause, of course, is us. How many of us, at home working, look at the cat and pick him up to do smoochy-woochies which he doesn’t like. There are always exceptions to the rule.  My beloved Garfield loved to be picked up and he’d lie back in the crook of my arm like a baby.  He’d stay there for hours if my arm didn’t go to sleep!  But most cats DO NOT like a) being picked up and b) being held like a baby because it’s alien to them.  Being lifted off the ground to our height is quite scary and cats like being in control of their circumstances.  Lying on their backs like a baby is a comfort to us, but unless you have the most relaxed cat in the world (like my Garfield) a cat will always struggle to get down.

This causes no end of stress to the cat.  So, can you now see how stressful his life is now that you’re at home 24/7? You’re supposed to be working on the computer, making Zoom conference calls, dealing with irate bosses and when you’re fed up with all of that, you pick up the cat, do the smoochy-woochies with him, try to make him lie like a baby in your arms and probably interrupt his six-hour naps.

The cure?

daddy's representativeGet on with your work and then, when you have a break for coffee, lunch or whatever, see if your cat wants to engage with you.  If he’s asleep – let him stay asleep.  If he’s been photo-bombing your Zoom call with your colleagues, he’s probably got a healthy sense of humour and will appreciate some time out with you.  So, play with him.  Throw the catnip mouse for him to chase, roll up a piece of paper or aluminium foil for him to run after, or play with a fishing rod type game with him. Most cats only want to play for a few minutes before they feel a sudden urge to have another nap – and that’s enough time to spend with him, it comforts him, and lets him know that you’re a fun person to hang out with – but on his terms.

When you start going back to work – even if it’s for one day a week - start by reducing the amount of time you interact with him.  Tell him where you’re going, and what time you’ll be back.   I haven’t been out of the house since early December (just before I got Covid) but I always told Casey and Gibbs that ‘Mummy is going shopping and will be back soon.’

Cats are great companions, but we must respect the fact that when we’re out of the house it becomes their territory and their domain.  Once we are back, we have to fit in with them and let them approach us on their terms.  And if they don’t, it’s not personal.  They’re probably too busy sleeping to worry about you pulling your hair out over poor Wi-Fi connections!       

None of us know how long we’ll be living under these restrictions, but it’s the least we can do to ensure our feline family feel safe and secure whether we’re sitting in the same room with them or sitting in the cupboard under the stairs, so we don’t disturb them.

 Looking at the picture of Garfield and I, I'm struck by how time has flown. Sadly, Garfield went to Rainbow Bridge in 2006 and I'm 'more rounded' shall we say!

 

A Cats Prayer

Lead me down all the right paths,
Keep me from fleas, bees, and baths.
Let me in should it storm,
Keep me safe, fed, and warm.

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