How to minimise stress and keep your cat happy during the coronavirus pandemic
While we're having to stay at home more, the changes in our household may influence our cat's stress levels. Every cat will have their own different personality, some of them are more sensitive to environmental changes while others can be very resilient. In general, we need to be aware of what may potentially increase stress for our cats in order to know how to best care for them.
The government rules imposing that we stay home mean that some, or all, of the family are likely to be around more. This means that cats are more likely to experience more regular physical interactions than they would normally. The normal noise level is also likely to increase if more people are at home most of the time.
Try to avoid overwhelming your cat with excessive fuss
As a result of a busier household, your cat may not have enough quiet time and may also be overstimulated. This should be avoided as much as possible to help your cat adjust to the changes at their own pace. We suggest making sure that your cat's favourite resting places are protected from loud noises and excessive physical interactions.
All family members and, in particular, children should be aware that your cat may not be happy to be hugged and cuddled all of the time. Familiarise yourself with the different signals cats use to tell us how they're feeling. Trying to maintain the routine and level of interactions that you normally had will also help your kitten to not feel overwhelmed during this time.
Monitor your family's interactions with your cat
If your cat asks for your attention, it's always more than fine to respond. Provide affection and play but try not to be forceful in any way. Most cats love short physical interactions and play sessions. Try to avoid surprising and unpredictable interactions with your cat. You should be consistent and predictable and the same goes for your other family members.
Notice your cat's response when they're picked up or held in someone's lap. If they're not relaxed, they may just need to be left alone. Every new activity and stimulus that you may propose, such as, new toys or more play sessions with you or your family members, should be introduced gradually and guided by your cat's preferences.
Avoid treating your cat differently while you're home
Now you're at home more of the time, every new enrichment or positive activity that's introduced should be maintained when you go back to your normal routine. Keep your cat's expectations in mind and don't set them up to be confused when routines return to normal.
Be aware of the signs that your cat is unhappy
Your cat may show behaviour that indicates that they're not feeling as comfortable as usual.
These signs can appear in different ways depending on your cat's personality, ranging from increased to decreased activity levels, excessive attention-seeking and interaction avoidance.
Other indicators include the onset of excessive grooming and changes in sleep-wake patterns, as well as urine spraying and self-directed and repetitive behaviours. For example, overgrooming and tail-chasing are signs of severe emotional distress. The same is true for aggressive behaviours.
Any behavioural change that you may notice should be reported to your vet practice as behavioural changes are often the first sign of physical or mental suffering. You'll then be guided by your vet towards the most appropriate action.
Remember that your vet should now be contacted remotely via email or with a phone call.
By doing your research and being mindful with how you interact with your cat, you're helping guide them through this strange time and setting them up to live a healthy and happy life during and after lockdown.