Because of efforts to reduce the cases of COVID-19, many people have been sheltering in place for over a month. That means our cats have had their pet parents home with them full-time. And that’s great – mostly. There are plenty of memes out there with cats missing their alone time.
Of course, at some point, people will be going back to their offices, kids will be back in schools (to the relief of parents everywhere) and cats will have to readjust to life at home alone. Two expert behaviorists share tips on how to make sure your cat enjoys their time at home.
How to make your cat’s home-alone time more fun.
“When our regular work and school routines commence again, your cat may be left confused (and lonely!) once everyone is rushing out the door instead of spending time at home,” says Pamela Reid, PhD, CAAB, vice president of the ASPCA Behavioral Sciences Team.
To make that solo time more pleasant, Pamela has a few suggestions to help your feline friend “amewse” himself, which include making some of the most fun toys and activities special and available only when your cat is alone.
- “Create a cozy, inviting place for your cat to nap away from all the activity of remote work and school. This could be a comfortable bed or a crate in another room. You can put on some soothing music.”
- “Cats will be entertained for some time with an interactive food-puzzle toy.”
- “There are many free game apps for cats to play with by themselves.”
- “You can also find battery-operated toys online that may keep your cat busy and happy on their own.”
- “Make sure your cat has access to a favorite room with a window for viewing the world outside.”
Be on the lookout for these problem behaviors
As you start getting back to office life, you may see your cat act out a bit in protest. Steven Appelbaum, founder, president and CEO of Animal Behavior College, says cat owners might notice their cats scratching on furniture, howling or eliminating outside the litter box. And while those behaviors are annoying, they’re also understandable from a stressed cat.
“Punishment for these behaviors is counter-productive in that they add to the cat’s stress levels,” Steve advises. “It’s important to understand that every one of the behaviors I listed is a symptom of underlying problems.”
If you notice your kitty seems stressed or agitated by spending more time at home alone, Pamela suggests considering having a friend or family member care for your cat or stop by for a visit, especially if your cat spends 12 hours or longer home alone.
“If that’s not possible, there are many fun, and free ways to give your cat a mental workout while you’re working longer shifts or need to keep your pet busy while you’re at home,” says Pamela.
If your cat seems to need a little extra help alleviating boredom, Pamela suggests the following:
- Leave on a radio or TV for auditory and visual stimulation that can help keep your pet company throughout the day. Cats, in particular, really enjoy watching TV shows that feature animals.
- Offer meals or treats out of food puzzle toys.
- Provide objects for your cat to explore, such as cardboard boxes, paper shopping bags (with the handles cut off), bottle caps, packing paper and toys that encourage them to investigate various openings with their paws.
- Position bird and squirrel feeders outside windows where your cat can observe animals coming and going during the day.
While we await a return to morning commutes and in-person meetings in the not too distant future, we continue to adjust. And whether it’s after coronavirus or any other extended absence, these guidelines can help your cat adjust. Of course, it’s just possible your cat may be a little tired of you and looking forward to some private time again. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Top photograph: ablokhin/Getty Images
Read Next: Do Cats Get Lonely?