Right now, staying home is the safest thing we can do for ourselves and our cats. But someday, someway, many will be asked to go back into their offices. Though some may be excited to get rid of cabin fever, cats may have gotten used to — and even enjoyed — this version of normal life.
“Our cats have adjusted their rhythm to ours,” says Jackson Galaxy, a cat behavior and wellness expert, host of Animal Planet’s “My Cat From Hell” and NY Times best-selling author. “Now, they are used to getting a certain amount of petting … [and] playing. How do we get them to get back to the reality of work?”
Jackson says parents can prepare their cats for when they go back to work slowly and shares tips to make a seamless transition.
Without a commute, you may be catching a few more zzz’s, feeding Kitty later and starting the day with less energy than before. Before returning to the office, Jackson advises getting back to the old routine. Though it’s not possible to go back to the office until it’s open, you can try to simulate leaving after going through the usual motions. “Go on a walk for 20 minutes. Do it every morning the same way, because cats like structure,” Jackson says. If possible, extend that walk by 5 to 10 minutes every couple days, but Jackson says it’s OK if you can’t. “You still have a life.”
It’s not just about getting a cat ready for you to leave but also for when you come back. “You get up in the morning, and it’s go-go-go-go-go, and then you leave, and they do their thing.” Jackson says. “Then you come home, and it’s go-go-go-go-go. Then we slow down and watch TV or whatever. You have to try to get that rhythm back into gear.” If you typically get home at 6:00, start getting the cat ready for a little more hustle-and-bustle in the house. “We know before mealtime there is a certain energy in the house,” Jackson says. “Get playtime in at that time so their energy comes back at that time.”
If you’ve gotten into the habit of free-feeding during the day, it’s time to nip that in the bud. “If you have scheduled meal times, you are turbo-charging your cat’s sense of schedule and routine and ritual,” Jackson says. He suggests implementing this immediately. “Phase out free-feeding and have meal times so when you go back to work … you can have moments where your cat’s body is primed to go up and down, and it becomes a bonding ritual,” Galaxy says. Consult the vet about how much food the cat needs.
Make sure the cat has something to do to pass the time until your happy return. “On your way out the door, put down a puzzle toy, something they have to work on,” Jackson advises. There’s also CatTV (also known as the outdoors). “To the best of your ability, make sure every window has a bed or perch so the cat can get into the window and watch the world,” Jackson says. “The world changes depending on what window they are looking out.” Homeowners can make things even more entertaining by putting birdseed outside to attract some wildlife. “That’s CatTV binging right there,” Galaxy says.
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It’s going to be hard to leave Kitty after so much time together, but don’t part with such sweet, overstated sorrow. “Just leave,” Jackson says. “Don’t say anything. Don’t make a big deal of [it]. The less of a big deal you make out of it, the less of a big deal they’ll make out of it. Our tone of voice, body language and general anxiety is something they 100% soak up.” Remember, you need to work to put food in her dish!