Ways to Help Your Cat Adjust to a New Routine as You Head Back to Work
Updated: Feb 9
Although a change in routine can be stressful, there are ways to help your cat adjust to the new routine, whether you're home more or heading back to work.
Maya has been on my son's lap since the school lock down started. I think she's going to miss him when school starts in person classes again.
I've seen a lot of headlines that dogs are happy and cats want us to return to work. But, I wonder if that's true. It might be true in a busy household with little kids who might interrupt a cat's extended nap time, but I think for a lot of cats, they could get used to us being around. There's constant attention, a warm lap, and more activity to keep them entertained. What happens when we have to go back to work?
The best ways to keep stress and possible separation anxiety to a minimum are:
* Keep a routine and schedule that you can maintain when you return to work. Have you been giving your cat a mid-day snack? Start moving the time for the snack earlier and earlier (or later and later) so you can provide it before you head to work (or after you return). Cats are designed to eat small meals throughout the day. Getting a puzzle feeder can help by adding some kibble in the feeder so that when your cat is hungry, she can work on the puzzle to get herself a snack. Learn more about food puzzles at foodpuzzlesforcats.com
* Attention - be mindful of the attention you're providing your cat during the day. Don't ignore your cat is she approaches you, but don't go out of your way to provide attention during work hours. Provide attention in the morning and evening, if that's what you'll do when you return to work.
* Mental Stimulation - Your cat may enjoy your company because she has more things to focus on when you're home. It's a good time to consider what she has to do when you're not there. If she wakes from her nap, what self-play toys can she play with?
* Alternate toys and tunnels/boxes - Now that you have a good idea of what it's like to be stuck at home endlessly, you can imagine how your cat feels. It can be frustrating having the same toys everyday. Mix it up by putting away old toys, and putting out new ones. Change the environment by moving things around, adding some delivery boxes or a tunnel. Even moving the cat carrier into a different spot can create some excitement. Cats like novelty. Keep it exciting.
* Special puzzle or toy when you leave - If you're worried your cat will miss you as soon as you walk out the door, get some special toys or a special puzzle with treats to leave out right before you leave. This way, she has something fun to do while you're gone, and can make a positive association with you leaving.
Stay safe, and feel free to reach out if you need more cat advice.
Jennifer Van de Kieft is a Certified Feline Training and Behavior Specialist residing in Brooklyn, NYC.