Help your cat adjust when you go back to work after lockdown

The RSPCA is urging cat owners to prepare their pets for their return to work and the likely change to their lockdown routine.

For many of us, life has changed significantly during the Covid-19 lockdown – and it’s also changed for our pets. When the restrictions are lifted, we will have to adjust again to returning to our normal routines and so will our cats.

The RSPCA is giving its top tips on how to help your cat cope when you return to work.

Sarah Tapsell, one of the RSPCA’s regional clinical animal behaviourists, said: “All cats are individuals and some may enjoy human companionship and time with people more than others. This means there will likely be some cats who are enjoying the increased time spent with their owners during lockdown whereas other cats may be happy to have more quiet time when you return to work.

“Whichever kind of cat you have, cats can be sensitive to change, and so a change in routine can cause stress to your cat. It is important to make any changes gradually, whilst still ensuring all their needs are met.

“Before going back to work it’s a good idea to gradually reduce the amount of interaction you have with your cat to help them prepare for your return to work. For some cats, a sudden reduction in interaction could lead to stress and frustration as the cat’s expectations are not being met, although others may be happier to have less interaction.

“It’s important to try and identify how your cat is feeling especially if they are doing something that is unusual for them compared to how they are normally. A cat who seeks more interaction from you and maybe plays more roughly with you may be frustrated or bored and struggling with the reduction in attention. A quiet and withdrawn, or more irritable cat may be stressed and in need of their own space. It can be useful to recognise this so you can give them their own time and a safe place to rest. If you know your cat well, you will likely know where their favourite places are.

“Once you do go back to work, ensuring you still spend quality time with your pet when you return, and doing things which they enjoy such as playing or grooming is also important in helping them get used to any changes.”

Top tips for preparing your cat

Any changes in routine should be introduced gradually

  • Ensure your cat has hiding places and elevated resting places which help relieve stress for cats by offering them a safe place to hide
  • Ensure you aren’t over handling your cat to try and comfort them. Being picked up or followed around can add to their stress if this is not their choice
  • Gradually adjust your routine to what it will be when you return to work i.e. feeding times and frequency, play times
  • Help prevent boredom whilst you are at work by providing puzzle feeders, toys and scratching posts – this is especially important for indoor cats
  • Your life may become a lot busier after lockdown but it’s important to ensure you still spend quality time with your cat every day

Alice Potter, the RSPCA’s cat welfare expert, said: “Compared to dogs, who are a highly social species, cats naturally live in small family groups and can often cope with a more solitary life. This means they can sometimes seem aloof to us and at times, just want to do their own thing without us.

“But even if your cat isn’t a fuss loving, attention seeking lap cat they can still get stressed from your return to work so take time to make the transition as smooth and stress free as possible.  After spending so much time together during lockdown you’ll probably be excited to see your cat after a long day at work.

“Once you get home though, it’s best to keep things calm and give them time to greet you on their terms. Look out for the cues that your cat gives to show they want to spend time with you, or if they’d rather have some alone time. For example, approaching you with their tail held up with the end pointed horizontally is a friendly greeting and a cat that is hiding needs to be given space.”

For more advice about understanding your cat’s behaviour visit the website, and for more information on coronavirus and our pets see www.rspca.org.uk/coronavirus.