With much of the world still on some form of lockdown, many of us have inadvertently thought that the biggest impact other than to ourselves is on our dogs. But cats too have had their routines and lives changed since the rise of COVID-19.
By nature, cats are more independent and are usually happy to go about their business. Sure, they might check in with us for food, cuddles and the like but this is typically done at their own choosing, unlike dogs.
So for those now stuck at home in 24/7 lockdown, this change in pattern can disrupt our kitties’ routines and cause behavioral changes. Therefore, just as we need to manage 24/7 life with our dogs, it’s also important to adapt to provide comfort, safety and also entertainment and stimulation for our cats.
The often-debated indoor/outdoor approach
The RSPCA UK takes a sympathetic approach to the indoor/outdoor debate. After all, everyone’s circumstances are different and some indoor environments are simply not suitable for some cats. Similarly, those who live on main roads may prefer to keep their cat indoors to protect them from injury. Whichever your circumstance, we recommend taking into consideration your environment to ensure your cat not only remains physically safe, but also free from stress, inactivity and chances of obesity.
It’s also important to point out that during this time many vets are focusing their energy on vital emergencies only. This means that opening hours of your local clinic may be reduced and staff restricted. Even if your cat doesn’t need veterinary support right now, take a look to see where your nearest vet is, their opening times, and what visits they are taking.
If you do continue or begin letting your cat outdoors, ensure that they wear a collar with your address and/or a contact phone number. This way, if they get lost, they’ll always have a way of being traced back to you. If your cat isn’t already micro-chipped, please consider getting this done at the earliest possible time so that you are recognised as the official owner. Collars can fall off and your cat could end up at a refuge. But micro-chipping means there will always be a way to contact you.
Stimulation is key!
Even if your cat is an indoor cat, changes to their routine with you being home more often may mean they need new outlets to expend their energy. Entertaining and stimulating your cat can be done in a variety of creative ways, including with treats. But food doesn’t always need to play a role.
Read on for some great playing tips with your cat.
DIY is not only a great way to give yourself a creative outlet during this time, but also one for your cat. They might even be curious about what it is that you’re creating!
If you know how to sew a button or do a basic hem, then you have enough skills to make your own DIY cat toy. Catnip inside a plush toy is often a winner, but even placing treats inside a small, sealed cardboard or plastic box with holes will provide an entertaining and stimulating toy to keep them occupied.
Toilet paper rolls are a winner in many cat households. Try sealing up one end, popping a treat or two inside, poking a few holes around the cylinder, and then seal up the other end. Now give it to your cat and watch them bunny kick and attack their way to reach their reward!
If you don’t have a cat tree, try making your own. Use some old, thick rope that they can climb up, coupled with some stacked boxes in front of a window. This will provide a great exercise tool and viewing platform (and we know how much cats love to sit and watch!).
Makeshift fishing rods with feathers or felt mice make a great hunting game. A piece of string can even do the trick, although always put the string away after use to avoid your cat getting tangled in it.
If you’re a hardcore DIY type, consider installing climbing shelves onto the walls in a room in your home. Hanging platforms are another alternative and will provide both a great climbing course for your cat as well as a unique design element to your home. As we know, cats often love climbing up high so this is bound to tick some of your cat’s boxes.
Keeping it simple
Speaking of boxes, hiding places using boxes with cushions can provide a neat hideaway for your kitty. Under or behind couches are often favourite places, or behind pieces of furniture, away from the regular thoroughfares in your home. Even just pulling out some old cardboard boxes in storage will give your cat something new to explore.
Finally, for the treasure hunters amongst us, play a game of hide and seek with various treats hidden around the home. You can even create an obstacle course they can follow to reach each of the treats. Just remember to make a note of where you leave them in case your cat decides they’ve had enough of this game!
You might also like to read: Toys for your cat
Some cat breeds can be described as dog-like and take to learning new tricks with ease. If you have a cat like this, now is a great opportunity to teach them a few new ones. Try tricks like "sit", "stand", "jump" and even "roll". You can find all sorts of cat training tips online via YouTube. This is a great way to develop your relationship and enjoy the rewards together.
As with anything, moderation is key. So remember to ensure your cat has ample rest time and that they can be left to their own devices as they wish. Observe their behavior to determine when they need a little extra stimulation and you should be able to navigate this time with ease, comfort and a bit of fun.