If you’re a cat owner who’s been spending most of your time indoors due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, you’ve probably also noticed your feline acting a little… odd. They might seem stressed out and anxious, or maybe start causing a lot more trouble than usual. Unlike most dogs who are just thrilled to have their owners in lockdown mode with them, cats are extremely sensitive to any changes in their environment — even when it means you’re around more often to give them extra snuggles (and treats).
“Nobody likes anarchy in their lives and, the fact is, cats have their own structure where they’re probably used to you being gone during the day,” Jackson Galaxy, cat behavior and wellness expert and host of Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell, tells Womans World. “Now you’re home, which can throw off their routine.”
This can be especially unsettling for cats who share their home with other felines, dogs, or any other type of pet, plus the rest of your human family. In order to keep everyone calm and happy, Galaxy recommends following the “Three R’s” — routine, ritual, and rhythm.
“The idea is that in doing things over and over again, and establishing a routine, these routines eventually become rituals, which can help create a working rhythm in your household that will benefit both you and your cats,” Galaxy explains.
The best way to motivate your cuties to maintain a routine? Food. (Hey, we can relate.) Instead of just leaving a bowl out all day long for felines to graze on, Galaxy suggests feeding them three times a day: “First, when you wake up in the morning, second, around the time you would come home for work, which is our dinner time, and then lastly, about an hour and a half before you go to bed,” he tells us. “This creates a rhythm to their bodies and it also creates a rhythm of them coming to you for things.” This might sound like a lot, and it will definitely vary depending on each individual cat’s personality and appetite, but getting them into a food schedule like this while in quarantine can help them feel more stable and structured, and it’s good to keep up with even after all this ends.
Another important factor: plenty of playtime. It not only lets them get rid of all their pent up energy by tapping into their innate wild nature, but helps strengthen the bond they have with you. “They come to us for this, they thrive on this, we have a good time together, we enjoy our presence together, and after that, you go right into meal time, which will then prompt them to slow down and sleep, so we’re creating rhythm,” Galaxy says. Along with feather toys, like the GoCat Rod & Bird ($8.95, Amazon), he recommends investing in puzzle treat toys, like his Go Fish Bowl ($24.99, JacksonGalaxy.com).
Galaxy also suggests taking this time to “catify” your home, which basically means making it more fun for your feline to explore both inside and observe things going on outside. For example, Galaxy calls windows “Cat TV,” so making sure they have the ability to climb up and look out at the world can go a long way in keeping them happy. “Contrary to popular belief,” he explains, “cats don’t usually sleep all day, but they do spend most of their time looking out the window, so let’s make it easier for them.”
Adding some cat trees and cat-friendly shelves can also help them feel less stressed about fighting for floor space with everyone else in your home. You can find more catify-ing ideas from Galaxy’s books, Catification: Designing a Happy and Stylish Home for Your Cat (and You!) ($16.62, Amazon) and Catify to Satisfy: Simple Solutions for Creating a Cat-Friendly Home ($13.99, Amazon).
This might also be a great time to try out clicker-training with your kitty, a technique that uses a soft clicker sound to reward good pet behavior in both dogs and cats. Galaxy says. “Clicker training is a way to cement the relationship between the two of you. [It] can be practical to your life, such as harness training your cat so you can go for walks! What better way to social distance from humans, and still get some exercise?” We have to admit, most people keep their space when they see someone walking around with a cat! Galaxy shares other ways you can benefit from clicker-training on his website, and you can easily buy a pet-safe clicker online ($3.99, Amazon).
Lastly, but certainly not least, Galaxy adds that “it goes without saying, cuddling also works! Touching an animal brings down your blood pressure, so let’s all lower our stress during this difficult situation and set aside some time for cuddling!”
Take a look below for more of Galaxy’s expert tips for keeping the peace for cats and humans alike while we’re all cooped up inside:
Here’s hoping humans and pets can all get through this strange time together without anyone going too stir-crazy.