by Nomi Berger
If you’re currently working from home, like millions of other cat owners, the success of this “new normal” – however long it lasts – will depend as much on you as on the personality of your particular pet.
Cats are, essentially and notoriously, creatures of habit. And while some may relish your sudden availability — whether it’s to play with them, pet them or cuddle with them – others may find your presence disrupts the peace and calm of their daily routine. Examples: it might be more difficult for them to sleep and/or they might not want to “share” the sofa with you. But most importantly, being as sensitive as they are, they’re certain to pick up on your own anxiety and stress.
Vital to any solution is: being patient with yourself and your kitty, maintaining as much of a regular routine as possible, including her feeding schedule, your own household, eating and sleeping schedules, and enriching your time together through additional activities.
Consider these suggestions to ensure – or at least attempt to ensure – that your kitty keeps her paws to herself and off the keys of your computer until work time is over for the day and playtime can commence.
Tire her out early by establishing an exercise and activity regime BEFORE you begin to work. A few minutes of vigorous play with the help of an enticing feather wand or a dancing laser pointer followed by some high quality treats in a food puzzle are excellent ways to prime your kitty for a well-earned nap. A tired cat with a full tummy is a contented cat – one who hopefully won’t clamber all over you while you’re trying to both focus and be productive as you adjust to the newness of your own situation.
Take breaks from what you’re doing throughout the day to literally stretch and clear your head. And while you’re relaxing, what more pleasant way to enhance that down time than by incorporating your cat into it? Make room for some mutually satisfying snuggles and play with her for a few minutes before resuming your work.
During important calls, distract and occupy her by using anything from automated toys and, once again, treat-filled food puzzles to cardboard boxes wadded with tissue paper and sprinkled with treats. Move a chair, a cat tree or a cat condo to a different window and allow her an entirely new view of the world outside, capturing and holding her interest for as long as – or even longer than — those calls may take.
Offer her an especially cozy and comfortable alternative to both you and your computer. Place a heated cat bed on a chair near your desk (place one in a corner of your desk if it’s large enough), thereby providing her with a highly desirable spot to lie instead of against the back of your neck, on your shoulder or across the keyboard. If you don’t have a heated cat bed, plump up a fluffy blanket on a tall, cleared off shelf nearby, line it with several of her favorite toys and let her watch you work from “on high.”
Never reward any behaviors you don’t want continued. If your cat meows or yowls at you and you “talk back”, pet her or even shout at her, that could be exactly the response – and attention – she wants. And that’s a mistake! Reward good behaviors – calmness, quiet and compliance — with high quality treats and/or praise.
As a last resort, close the door of the room in which you’re working, but be prepared for a kitty protest. If your cat starts scratching at the door, ignore her, and if necessary, place a simple deterrent like a piece of cardboard with sticky tape on it right outside the door. This will make it highly unpleasant for her to continue her protest within earshot of you.
During these unprecedented times, when social distancing is, itself, the “new normal”, hopefully you can find comfort in the reassuring presence of your BFF – beloved feline friend.