For many of us, life looks very different from what it did two years ago. Since the quarantine began, countless employees and students have all been forgoing the rush hour free-for-all, and have instead been spending their working hours cooped up inside.
Before remote work was ever a thought in our minds, our homes would stay relatively silent and blessedly uneventful during the waking hours of the day. Maybe there was a chewed pillow here, or a plant knocked over there if Fido or Mittens were feeling particularly adventurous that day. But with everyone working from home, the homestead has become a central hub of activity. Between the kids stepping all over each other as they rush to get their assignments finished, everyone trying to track down their tablets and headphones that have been long since lost to the maelstrom, and the critters doing their very best to create as much chaos as possible during all the commotion, trying to keep the peace long enough to get any work done has been no easy feat. Things have been downright hectic with all the nonstop action!
What you wouldn’t have guessed is that our furry friends would tend to agree. And enthusiastically.
With the whole family spending so much time at home, not only have *our* schedules changed, but when it comes to our fuzzy companions, life is feeling a little upside-down for them, too. Our pets grow accustomed to our daily routines and base their own off of them. They understand that when your morning alarm goes off, it’s time to haunt the kitchen, waiting for you to crack open that can of tuna, or that when you get home from work, your briefcase will be swapped out for Sparky’s leash in record time.
If we as humans are creatures of habit, the same is doubly true for our four-legged friends, but even more so for cats in particular. Dogs can usually adapt to a change in the schedule without very much trouble, but cats value stability and are particularly sensitive to changes in their lifestyle. And many felines, instead of having the place to themselves for hours on end, unbothered, are now spending their days hiding under couches or atop fridges, desperate for *some* measure of peace and quiet within the newfound commotion. In short, Tigger is far from thrilled that everybody else has been encroaching on *his* quality time.
It’s important to understand that because of this sensitivity to changes within the home, the quarantine has had feline stress at an all-time high nationwide. But many behavioural problems are popping up because of it. Previously cooperative kitties are now becoming less sociable, developing more finicky appetites, having accidents around the house, and in some cases, even getting aggressive or avoiding us entirely. But why is it happening? And what can we do to dissolve this ever-increasing tension?
Maintain Stability and Calm
The moment anything changes in the home, many cats go into a full-blown panic mode. Think of the last time you pulled out the carrier to bring them to the vet. They know exactly what it means, how fast to run in the opposite direction… and most importantly, how loudly to announce their displeasure about it.
Cats hate having surprises sprung on them, so the easiest way to help your feline friend feel safe and comfortable is to be *predictable.* In the vast majority of cases, stress is the primary cause for a cat to act out. Common stress-related signs include having accidents outside the litter box (which often requires a medical intervention to fix), a lack of appetite (being too stressed to eat isn’t only a human behaviour), and even aggression issues (we get grumpy about things outside of our control, too).
Keeping all of that in mind, it’s understandable that a sudden shift in the household schedule—even something as simple as changing what time the dinner bell rings—could have Smokey starting to wonder if things are ever going to go back to normal. Regrettably, animals don’t have the language to understand us when we try to explain that quarantine will one day be a thing of the past. So in the meantime, the best we can do is to keep things as stable as possible, with everything from our work schedule to our furniture layout, to help them adapt to this topsy-turvy lifestyle.