Social Distancing and Cats: 5 Quick Tips

Before COVID-19 hit, our cats ruled our houses. They were happy to greet us when we got home from work, of course. And some even slept with us at night.

But when morning came, those cats became the sole rulers of our homes. Now, they have to share that space with all of us.

COVID-19 quarantines mean that many of us are using our homes as classrooms, conference rooms, yoga studios, chat rooms, and more.

Some cats thrive with that added contact. We all know (and research proves it) that cats are individuals with wide-ranging levels of sociability. Cats can and do form strong attachments to people.

But cats are also creatures of habit. And rapid changes, close quarters, and plenty of stress can add up to angry cats that act up in ways humans don’t appreciate.

To be the best cat roommate you can be, both during COVID-19 quarantines and beyond, try these five suggestions.

1. Create a Hideaway

When the world gets overwhelming, we all like to sneak away to a safe place. Cats are no different.

Look for ways to create a small, soft, dark, quiet hiding space for your cat. At the shelter, we use cardboard boxes. Pop a few soft blankets in the bottom, and it’s a perfect space for a worried kitty. We also have plenty of cat condos for quick getaways.

Our foster families have also transformed bathroom cabinets into kitty condos. Some rely on laundry baskets in closets. Experiment until you find a spot your cat enjoys and seeks out.

When your cat is tucked up tight in that spot, resist the temptation to interfere. Don’t haul out your cat for a petting session or reach your hands in with toys or treats. Let sleeping cats lie and wait for your cat to choose to emerge.

2. Incorporate Playtime

When you were gone all day long, your cat chose when to play and when to rest. Now that you’re home, the cat has to adjust to your schedule. The hallway zoomies may interrupt your conference calls, but corrections can confuse your cat.

When something important (like a conference call) is coming up, set aside 15 minutes to play with your cat. Try:

  • Wand toys. Leaping up in the air after a fluttering toy is great fun for some cats.
  • Rattle balls. Roll toys down the hallways and watch your cat scamper.
  • Food puzzles. Cats love hunting games. Place a few favorite treats or a bite of food in a puzzle, and watch your cat work hard to get that reward.

Playtime brings you both together, and it reduces the chance your kitty will cause trouble at inopportune times. Exercise can also be an exceptional stress-buster for a worried feline friend.

3. Offer Alt Napping Spaces

Cats like long, flat, high perches. Unfortunately, so do humans. As we’ve all moved home to work and study, we take over favorite napping spots (like coffee tables and dining room tables) with our computers, printers, and paperwork.

Don’t get into a turf war with your furry best friend. If you can, set aside one flat table for your cat’s exclusive use, and make it tempting with a bed and a few treats. Or, consider installing cat ramps and shelves throughout your house. If you give your kitty a better place to sleep, you might have even more room to do your work.

4. Watch Your Cat’s Body Language

Cats may not be able to speak our language and tell us what they like and dislike. But they can use their ears, tails, and fur to send clear messages. We just need to watch and learn.

If you spot these warning signs, stop what you’re doing and assess your cat:

  • Big, blown pupils. Cats deep in play can have wide eyes and dark pupils. They’re preparing to pounce! But overwhelmed cats have wide eyes too.
  • Flat ears. Cats flatten their ears when they’re preparing to rumble. If your cat has pinned ears, a swipe is coming.
  • Increased vocalization. A cat that moves from purrs to meows to yowling is trying to tell you something.
  • Thrashing tail. A swishing tail means a conflicted kitty.

5. Make Your Time Together Fun

It’s reasonable to include your cat in everything you’re doing. We’ve seen some families pop their cats in videos. Others are teaching their cats to walk on leashes. Still others are knitting jackets for their cats.

If your kitty seems calm, happy, and interested in new activities, keep it up! But if you have to chase down your cat to do the work you’d like, or if your cat seems distressed or angry about the activity, it’s time to stop.

Give your kitty grace during this unusual time. You’ll emerge even stronger as a family.