We are all aware of the tremendous change that the COVID-19 pandemic has made in our lives during last year.
People's mental health has been severely affected due to quarantine and significant limitations regarding freedom of movement and work. It may seem that your cat hasn't even noticed that something horrible happened worldwide, but was that really so?
My cats were cuddlier and more eager for human touch, which was not typical for these predators.
While I was sick, they laid next to me for twelve days and refused to leave me. So, their lives were not the same in that period.
Let's talk about your cat's mental health in times of a pandemic and the ways you can help your furry friend.
What is Going On?
Many animal behaviorists are concerned about weird pets' behavior during the quarantine. If you are a cat parent, you have already noticed that your kitty has new eating habits, often purrs extra-loud, and whins more.
Except during a period of my illness, my cats' behavior hasn't changed much because I am a freelancer and regularly work from home.
That means the period of quarantine hasn't affected the routine in my house.
Believe it or not, it is a catch. ROUTINE! Once the typical everyday life changes, your cat will notice that and probably tolerate such a situation for a while.
Unfortunately, that won't last for long, and most of these creatures of habit won't know how to deal with it.
The fact is that your cat enjoys your presence and petting once you come back from work. However, it probably won't gladly accept your frequent and unexpected outbursts of tenderness throughout the day.
The situation is even more difficult in large families when cats don't have a moment of peace to take a nap and rest.
Is Your Cat Stressed Out?
Even though it is still unclear how severe consequences will quarantine triggers in pets and affects the anxiety level after everything passes, one thing is sure. The probable result of these changes will lead to so-called displacement behavior.
This condition includes the characteristic tics that help your kitty cope with unknown stressors. The most often are:
- Unusual pacing and paw lifting
- Frequent mounting
- Patterned spinning
- Atypical vocalizing
- Ritual scratching
- Grabbing and shaking objects in the house
- Repeated jumping at furniture
All these signs show that your cat is under stress. It is an expected result of losing control over its territory that has become overcrowded during the resting and peaceful part of the day.
When it comes to cats, they are prone to hide their negative feelings for long and suffer in silence.
Therefore, take care to carefully monitor your beauty since psychological disorders can often result in physical problems.
To make things worse, this situation may negatively impact the bond between you and your beloved kitty.
Spotting the Stress Signs
As I have already mentioned, your kitty will probably keep a secret and won't show its dissatisfaction with the new circumstances.
However, you should be aware of the situation and react to any unusual reaction and behaving, like:
- Behavior changes
Cats under stress can start behaving atypically. For instance, a usually friendly kitty may become aggressive and unwilling to play all of a sudden.
The rule of thumb is that you should consider any alteration in expected behavior as a sign of stress or pain.
If the kitty is physically healthy, you should find a way to calm it down and help it overcome a stressful situation as painlessly as possible.
- Seeking for solitude
Many people misbelieve that these independent creatures prefer being alone. As a cat parent, you know that it is far away from the truth. Most kitties are affectionate and enjoy the interaction with their humans.
If your commonly friendly and cuddly furry friend suddenly starts searching for solitude during the whole day, it is always an alert situation. Cats behave like that only when they are in pain, sick, or stressed.
- Excessive grooming
Do you know that your kitty spends approximately 30% of its life grooming its fur?
Therefore, you should be incredibly careful to notice overgrooming, and your cat needs to be under high stress to prolong the time spent in that activity.
Since you know your furry friend best, you will be the first to notice the disorder and tendency to excessively pull out its hair.
- Lack of appetite
Most cats enjoy eating, so lack of appetite is always a warning sign. There are two typical reasons for this, including illness and stress.
- Peeing outside its litter box
You should be careful when noticing that your cat with established hygienic habits starts to pee outside its litter box. The only motives to do such a thing are physical and emotional issues.
If it doesn't have a problem with a urinary infection, the probable reason is stress. Never shout at your kitty and avoid any punishment in such a situation. That won't solve anything but will make it more upset.
How to Help your Stressed Kitty
Even though the COVID-19 situation has significantly affected you and your family, you should find enough strength and pay attention to your pet's needs. Try to help your kitty as soon as you notice the first signs it is under stress.
- Be patient
Be aware that your cat doesn't want to be naughty. It is only frustrated like you, but it can't say what's bothering it.
Groom it regularly, play relaxing music, gently rub it under the chin, and allow it to choose the time to come to you for cuddling.
That way, your baby will feel that everything is under its control.
- Stick to routine
It won't be easy, but you should stick to an everyday routine as much as possible.
Give your kitty enough space and time for itself. Teach your kids to leave your cat alone when it needs rest and has no will to play.
Offer it a regular meal at a particular time and determine the time for playing and cuddling.
- Provide a getaway
Your cat will need a safe space while the whole family spends days at home. Provide a place to hide like a cardboard box only for it and let it use that shelter when needed.
Whatever happens, this situation can't last forever. Therefore, you need a plan for a return to normal.
Once your cat is used to your presence throughout the day, it may become anxious once you get back to a previous routine.
Prevent a problem by spending some time away from home during this undesired quarantine time.
That will help your kitty to keep playing with itself and enjoying its alone time. After all, your cat won't start suffering from such significant stress if you are not at home all the time.
My name is Jovanka Panic. I am a writer, translator, veterinarian, humanitarian, and passionate traveler. After playing with white bears and elephants in the Belgrade ZOO and dealing with the Rabies virus in the Institute Pasteur, I enjoy writing. My five beasts are my ultimate love, including three cats (Clementine, Josephine, and Sophia) and their 'mom' American Stafford Terrier (Malena).