We get it, you’re a curious cat. You’ve got questions and we’ve got answers.
For this series, we send your burning kitty q’s to our panel of experts who can help you get inside your cat’s high-held head.
We consulted Dr. Mikel Maria Delgado, a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis. Mikel has worked professionally with cats for almost twenty years, starting in the Cat Behavior Program of the San Francisco SPCA, and more recently through her cat behavior consulting partnership, Feline Minds. She’s also co-author with Jackson Galaxy of the 2017 book “Total Cat Mojo,” and has published her research in several academic journals. She lives in Sacramento, California, with her boyfriend and their 16-year-old rescue cat Clarabelle.
I don’t have a designated work space in my apartment, and I’m trying not to work from my bed because I’ve read that can be damaging for my psychology. How can I be sure that I’m being productive without shutting out my kitties?
The snuggle is real!
Many cat parents and their kitties are experiencing a major life change right now: The human is suddenly working from home, trying to create a makeshift workspace in spaces like kitchen tables and couches. At the same time, the cat is experiencing a major change in their routine too. Even though your cats may relish the extra attention, you may be hogging their favorite spot on the couch, your Zoom meetings might be disrupting their usual naptime, or your laptop on the kitchen table might be in optimal bird-watching territory.
So how can you come to a truce with your new co-workers? First of all, keep in mind that our cats pick up on our stress and may be stressed themselves by the sudden change in routine. Do your best to keep their schedule stable, trying to feed, clean, and keep as much of their daily routine as predictable as possible.
A great antidote to stress and keyboard surfing is a little extra (but carefully thought-out) playtime! I’m a big fan of play with interactive toys, such as feather wands. The key to this type of play: YOU have to be involved! These toys aren’t safe to leave with your cat unsupervised. Moving the toy like a bird, mouse, or bug will help get your cat’s interest. Plan ahead with a little bit of playtime with your cat before your workday starts; then give your cat a small snack. The exercise and food will help them settle down for a nap while you settle into answering endless emails.
If your cat is drawn to your keyboard, offer them a better option: a heated bed, an elevated perch where they can watch you work, or a chair next to you with a fuzzy fleece blanket laid on top. I recommend putting this alternative NEAR where you work, rather than trying to keep your cat in a different room from you. Give them treats, praise, and pets for sitting in this new special spot you’ve created just for them.
If your cat is relentlessly playful, you can try occasionally tossing solo toys (fuzzy mice, catnip, ping pong balls) away from your workspace for your cat to chase. Automated toys (such as the HexBug Nano or the Undercover Mouse) can also keep your cat busy. I also recommend offering your cat their meals or treats in food puzzles. Food puzzles are toys that require your cat to interact with them to extract food, such as a ball with holes in it that you can hide a few treats inside. When your cat rolls the ball around, treats intermittently fall out. This can be a great way to keep a food-obsessed cat preoccupied! There are food puzzles that can also be used with wet food, so don’t despair if your kitty doesn’t eat kibble.
Finally, don’t forget to take breaks for a few snuggles. Your cat is adjusting to the change too—enjoy the opportunity to spend a little more time with your furry friend, and have patience with yourself and them as you both adjust to a slightly more crowded lifestyle!
[#BeginTLDR#]If working from home with your cat is new for you, remember it's new for them too.[#SplitTLDR#]Do your best to keep their schedule stable, and keep as much of their daily routine as predictable as possible. [#SplitTLDR#] Don’t forget to take breaks for a few snuggles. Your cat is adjusting to the change too—enjoy the opportunity to spend a little more time with your fuzzy friend.[#EndTLDR#]
Have questions for a Dear Smalls? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org