Summertime blues: helping cats roll with scary changes

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Dear Ms Kitty,

We are catching up with friends and family visits, vacations and maintenance around the house this summer. But our sweet, friendly cats Luna and Sol are now hiding from everyone, even their favorite people. What can we do to get them back to their normal, friendly selves?

Blue in Breckenridge

Dear Blue,
You nailed the main theme of all these activities: change.

Change can bring anxiety and anxiety is a driving factor for why cats do what they do. When cats hide, they are coping with fear they won’t survive these changes.

Remember the safe room you gave them when they first came to live with you? Think of that room, or another quiet place where they can relax, as their base camp for summer events.

They’ll probably hide anyway and the safe room helps you monitor them so no one gets lost. A happy safe room is peace of mind for everyone!

Family visitors

When people come to visit, your relationship picks back up where you left off. However, visitors may seem more like strangers to Luna and Sol. Your cats depend on you for cues as to whether these new people should be there. If company will be there for more than just a few days, they may want to meet your kitties.

If so, introduce new people in the doorway of the safe room, one at a time. Don’t be afraid to use formal introductions like “Michelle, meet Luna. Luna, meet Michelle” to show them your approval.

If your cats continue to hide, it’s best to leave them alone so they can stay relaxed. But if they come out to show interest, letting your visitor give them some of their favorite food or playtime can help rebuild confidence. The more confident they are, the more normal they’ll act.

This process is especially important for family who visit regularly during the summer, like grandchildren. A few treats and some playtime can speed up making friends.

Animal visitors

You can’t assume that any visiting cats or dogs will be friendly to Luna and Sol…and neither will they! They may see new animals as invaders and become even more scared or defensive. If possible, ask your visitors to leave their animals cared for at home.

If your visitors must bring their animals, try to keep them in a completely separate part of the house while your cats stay in their safe room. Introducing cats to new animals, whether cats or dogs, can take weeks to do well. Separation will be less stressful in the long run for everyone.

Remodeling or yard work

Summer is a great time to remodel or landscape. But think about it: not only are complete strangers invading their space, but they often bring scary, noisy equipment with them! If possible, request that any loud equipment, like electric saws and drills or compressors, be used outside. A stranger with loud equipment can be terrifying.

Make sure the cats are tucked away in their safe room during construction, off limits to strangers. You don’t want them to bolt from the house and be lost with people going in and out of their home.

Parties and holidays

We have all missed getting together with loved ones. However, many pets have adapted to quiet homes with few people during the pandemic, so suddenly adding a lot of strangers and activities can be stressful, as you’ve seen.

Again, set them up in their safe room with everything they need: food and water, litterbox, bedding, treats, toys. Spend time with them ahead of the visitors, playing and treating.

When party time arrives, give them music or a television to help mask the unfamiliar sounds. Put a Do Not Disturb sign on the door to make sure their safe room remains safe for them.

More pets get lost because of 4th of July fireworks than any time of year. Luna and Sol’s safe room will keep them from being another sad statistic on Independence Day.

 

Sara Ferguson is the Director of Happy Cats Haven and Carole Galloway is the owner of Colorado Cats BoardingAsk Ms Kitty supports cat behavior consulting offered on our website through our Helpline.

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