Back-to-School for Cats

kitten peeking out of the Hide and Sneak cat tunnel

As businesses reopen and school starts back up, we may not be home as much as we were during quarantine. And while you may be excited to get back into your regular routine, your cat could be left wondering where you are.

Is your cat bored?

You may notice changes in your cat, such as sleeping more or waking you in the middle of the night. A cat who is extremely stressed may begin marking or playing aggressively. If this happens, it’s important to remember that unwanted behaviors, are your cat’s way of trying to tell you something. In the absence of any medical problems, they’re typically communicating their displeasure, whether from stress, anxiety, or boredom.

Tabby Cat looking at camera

Why is my cat acting differently?

A change in routine is a big problem for house cats, and it can lead to all sorts of behavioral issues such as changes in appetite, urination outside of the litter box, overgrooming, or even aggression. You can help your cat to adjust to your family’s new routine by making sure he has adequate stimulation, even when you’re not home.

What can I do to minimize my cat’s stress?

Scent Enrichment — A cat’s sense of smell is 40 times as powerful as a human’s. That means they are always sniffing out new and interesting scents. When we stick them inside all day with no variation in smells, or worse, overwhelming cleaning products and air fresheners, they don’t get the scent variety they crave. Give your cat a few new smells to seek out. Hide a few treats for him to find or bring in a few sticks and leaves from the yard. Let your cat smell your grocery bags and even the food you eat. Or you can grab a pinch of catnip or silver vine. Anything you can do to introduce scent variety will help stave off boredom for your cat.

black cat staring up at the camera

Toy Rotation — All cat owners have abandoned cat toys around their home. Your kitty may have played with them for a while, but eventually he becomes bored and leaves his toys to collect dust and cat hair under the couch. Your cat hasn’t lost interest in play; he’s just lost interest in that toy. In the wild, a cat has a variety of visual and auditory stimulation, and they crave that in our homes as well. By regularly introducing new (or even forgotten) toys from time to time, you can stimulate your cat’s curiosity and get them interesting in “hunting” again.

tabby cat holding onto red tissue paper attached to a looper toy with its mouth

Play Time — Cats love routine. So when we change their schedules suddenly, they can become depressed, confused, and even stressed. We can’t live our whole lives around our cats, however much we’d love to, but we can help alleviate some of their stress about a sudden change in routine by setting aside a regular play time. I leave a wand toy in my closet so I remember to play with my cats whenever I change clothes. That means they get play time at least twice a day. We play for a few minutes and then go about our day. My cats learned pretty quickly that when I go to the closet, it’s play time. You can also signal the end of play time with a treat or petting. Whatever works for your cat is the right thing to do.

grey and white cat playing with a buzzer wand toy

Get Creative — Don’t forget to think outside the box. For example, if you search online for Cat TV, you will find tons of videos with cat-approved stimulation. Videos of prey like squirrels and birds or other outdoor sights and sounds can help keep your cat entertained when you’re not home. Or check out our past blog posts for tips and tricks, such as making an indoor cat playground out of household items or creative ways to play with your cat.

DIY indoor cat playground

Whatever you do, remember, cats need variety and routine. Make sure your cats know what to expect, but surprise them once in a while to keep it interesting. And let me know if you have any ideas I didn’t think of.

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