Alison Laurie-Chalmers, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets
The current advice is to keep your cat indoors if you are self-isolating. Vulnerable persons are sensibly being advised to minimise any close contact with their pets, maintain good hygiene by washing their hands before and after handing their pets and to keep their cat indoors. Until more is known about this novel virus it is sensible to take all these advised precautionary measures.
Cats are very independent creatures and they don’t like any change to their usual routine. So staying indoors can be stressful for some cats if they are not used to it. They will still like to play and need some exercise and mental stimulation. Here are some tips to help them adjust and keep them happy and healthy during the advised COVID-19 restriction period:
Ensure that you have or are provided with plenty of cat food supplies and cat litter for them and an adequate supply of any on-going medicines if required. Your veterinary clinic can provide you with their on-going prescription medicines.
Have a couple of litter trays out for one cat and if you have multiple cats have one litter tray for each cat plus one extra, to allow plenty hygienic indoor toileting facilities. If your cat is used to toileting outside, you might have to provide a couple of different types of cat litter to see what they prefer.
Cats are very independent and they require some space, they will soon let you know when they want some attention! They can get easily fractious and stressed if they receive too much unwanted attention, especially from young children or other pets. Allow them a safe hiding place and space within their home by providing them with plenty of makeshift hiding places using igloo beds or large cardboard boxes. Make sure they have access to a couple of comfortable, easily accessible beds separate from their feeding area and away from their litter trays. Cats like to survey their territory from a height so if possible provide a safe perch area for your cat to safely jump onto and monitor their home from high up.
Use puzzle feeders to make their day interesting and let them hunt for their food. You can make your own puzzle feeders by hiding a small portion of their daily dried food in the cardboard inner tube from toilet rolls, empty egg boxes, paper bags or large paper envelopes. These can also be filled with cat-nip to encourage play. Cats should always be supervised when playing with these types of toys. Do monitor your cat's weight though while they are being kept indoors. To avoid weight gain adjust their daily food quantities down, as they will not be getting the same amount of exercise as an outdoor cat and take any 'treats' out of their advised daily food quota.
Cats love to scratch surfaces so allow them to have something that they can scratch safely in the home such as a scratch post, a rough block of wood, old carpet backs or carpet samples. Cats do like toys and a new toy can provide some welcome, mental stimulation. Think safe and avoid anything thread or woolly which they could potentially swallow. A simple scrunched up ball of paper can provide hours of fun. Cat laser-toys are always fun or a small soft cat toy attached to a string from a pole like a fishing rod can usually entice some activity even from the laziest of cats!
If you have any health concerns about your cat call your veterinary clinic for advice, do not visit the practice at this time. There will be someone who can assist you and your veterinary clinic will still be attending to any emergency cases.