Why Cats Take Change So Badly

October 27, 2016



Cats are creatures of habit and they know your routine like clockwork. They know when you will finally rise from your bed after the second alarm erupts, they know they will be given some biscuits after you have had your first of ten coffees for the day. They know when you get dressed, when you brush your teeth and when you finally leave for work. They also know when you will be home and god forbid if you decide to have after work drinks to celebrate that hard earned promotion you deserved. Your cat will know you’re late and may not be so forgiving when you arrive home a little worse for wear.

You see, cats don’t look at you as a human; they look at you as a big cat, a provider. They need you, because without you, they won’t survive.

When you change your routine, even slightly, this can make your four-legged friend a little nervous, and a little nervous indeed. You are their life support, and if you are not home by the designated time frame, they start to stress.

“But there was traffic! I had a deadline!” I hear you scream. This may wash with your other half, if your other half isn’t a cat.

There are other changes as well that makes your cat a little suspicious, like your new lover for example. It’s not that fluffy doesn’t like this new person you have brought into its home, it’s the smells that this new entity exudes from its skin.

Cats can feel threatened with certain smells and the cycle of stress begins.

Cats can’t tell you when they are stressed, but they certainly can show you. I had a client who had a great little cat, the perfect companion until one day, out of the blue; it decided that her bed was going to become its new toilet. Day in and day out, it would jump on her bed and urinate, unperturbed of the havoc it was creating with this new habit it had developed.

After the cat was deemed medically fit, we then had the painstaking task of routine checking. The owner was adamant that nothing had changed, not the litter, the food, the routine and not even a visitor. Perplexed we were all stumped until I asked ‘What about outside?’ We then found out that the next-door neighbours were renovating their house and this was the cause of the stress. Because we can’t ask the tradies to stop work because the cat isn’t coping with the new second level, we had to outwit the cat. This takes skill and talent and a little patience and perseverance doesn’t hurt either. We removed the desired object away from the cat, so the bedroom door remained closed. A second litter tray was put beside the bedroom door. All shoes that had been worn outside needed to remain at the front door and the owner needed to remain stress free themselves to ensure that the cat had one less thing to stress about.

Cats also don’t like surprises, and moving into a new abode is one of them. Their routine has changed. The sun is coming from a different direction; their litter box is in a new location and their flight, fight or freeze response is being challenged. They feel vulnerable and if they were to choose the flight response, they have no idea where their safe place is anymore. It is important for those moving house, to have all their furniture in the new place, completely set up, before that cat is introduced to its new address. It will see and smell familiar furniture, clothes and shoes and this will lessen the stress effect. For the first few nights, no loud house warming parties or gatherings until your cats have checked out their new surroundings. They have new things to smell and new places to investigate before they can relax and enjoy their new surrounds.

Owners must never let their cat outside when they have changed address for a minimum of 30 days. Yes, you heard correct, 30 days. The flight, fight or freeze response will ignite and your cat will run, and may find it difficult to return as they won’t feel safe inside or outside. I have encounted many stories of missing cats when the cat has exited the building.

Changing of litter is a big no no. If you’re onto something good, why change it? Cats get used to the sensation of what the litter feels like on their paws. Some litter doesn’t feel nice to walk on, smells unusual and difficult to scrape and your cat will tell you…on your new Manolo Blahnik shoes.

New food needs to be introduced slowly over a seven-day period. If you suddenly change foods, or even food brands, your friend here may not approve. I had a cat that every time I changed food, would go into my washing basket and urinate on my underwear, or she would position herself on my top deck and urinate through the cracks and the urine would land on my car. It was I, I take full responsibility. I gave her the wrong food.

The great thing about cats is they adapt pretty fast, they actually adapt faster than they forgive. If your routine becomes erratic or unpredictable, your cat will become accustomed to this new timetable. Make sure you give your cat plenty of attention, cuddles, love and brushing its coat will score you some brownie points too, until you get that next promotion.

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