By Crystallynn Hetlinger
The swift and pervasive rise of COVID-19 necessitated a dramatic shift in the workforce. Offices shut down and many new remote positions were created. Even as vaccination rates rise, some companies are forgoing the cost of leasing offices and opting to maintain entirely remote workforces. Others have hybrid options where employees spend some or most of their time working from home. This new work environment presents employees with novel challenges, one of which might be a cat who demands attention at inopportune moments during a workday.
Some of your clients might not appreciate having a cat vociferously vocalizing and walking in front of their camera during a Zoom meeting. Some frustrated owners might shut their cats out of their room or home office only to have their pet plaintively meow and paw at the door, which can be just as noisy and distracting. As such, you might have an increasing number of clients asking you to help them convince their cat to leave them alone while they work.
A daily schedule is fundamental, and this includes feeding times. If a client is free-feeding, you could suggest that they switch to a feeding schedule of two or three meals a day. Feeding a cat breakfast before work and then dinner afterward is a good way to mark the beginning and ending of a workday. Alternatively, they could divide their cats’ daily food between breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The schedule should also include playtime. A cat with excess energy is much more likely to interrupt than one who is tired. Advise your clients to play interactive games with their cat for 15–30 minutes before every meal. As ambush predators, cats have bursts of energy and might take breaks of a minute or two to catch their breath and reorient during a single play session. These are especially important in the morning before their cat’s breakfast. If a client has a particularly high-energy cat, advise them to play with it during their lunch break even if it is only receiving two meals a day.
Simulated hunting can be achieved with a variety of toys; wand and pole toys are great for this. Different cats will have a preference for different lures (image right); clients can experiment to see which their cat likes best. To keep this toy as enticing as possible, advise clients to put it away so that their cat cannot get it when they are not using to for play.
Environmental modification can also play a huge role in keeping a cat content and quiet as its owner works. Cats are social animals and many will go to extremes to be near their human. They will jump on desks, chair backs and arms, keyboards, etc. If they are shut out of a room, many will cry at the door instead of wandering off. Unlike dogs, cats are often not content to sit by their owner’s feet when they want companionship; they generally want to be in an elevated location, closer to their human’s hands and head.
Instead of putting a cat on the ground, your clients could invest in a cat tree that has a desk-level platform (image right). This allows their cat to settle unobtrusively nearby in a comfortably close, elevated location. Your clients can also easily reach over and pet their resting feline companions throughout the workday. (Note: Clients can also make their own cat resting area using a tea cart or other similar furniture and putting their cat’s favorite bedding on top.)
Even with scheduled playtime, a cat might still have energy while its owner is concentrating on work. As such, it should have plenty of toys to play with that it does not feel the need to disrupt its owner. Every cat has different toy preferences. Some will love toy mice; others will find crinkle balls irresistible. Cardboard boxes are a favorite for many, and can be made even more entertaining by cutting holes into the sides. Puzzle toys are another option. Make sure your clients keep in mind how loud toys are, and to put away particularly noisy ones before their workday starts so they are not interrupted.
With proper schedules, playtime, a space where a cat can rest near its owner, and appropriate toys, your clients will be able to work from home with minimal feline disruption.